The " 12-12-12 The Concert for Sandy Relief" benefit album is already off to a fast start -- even though it hasn't been released yet.
Industry sources say that through last night (Dec. 12), pre-orders for iTunes' exclusive digital release of the album number at 40,000. While the Columbia Records set has a published release date of Tuesday, Dec. 18, it could arrive to iTunes sooner. So far, none of its tracks have been put up for individual sale, nor has a tracklist been made public yet.
While the $12.99 album currently indicates that 24 songs will be on the album, that number could also be in flux. More than 50 songs were played at the show, held at New York's Madison Square Garden. Acts ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Paul McCartney and Kanye West to Alicia Keys participated in the nearly six-hour concert to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief.
With regards to how the album will chart on Nielsen SoundScan and Billboard's sales charts, it will only impact the tallies once it has been delivered to customers. That means pre-orders will not count until they have been fulfilled to the end-user. So, if the album goes live in iTunes before the close of business on Sunday, Dec. 16 (the last day of the Nielsen SoundScan tracking week), then the set could impact the new Billboard 200 revealed on Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Certainly the "12-12-12" album will sell more than 40,000 in its first week -- but just how big it is anyone's guess. That said, sources suggest that the "12-12-12" album doesn't seem a likely player for the No. 1 slot on the Billboard 200 at this point. Taylor Swift's "Red" is currently on course to rule for a fifth non-consecutive week with perhaps 180,000 to 200,000 (or more) sold.
A physical 2-CD version of the "12-12-12" album is slated for a January release.
The rapid release of the "12-12-12" album brings to mind another charity concert set that impacted the chart less than two years ago: "Hope for Haiti Now."
That album, culled from the Jan. 22, 2010 telethon of the same name, was released to digital retailers over the Jan. 23-24 weekend. (iTunes also began taking pre-orders on the day of the telethon.) The telethon (and album) "Hope for Haiti Now" raised money to assist relief efforts following the Jan. 10 earthquake that rocked Haiti, killing more than 300,000 people.
The "Hope for Haiti Now" album immediately impacted the following week's Billboard 200 chart, debuting at No. 1 with 171,000 copies sold through the week ending Jan. 24 according to SoundScan. (Meaning: "Hope for Haiti Now" sold its sum with less than two full days of sales.)
"Hope for Haiti Now" was the first digitally-exclusive album to reach No. 1 in the history of the chart.
In its second week on the chart, the effort sold another 143,000 (down a scant 16%), after it had a full week's worth of availability to consumers.
Could the "12-12-12" album sell as much as the "Haiti" album? (The latter set's U.S. sales now stand at 372,000. It was deleted from digital retail availability in April of 2010.)
While both efforts are similar in some ways, they differ greatly in others. Perhaps the delay between Hurricane Sandy and the concert made the album and show less of a "must buy" moment? The "Hope for Haiti Now" show happened on Jan. 22 -- just 10 days after the Haiti earthquake. The "12-12-12" concert came more than a month after Hurricane Sandy struck the New York and New Jersey area on Oct. 29.
Also in play, perhaps, is the make-up of the acts featured in each show. The "Haiti" telethon -- a somber affair that was held in-studio -- featured an array of stars that usually only performed one tune apiece. Madonna sang "Like a Prayer," Coldplay did "A Message 2010," Taylor Swift did "Breathless" and so forth. Rap, pop, country, rock and classic acts were all represented well, with additional artists like Jay-Z, Rihanna, Dave Matthews, Justin Timberlake, the Roots and Beyonce also on hand.
In contrast, the "12-12-12" concert was more of a true concert, with nearly all of the acts performing multiple tunes. Because of how it was staged, there were fewer artists able to perform, possibly making the show less enticing to consumers.
Additionally, while the "Haiti" show offered an array of acts from many genres of music, the "12-12-12" show was a study in classic rock. While Kanye West and Alicia Keys did perform, the vast majority of the show's acts found their biggest hits in the 1960s through 1980s. Bruce Springsteen opened the evening, followed by sets from Roger Waters, Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Keys, the Who, West, Billy Joel, Chris Martin (of Coldplay) and Paul McCartney.
Also something to consider: the "12-12-12" concert played out in real time across social media, saturating pop culture for the entire evening. In turn, perhaps consumers will be satisfied with having simply participated in the live event, making the purchase of the show's album less of a priority?
We'll know for sure as the days progress and more pre-orders and actual sales figures start to come in.