This week on the Billboard 200 albums chart, Keith Urban beat out the Weeknd for the No. 1 slot by less than 3,000 copies. Urban's "Fuse" debuted at No. 1 with 98,000 copies, while the Weeknd's "Kiss Land" started with 95,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The softness at the top of the chart (where the the No. 1 album sold less than 100,000 for the first time after six weeks) extends to the overall market as well. Album sales volume fell to a new historic low this past week -- 4.54 million (week ending Sept. 15). That beats the SoundScan-era (1991-present) low set just seven weeks ago when sales dipped to 4.68 million (in the SoundScan week ending July 28).
Outside the top 10 on the Billboard 200 there were a number of movers and shakers. Let's take a look at some of them…
-- Earth, Wind & Fire, "Now, Then & Forever" (No. 11): This week on the Billboard 200, veteran group Earth, Wind & Fire claims its highest-charting album since 1981, as "Now, Then & Forever" debuts at No. 11. The act last went higher on the tally with "Raise!" The set peaked at No. 5 in November of 1981.
The new album sold 27,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It also debuts at No. 5 on R&B Albums and No. 6 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The launch of 27,000 also stands as Earth, Wind & Fire’s best sales week for an album since 2005, when its last studio set, "Illumination," bowed at No. 32 with 29,000.
"Now, Then & Forever" was ushered in with an hour-long live concert on HSN TV on Aug. 30. The show, which was broadcast from Las Vegas' Venetian Theater, helped generate around 9,000 in sales for the album via HSN, sources say. That share represented about 33% of the title's first-week sales.
-- Gloria Estefan, "Standards" (No. 20): The No. 20 debut of Estefan’s new "Standards" album gives the diva her highest-charting album since "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" spent three weeks in the top 20 in November of 1994, peaking at No. 9.
-- Newsboys, "Restart" (No. 38): On Top Christian Albums, the veteran act collects its sixth No. 1 and 13th top 10 set with the arrival of "Restart." The group has at least one new entry on the Christian chart every year since 2002.
-- Mark Knopfler, "Privateering" (No. 65): The album, which debuts this week at No. 65, was first released outside of the United States in 2012. But it didn't make it to American shores because of a "contractual dispute" with his former label, Warner Bros. Now on Mercury, the album arrives with 6,000.
-- Madonna, "MDNA World Tour" (No. 90): The album version of Madonna's "MDNA World Tour" concert video release debuts at No. 90 with 4,000 sold. It was issued only as a digital album and a CD-R on demand from Amazon.com. It is her 26th chart entry on the Billboard 200.
Meanwhile, on the Music Video Sales chart, the blu-ray and DVD version of the "MDNA World Tour" release combine to sell 11,000 for a No. 1 debut. It's her 10th No. 1 and sixth chart-topper in a row.
Her last live album and video release, 2010's "Sticky & Sweet Tour," was released on blu-ray, CD/DVD and as a digital album. The former configuration enabled its No. 1 debut on Music Video Sales with 5,000, while the latter two combined for a No. 10 arrival on the Billboard 200 (28,000).
Had "MDNA World Tour" been issued on traditional CD and CD/DVD (and/or CD/blu-ray combo), then the album would have naturally charted much higher than No. 90 on the Billboard 200.
-- Capital Cities, "In a Tidal Wave of Mystery" (No. 95): As the album's single "Safe and Sound" creeps closer to No. 1 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart (3-2 this week, up 9.3% in audience, according to Nielsen BDS), the set jumps back into the top 100 with a 22% sales gain.
-- Johnny Cash, "The Legend of Johnny Cash" (No. 200): With a tiny bit more than 2,000 copies sold, this week's No. 200 album has the second-smallest weekly sales sum since the chart started using SoundScan data on May 25, 1991. The all-time low was set a year ago (Sept. 29, 2012), with a handful of units less (but still more than 2,000).