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The 300k threshold is tough to break for solo females, even if they’re riding the momentum of a
big hit.

TALE OF THE TAPE:
DUELING DIVAS EDITION

How Top Solo Female Artists
Have Fared at Retail

With Capitol’s Katy Perry selling 287k in her debut week—and several blockbuster Q4 releases still in the pipeline—now seems an opportune time to take a look at Katy’s diva peers. By which we mean solo female artists whose album releases in the past few years bowed with 200k or more—and also those who grew that first-week number into astronomical cumulative sales.

For giant first-week sales, the gold, er, platinum standard of recent times is Big Machine’s Taylor Swift, whose Red debuted with 1.2m way back in 2012 and has moved a mighty 3.8m to date.

Lady Gaga, whose 2011 Interscope set Born This Way bowed with 1.1m, gets an asterisk in the record book thanks to a 99-cent price point (see below); it’s sold 2.3m so far. In any case, Gaga’s forthcoming ARTPOP is likely to place her in the upper tier regardless of its suggested list—the current first-week forecast is 375k.

XL/Columbia’s Adele also put out a pretty successful record in 2011. It was called 21, and in March 2011 it had an impressive 353k bow. It’s had a decent run since, as we recall, selling … wait, we had it here somewhere … ah, right: 10.8 million freaking records. So although she’s only the fourth-highest-selling in terms of recent debuts by a solo female, Adele sets the diamond standard for long-run sales in the diva games.

Perry’s prior release, 2010’s Teenage Dream, bowed with 192k but has gone to do about 2.8m. Her first-week number for PRISM puts her squarely in the pack of solo female superstars, alongside such fierce competitors as Interscope’s Madonna, RCA’s P!nk and Miley Cyrus, Columbia’s Beyonce, Def Jam/IDJ’s Rihanna, YM/CM/Republic’s Nicki Minaj and 19/Arista Nashville’s Carrie Underwood.

Let’s take a look at these divas’ figures. Um, their sales figures, of course.

ARTIST                STREET    DEBUT  RTD

TAYLOR SWIFT         9/12     1.2m    3.8m
LADY GAGA              5/11     1.1m*   2.3m
MADONNA                 4/12     359k    533k
ADELE                        3/11     353k    10.8m
BEYONCE                  7/11     313k    1.3m
KATY PERRY            10/13   287k      --
P!NK                           9/12     280k    1.8m
MILEY CYRUS           10/13   270k    386k
C. UNDERWOOD      5/12     267k    1.5m
NICKI MINAJ              4/12     253k    869k
RIHANNA                   9/12     237k    1.1m

*Sold for 99 cents at Amazon on Tuesday and Thursday of release week.

The 300k threshold is tough to break for solo females, even if they’re riding the momentum of a big hit (or, in Miley’s case, two). That said, it should be underscored that (a) selling 200-300k records in one’s first week is an impressive feat in any case, and certainly these days, and (b) from such first-week seeds mighty sales oaks can grow.

The 2013 diva games continue with Columbia’s Celine Dion (due out 11/5; prior first week 214k) Gaga (11/11) and RCA’s Britney Spears (12/3; last debut 276k).

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