Boyle will release "The Gift" (Syco/Sony) in the United States on Nov. 9 and a day earlier in the United Kingdom, with Sony Music Entertainment planning an initial U.S. shipment of 1.2 million units. The major projects first-week U.S. sales of 300,000 units, less than half the 701,000 that her debut, "I Dreamed a Dream," sold during Thanksgiving week last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"There's no bigger opportunity or challenge for us this year," says Dave Shack, VP of international for Sony Music U.K. in London. "We're taking nothing for granted. But the conversations we're having with the territories indicate there's a proven fan base out there for Susan Boyle."
Nonetheless, Shack says the continued slump in recorded-music sales means that it may be impossible for "The Gift" to match the phenomenal sales of "I Dreamed a Dream," which benefited from the YouTube-fueled frenzy over Boyle's April 2009 debut appearance on "Britain's Got Talent."
The debut album has sold 3.8 million units in the United States and 1.8 million in the United Kingdom, according to SoundScan and the Official Charts Co. (OCC), respectively. Sony says "I Dreamed a Dream" has sold 9 million units worldwide, and IFPI cited the album as the global best seller of 2009.
For "The Gift," unit sales of "5 million around the world would be absolutely incredible," Shack says.
Executives at Syco declined to comment, referring requests to Boyle's manager Andy Stephens, who couldn't be reached for comment.
Boyle could be particularly vulnerable to the global slide in CD sales, given that they have accounted for more than 97% of both U.S. and U.K. sales of "I Dreamed a Dream," according to SoundScan and the OCC. But Shack is optimistic that digital sales will improve for the follow-up, with final negotiations ongoing over a promotional deal with Apple's iTunes, details of which are to be determined.
"Her audience is getting more and more active online," Shack says. "We've seen them become comfortable doing pre-orders online [for physical product] and the next logical step is buying it digitally."
Those pre-orders are crucial to the campaign, with a big marketing push at Amazon and a partnership with U.S. home shopping channel QVC, which has received more than 16,500 orders since Oct. 13 for an exclusive version of "The Gift" featuring a behind-the-scenes DVD.
Boyle will also be making a flurry of U.S. TV appearances. She appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Oct. 19, with further appearances to follow on "Today," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," TNT's "Christmas in Washington" special and more, although international appearances will be more limited than on the last campaign.
"American TV plays to her strengths," says Shack, who cites Australia, Canada and Japan as priority international markets. "She's not that comfortable engaging with European chat show presenters."
"The Gift" contains 10 tracks, a mixture of seasonal standards like "O Holy Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" and covers of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day," Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."