If you just look at the Billboard charts in late March, you’d think fans simply haven’t had enough of Guns N’ Roses yet. Their Greatest Hits CD recently hit the Number 3 spot for record sales, according to the Billboard 200 chart.
What? How the h-e-double-hockey-sticks does a band top the charts with a greatest hits compilation?
But look a little deeper, and you’ll find out how. (And you’ll also find out just how much pull digital downloads have on record sales these days.)
It turns out that the week prior, two competing digital retailers, Amazon.com and Google Play, put the GNR release on sale for one day—at 25 cents. (That’s not 25 cents per song—that’s 25 cents for the whole album.) This apparently sparked a downloading frenzy that boosted the band’s sales by 12,000 units over the previous week.
This isn’t the first time a digital download sales trick has been pulled to boost sales. The most famous version in recent months was the release of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, during which time Amazon held a 2-day sale of the record at 99 cents for the first two days it was available. The gimmick resulted in a record 1.1 million units sold for Gaga the first week. (The following week, not surprisingly, sales fell into the toilet.)
Now, I suppose all’s fair in love, war and record sales, but I have really mixed feelings about these types of tactics. I’m all for getting good music on the cheap once in awhile, but it’s obvious nobody’s making any money when you sell an entire album for a quarter. The only benefit to the band or to retailers is to inflate sales numbers, and ultimately, chart position. The problem is, the numbers can’t be trusted when these kinds of tricks are played.
Now, to their credit, GNR is a great rock band (or at least was, until Axl Rose was all that was left of it). They’ve built a solid fan base, and I’ve no doubt that their greatest hits compilation deserves a place somewhere on the charts at the moment. But Number 3? Give me a break. What bragging rights does a band actually have when the only reason people bought the record was that it was less than the price of a candy bar?
Anyhow, I’m done venting. The damage is done, and next week the GNR record will probably resume its normal place on (or off) the charts. Unless of course, someone decides to sell the record for a quarter again.