The Mail on Sunday's controversial Prince CD giveaway helped push the newspaper to record-busting sales.

The newspaper's managing director Stephen Miron says that 2.81 million editions of the covermounted issue were sold last Sunday, up by roughly 600,000 copies on a typical week.

"The only sale which has beaten it in its 25-year history was the Princess Diana issue in 1997, which obviously [her death] was one of the biggest news stories in the world," Miron tells Billboard.biz.

"In real terms this is our best-ever sale of the Mail on Sunday with a promotion, in the history of the company and probably the best promotion any newspaper has done in this country."

The publication pressed-up approximately three million copies of Prince's "Planet Earth," at a reported cost of about £1 million ($2 million).

Miron says a wave of positive feedback has prompted the publication to look ahead to similar, high-profile covermount campaigns.

"Of course there'll be plans to do other releases of this ilk. We've done one, and I think we've demonstrated the value that we bring to the party," he said.

"We've had a number of calls from a number of different artists, from both music and film about launching products in the Mail on Sunday. I would say it's a very, very exciting time ahead for us."

The "Planet Earth" freebie has proved to be one of the hottest talking points in the U.K. industry in recent months. The U.K. affiliate of Sony BMG opted-out of releasing the album in Britain, while Britain's retailers took turns at condemning the promotion for its perceived negative follow-on effects for the music industry.

Market-leading music and entertainment retailer HMV then broke ranks by agreeing to stock the newspaper, a move which raised its competitors' hackles. HMV is safeguarding its sales figures for the newspaper.

Miron admits that the Mail on Sunday had challenged charts compiler the Official U.K. Charts Company to qualify the covermounted newspaper towards the national albums chart. The OCC's criteria stipulates that covermounts are not eligible for the sales charts.

"Our argument is that those rules were written to cater for one particular market, and the reality is that this disc was a unique proposition and no-one has released a new album with a newspaper before," says Miron. "And the incremental sales that we achieved this weekend would seem to demonstrate that a large number of people have been attracted to buy the newspaper because it had a Prince CD in it."

When asked if the Mail on Sunday would revisit its OCC contest, Miron replied. "We've been snowed under with feedback from the Prince release. We'll get around to it."

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