Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Watch the Throne" arrives, as expected, at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 436,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It's the second-largest sales week of the year for an album, behind only the 1.1 million start of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."
"Throne" was exclusively available through iTunes from Aug. 8-11 before going on sale at all digital and physical retailers on Friday, Aug. 12. SoundScan's tracking week ended on Sunday, Aug. 14.
"Throne" sold 321,000 downloads, marking the second-largest digital week ever, behind only the 662,000 moved by "Born This Way" in its first week earlier this year. While SoundScan does not disclose retailer-specific sales figures, sources say "Throne" broke iTunes' one-week sales record -- with nearly 290,000 digital copies sold through the retailer. ("Throne" surpassed the previous iTunes record, set when Coldplay's 2008 album "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" shifted 282,000 in its first week.)
Some industry prognosticators had projected "Throne" was going to move more than 500,000. However, predicting the album's first-week sales was difficult because of its staggered release. Usually, albums drop to all retailers on Tuesdays, but "Throne" secured a Monday street date -- and only through iTunes. Thus, normal projection models -- based on all versions of an album hitting retailers on Tuesday -- were thrown for a loop.
"Throne" also earns Jay-Z his 12th No. 1 and West his fifth. For Jay, the achievement extends his record as the solo act with the most No. 1 albums in history. Only the Beatles, with 19 No. 1s, have more.
Coincidentally, Jay-Z happens to have been part of the three most recent collaborative albums that have topped the Billboard 200. Before "Throne," he joined Linkin Park for "Collision Course" and R. Kelly on "Unfinished Business," both of which debuted at No. 1 in 2004.
Jay-Z's last solo studio album, "The Blueprint 3," bowed at No. 1 with 476,000 in 2009 while West's previous effort, 2010's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," also launched at No. 1, but with 496,000.
Some observers may wonder if the opening week for "Throne" seems smallish compared with the two superstar acts' previous debuts. One could conclude that the digital exclusivity of "Throne" for a portion of its first week may have impacted its sales, or that two superstars don't always equate to a must-buy album. The true test of the album's sales will come in its second week, when it will have a full chart week's worth of both physical and digital sales under its belt.