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Off the chart: Sales surge for Michael Jackson, but he's not No. 1*

July 1, 2009 |  6:47 am

Jackson The death of Michael Jackson on Thursday has sent an expected jolt through music retail. Three of his albums, led by hits collection "Number Ones," have topped 100,000 copies in sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan data released by Billboard. Collectively, Jackson's titles sold more than 422,000 copies -- more than half of which came in the form of digital downloads.  

Jackson's titles accrued those sales in a matter of days, as Nielsen SoundScan data are tracked through Sunday evening. By comparison, in the week that ended June 21, Jackson's titles sold about 10,000 albums, collectively. 

Jackson's 2003 compilation "Number Ones" (Sony) sold 108,000 copies, which bests the 88,000 copies sold by the Black Eyes Peas' "The E.N.D." (Interscope). The latter is the album that will lead the U.S. pop chart when it's issued Wednesday morning. Jackson's titles are eligible only for Billboard's "top pop catalog" chart, as they are older than 18 months and have fallen below the top 100 on the main pop chart. Billboard reports that Jackson set a record on that tally by possessing eight out of the top 10 positions on the chart -- nine if one includes the Jackson 5's "The Ultimate Collection" (Motown) at No. 5. 

Jackson's last studio album, "Invincible" (Sony), was released in 2001. That album topped the U.S. pop charts when it debuted with a first-week total of 366,000 copies sold, according to Billboard archives. Though Jackson's 1982 "Thriller" (Sony) album is routinely cited as the "bestselling album of all time," SoundScan began tracking data in 1991, and Jackson's top week in the SoundScan era came in 1995, when the artist's "HIStory" (Sony) bowed with 391,000 copies sold. 

News of Jackson's death has dominated the media since Thursday, and there's been an uptake in Jackson searches and downloads on peer-to-peer networks, according to data from Big Champagne. On Monday, tracks such as "Thriller," "Smooth Criminal" and "Billie Jean" all saw major spikes in searches and downloads. 

The hottest artists, however, on the file-sharing networks remain young rapper Drake and R&B newcomers Jeremih and Keri Hilson, among others. Jeremih's self-titled Def Jam debut was released this week, and it should have a strong debut on next week's pop chart, helped no doubt by Amazon's $2.99 download price.

Jackson set a record on Billboard's digital albums chart. The artist owns six of the top-10 slots on the chart, led by "The Essential Michael Jackson," which sold about 80,000 downloads. "Thriller" the album is at No. 2 on the tally, with 57,000 downloads.

The single's chart is a similar story -- much of it dominated by the late King of Pop. Billboard's Keith Caulfield writes that "Jackson places a record 25 songs on the 75-position Hot Digital Songs chart (21 solo hits and four with his siblings)." That bests a record of 14 charting titles previously held by "American Idol" winner David Cook.

All told, Jackson's "Thriller" sold 167,000 downloads. That puts the cut at No. 2 on the chart, behind the 203,000 downloads sold by the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." Among Jackson's other high-selling downloads are "Man in the Mirror" with 165,000, "Billie Jean" with 158,000, "The Way You Make Me Feel" wtih 136,000 and "Beat It" with 134,000.

Jackson's international appeal was on wide display over the last few days. On iTunes in the U.S., the top-selling download on Monday was Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," accrording to Big Champagne. Likewise in the U.K., but it was his 1972 cut "Ben" that's been near the top of the iTunes tally in Japan the past few days and his "You Are Not Alone" that's been one of his top-selling cuts in Italy. Results are just as varied for nearly all of iTunes' 20-plus markets

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Associated Press

*Update: This post has been changed to reflect updated sales data from Nielsen SoundScan. Billboard reported on Tuesday evening that Jackson's albums collectively sold 415,000 copies. Additional data from SoundScan on Wednesday put the number at 422,000 copies.