While mainstream media is touting that the Black Friday weekend started the holiday selling season with a bang, music merchandisers certainly didn't have that experience. Music sales were down anywhere from 10% to 30% and hit albums released for Black Friday didn't perform up to expectations, according to merchants contacted by Billboard.

According to sources, Kanye West's "808's & Heartbreak" will sell in the range of 425,000-450,000 units, significantly down from 700,000-975,000 units previously projected.

Guns N' Roses "Chinese Democracy" is expected to clock in at 250,000-260,000, which is also down from expectations that it would sell anywhere from 300,000-784,000 units.

While some press reports show across-the-board retail weekend sales up 7%, music merchandisers point out that in order to accurately measure the holiday, it should be measured the week containing Black Friday this year - which was the last week in November - versus last year, when the day fell in the third week of November. Consequently, some merchants say they doubt the validity of the 7% increase reported by the mainstream media.

At music specialty stores Newbury Comics sales were down 21% on a comparable store basis for the last two weeks of November, while music sales were down 28%, reports the Brighton, Mass.-based chain's CEO Mike Dreese.

In Marietta, Ga., comparable-store sales were down 5%, according to Value Music president Rob Perkins. But the chain had yet to breakdown music sales and other categories at deadline.

At big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble, label executives report that hit sales were off significantly for the Black Friday weekend, anywhere from 30% to 40%.

On the other hand, as expected, online shopping was stronger than last year, says an executive with a wholesaler that does CD and DVD fulfillment for online stores. But he declined to provide details, other than to say that Friday was better than Thursday, for the first time.

"I hear traffic was high, but overall purchasing wasn't because shoppers were cherry picking the deals," says one senior distribution executive.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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