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Store's Sales Report Out of Sync With Rivals

November 23, 2000|ROBERT HILBURN and RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Is the pop music world going to end up with calls for its own recount?

In a week when the original teen-favorite male rock band, the Beatles, entered the national album chart at No. 1, the Backstreet Boys' new "Black & Blue" album, which was released Tuesday, got off to such a blockbuster start that one major retailer, Best Buy, projects that it could sell 2.4 million copies during its first week in stores.

That would put it into a virtual dead heat for the first-week sales record with 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys' rivals for the hearts (and album dollars) of teen and preteen girls. 'N Sync's "No Strings Attached" sold 2,415,859 copies during its first week in March.

But there's a debate over the reliability of the first-day projection.

Buyers at Tower Records and Wherehouse Entertainment said Wednesday that they believe that figure is overstated because Best Buy is selling the album for $9.99, nearly $2 less than the wholesale price. Elsewhere the price ranges from $12 to $15.

Best Buy Has Been Off Before

Best Buy shot too high last month when it estimated that Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water," another album it sold for $9.99, would sell 1.3 million copies. It sold 1.05 million.

A chain spokeswoman said she didn't know whether Best Buy revised its projection system after the Limp Bizkit experience.

"I wouldn't doubt that [Backstreet Boys] will be our No. 1 album, but we're not selling the volume we would have if we were all operating on the same page," says Bob Feterl, a buyer for Tower, which is selling the album for $13.99.

If there is a chance "Black & Blue" will approach 'N Sync's record, it could give Backstreet fans a chance to demonstrate just how deep their loyalty runs: Will they rush out to buy additional copies this week as a way of voting for their favorite?

"I don't really expect that," says Wherehouse buyer Bob Bell. "I don't think the fans are as concerned about SoundScan as those of us in the industry are."

The Backstreet Boys news overshadowed the fact that the Beatles' new compilation, titled "1" and containing 27 No. 1 singles, sold an estimated 595,000 copies last week, according to SoundScan.

Many observers had expected Ricky Martin's "Sound Loaded" to enter at No. 1, but it finished fourth with sales of 318,000, behind "Vol. 5--Now That's What I Call Music," a hits compilation, and Sade's "Lovers Rock." They sold 444,000 and 370,000, respectively.

The Beatles' 18th No. 1 album comes 30 years after they broke up.

"I think that's a tremendous success story that can be credited to what Capitol did to market that record," says Wherehouse's Bell. "The good news for them is that that record will continue to sell right through the holidays. Because the [ABC] TV special didn't air until Friday night, we're just now seeing the effects of that."

Other albums that entered the Top 15 were the Offspring's "Conspiracy of One" at No. 9 and Marilyn Manson's "Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)" at No. 13. Mya's "Case of the Ex" is the nation's best-selling single.

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