Bob Dylan 'Freedom' tribute album debuts at No. 11 -- and No. 39
My first thought while looking at this week’s Nielsen SoundScan report of the week’s top-selling albums and finding the No. 11 slot occupied by “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan," the new multi-artist tribute album benefiting Amnesty International, was: “Pretty impressive for a four-CD set.”
Then came a sense of déjà vu looking further down the chart to No. 39 and spotting ... "Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan,” the new multi-artist tribute album benefiting Amnesty International.
The explanation for the apparent paradox is fairly simple: The album that sold nearly 22,500 copies and is ranked No. 11 is the full 4-CD set containing 76 tracks by 80 artists, selling for about $20 at Amazon.com and other online and physical retailers.
The entry lodged at No. 39 is the 2-CD, 31-track version assembled by and sold for $14.95 at Starbucks locations nationwide, accounting for another 10,000 copies. Nielsen SoundScan, in collaboration with Billboard, reports and charts sales separately because they are physically different products.
"The deluxe four-CD version of 'Chimes' extends beyond one additional CD (or digital equivalent) of bonus content (as compared to the standard two-CD version), thus it charts separately," Billboard's associate director of charts, Keith Caulfield, explained.
Proceeds from both editions help Amnesty International, but the segregation of their sales figures on the charts is a sore point for veteran record executive Jeff Ayeroff, co-producer of the project, a policy he chides as “simply arbitrary and lame.”
If sales were combined for chart-making purposes, the Dylan album would rank as the nation’s No. 7 best-seller this week — ahead of Kellie Pickler’s “100 Proof,” which sold 27,000.
“It’s just very frustrating for all of us, the artists and the staff at Amnesty and my hard-working peeps to have this arcane system spoil a Top 10 debut,” Ayeroff said. He noted that the previous high-profile Amnesty tribute album, 2007’s “Instant Karma: The Campaign to Save Darfur,” which took a similar approach to the songs of John Lennon, entered the chart at No. 15 and has since raised between $4 million and $5 million for the human rights organization.”
Beyond sales of the full album, Ayeroff noted an intriguing surprise about individual downloaded tracks. Much of the speculation before its release focused on teen pop princess Miley Cyrus’ track “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” anticipating that her legions of click-ready fans would overpower all comers.
As it turned out, Cyrus’ track wound up as the second-most downloaded song from the album, with a little more than 10,000 copies.
The winner? Dylan himself, whose original recording of the title track posted about 13,000 downloads.
Maybe the times aren’t a-changin’ so much after all.
Cover of new "Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan" album benefiting Amnesty International. Credit: Amnesty International