Kanye West's 'Yeezus' Album Could Sell a Half-Million in First Week

While Kanye West's new album "Yeezus" hasn't been released yet, sales forecasters in the music industry are buzzing about how much the set could sell in its first week.

Those in the know suggest the album, due out June 18, may sell 500,000 copies in its first week. Readers might wonder: How do said forecasters come up with a projected sales figure -- when the album isn't even on sale yet?

Basically, these skilled sources make it their business to crunch numbers all day long. Sales forecasts, such as this one for "Yeezus," are based on early orders from retailers, first-week performance of comparable albums, media exposure, radio and YouTube trends for an album's first single, and so forth. These sources each have their own forecast model, so to speak, that helps generate sales projections.

Sometimes, depending on how far out we are from an album's release, a forecast can be wildly different from the final outcome. In general, you can best guess an album's debut sales week once it's actually on sale.

For example, on March 11, sources told Billboard that Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience" (not due out until March 19), might sell 500,000 in its debut week. Ultimately, that figure got much bigger, as the album performed stronger than anticipated. It finished with a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 968,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Last month, on May 17, forecasters projected that Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" -- due out four days later -- could sell between 250,000 and 300,000 in its first week. The album sold even better -- moving 339,000 in its debut frame.

West's last album was a collaborative effort with Jay-Z, "Watch the Throne." That set debuted at No. 1 in 2011 with 436,000 copies sold in its first week -- mostly from sales driven by an exclusive early deal with the iTunes Store. (The set was available exclusively through iTunes for its first four days of release, and then went wide to all digital and physical retailers after that.)

West's last solo studio album, 2010's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," arrived during Thanksgiving week of that year, and debuted at No. 1 with 496,000 sold.

Unlike both of those albums, West's new "Yeezus" wasn't preceded by a single aimed towards radio airplay. Shockingly, "Yeezus" has yet to leak (as of June 12). In comparison, another album due out the same day as "Yeezus," J. Cole's "Born Sinner," leaked to the Web on June 7. Cole quickly posted a stream of the album to his web site, along with a prompt to urge fans to pre-order the album via iTunes.