The "Hope for Haiti Now" charity album debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 171,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, becoming the first digital-exclusive set to top the tally in its nearly 54-year history . . . The set is one of three new entries in the top 10 of the chart, where Spoon's new "Transference" bows at No. 4 and the "2010 Grammy Nominees" album starts right behind it at No. 5.



FLASH POINTS

• The "Hope for Haiti Now" charity album debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 171,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, becoming the first digital-exclusive set to top the tally in its nearly 54-year history.

• The compilation, featuring performances culled from last Friday's (Jan. 22) massive "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon, only reached digital distributors during the weekend, making its sales number all the more impressive. SoundScan's sales tracking week ends at the close of business each Sunday, so the album's brisk sales came from just two full days.

• Sources indicate that a good deal of the sales for "Haiti" were racked up as pre-orders before the set become available to purchase outright. Apple's iTunes Store began accepting pre-orders for the compilation last Friday; however, pre-orders don't count as a sale until if and when the album is fulfilled to the customer.

• With the debut of "Haiti" with 171,000 following 100,000-plus starts at No. 1 by Ke$ha's "Animal" (152,000) and Vampire Weekend's "Contra" (124,000), it's the first time since 2005 that the first three tracking weeks of the year had an album that sold at least 100,000 copies.

• Also, as "Haiti" is sold through indie digital distributor INgrooves, it gives the Billboard 200 back-to-back independently distributed No. 1 albums, following Vampire Weekend's "Contra" last week.

• The "Haiti" benefit album is one of three debuts in the top 10 this week. The second-highest arrival is Spoon's "Transference" at No. 4 with 53,000. The Merge Records set is the band's highest-charting album and best sales week. Its last release, "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga," debuted and peaked at No. 10 in 2007 from its 46,000-unit start.

• The next-best debut is the "2010 Grammy Nominees" album, starting at No. 5 with 49,000. Watch for the compilation's sales to jump in the next two weeks following the broadcast of the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 31.

• And here's a look at the rest of the non-debuts in the top 10 this week: Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream" holds at No. 2 with 86,000, claiming a 12% sales gain following her performance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" last week. Lady Gaga's "The Fame" rises one spot to No. 3 (62,000; down 3%) while last week's No. 1, Vampire Weekend's "Contra," slips to No. 6 with 43,000 (down 65%). Alicia Keys' "The Element of Freedom" falls two notches to No. 7 (40,000; down 16%), Ke$ha's "Animal" crawls down five rungs to No. 8 (35,000-plus; down 47%), and the Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." is up one to No. 9 (nearly 35,000; up 7%). Closing out the top 10 this week is Taylor Swift's "Fearless," down two slots to No. 10 with 32,000 (down 5%).

• Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending Jan. 24) totaled 5.8 million units, up 3% compared with the sum last week (5.7 million) and down 9% compared with the comparable sales week of 2009 (week ending Jan. 25; 6.4 million).

• A LOOK AHEAD:

• Next week's Billboard 200 chart-topper will likely be Lady Antebellum's sophomore album, "Need You Now." Early prognostications from label sources suggest that the set may sell around 325,000 copies by week's end on Jan. 31. It will be the first No. 1 for the trio, whose self-titled debut arrived and peaked at No. 4 last May.

• The new album's title cut already spent five weeks atop the Country Songs tally last year and reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. This week it debuts at No. 37 on the Pop Songs chart, which ranks the most-played songs at top 40 radio stations. It's the first time a country group has charted on the Pop tally since Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts the Most" spent 20 weeks on the list in 2006 and 2007, peaking at No. 22.

• Lady Antebellum has a busy release week in terms of promotion, as the group is slated to perform on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (Jan. 27) and the Grammy Awards (Jan. 31). The act is up for two Grammys this year: best country performance by a duo or group with vocals and best country song (both for "I Run to You").

• Other albums headed for likely lofty debuts on next week's Billboard 200 include Corinne Bailey Rae' "The Sea" and Celtic Woman's "Songs From the Heart."


MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 5.8 million units
• UP 3% from last week's charts: 5.7 million units
• DOWN 9% from the comparable week in 2009: 6.4 million units
• This week: Only the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 sells more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on the Billboard 200: Taylor Swift's "Fearless" held at No. 1 with 63,000, and the chart's highest debut was Mariah Carey's "The Ballads" at No. 10 with 29,000.



A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the albums released this week, due on next week's charts: Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," Corinne Bailey Rae's "The Sea," Celtic Woman's "Songs From the Heart," the "Kidz Bop 17" collection, Barry Manilow's "The Greatest Love Songs of All Time," Magnetic Fields' "Realism," Neil Sedaka's "Music of My Life" and the "Now That's What I Call Love" compilation.

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2009 when: Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream" debuted at No. 1 with 224,000 while the "2009 Grammy Nominees" compilation entered at No. 6 with 33,000. The previous week's topper, Taylor Swift's "Fearless," dropped to No. 2 with 55,000 (down 12%).