Kelly Clarkson's endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul on Dec. 28 may have helped draw attention to the original "American Idol" champion, but despite multiple reports from other news sites, it did little to help the sales of her "Stronger" album. According to both Nielsen SoundScan data and sources in the know at Clarkson's label, RCA, little evidence exists to support the theory that Clarkson's praise for Paul helped her sales.
In fact, her album sales actually dropped when compared with the previous week.
Let's take a look:
In the week that ended on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, "Stronger" sold 40% fewer copies than it did the previous week (25,000, as opposed to 41,000 in the week before Christmas). And while it moved from No. 39 to No. 17 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, its upward momentum this week was caused by it having a less-steep decline in sales as compared to the rest of the titles on the chart (the overall album market was down 49% in the week after Christmas). Its total sales stand at 451,000 after 10 weeks.
Its smaller drop, as compared to the rest of the market, is owed to its gain in download sales -- it saw a 232% increase in the digital space (selling 14,000 downloads for the week). But Ron Paul probably didn't have much to do with that rally, either. The bulk of digital album sales -- for Clarkson or any other artist -- come from the Apple iTunes Store. And last week, coincidentally enough, iTunes heavily promoted both her sale-priced "Stronger" album and her new exclusive "iTunes Session" EP (released Dec. 27) on the front page of the store.
In other words, it wasn't Clarkson's political preferences that pushed digital sales of "Stronger" -- its $7.99 sale price (which was matched by AmazonMP3) and iTunes' advertising were the real reasons behind the gain. Those spikes were usually cited as evidence of the sales gain in the "Ron Paul Sales Bump" articles.
Many of the stories generated regarding "Stronger's" sales jump were focused on its physical CD sales via Amazon.com and how it zipped up the Internet retailer's "movers and shakers" ranking after her Paul comments. Some journalists may have thought this meant the album was flying off Amazon.com's shelves. In actuality, "Stronger" sold 600 copies last week via Internet retailers (including Amazon.com) -- down 72% compared to the previous week, when it moved 2,000 copies.
Further, the album's second single "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" has been making inroads on top 40 radio stations and should debut on the Mainstream Top 40 airplay tally in the coming weeks. That building traction, along with the continued airplay success of lead track "Mr. Know It All," could also be fueling the album's digital increase. "Know" is currently in its fourth week at No. 1 on the Adult Top 40 airplay chart and sits at No. 13 on Mainstream Top 40 (after having peaked at No. 11).
Speaking of "Mr. Know It All," the song sold 123,000 downloads last week -- its best sales frame yet. However, that number should be examined a bit more closely. While its sizable 55% sales increase is impressive (and the second-largest gain among the top 50 titles on the Hot Digital Songs chart) it was only natural the song was going to sell well last week and see a big sales spike.
Why? All digital songs generally sell well in the week after Christmas as consumers fill-up their newly-acquired MP3 players -- proven by how on the entire 75-position Digital Songs chart, only three titles decline in sales.
Though "Mr. Know It All's" gain was out of character compared to much of the chart, again, its growth can be tied to the iTunes promotion. Consumers who were lured in by the advertisement -- but perhaps didn't want to buy the whole album -- may have simply opted to download the most popular track on the set, which is "Mr. Know It All."
So while it's certainly possible that Ron Paul supporters decided to show their approval of Clarkson's endorsements by voting with their wallets or iTunes gift cards, the motivation behind the story was more likely a strong headline during a slow news week …