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Adele’s ’25’ Will Ship 3.6 Million Units in U.S., Could Top *NSYNC’s Historic Sales Week

The album would mark the largest amount of CDs in an initial shipment on a new release in this decade, and possibly this millennium.

Adele is going for a milestone.

Sources reveal that Columbia Records will ship 3.6 million physical copies of the singer’s new album 25 in the U.S., which would probably mark the largest number of new-release CDs shipped in the past decade. The last album to ship more than that would have been *NSYNC‘s No Strings Attached, which shipped 4.2 million units back in 2000.

As of Nov. 18, insiders tell Billboard that parent company Sony Music is projecting first-week CD sales of 1.5 million, while Apple digital sales are expected to be about 900,000. Overall downloads should come in at about 1 million units. Sources also suggest that preorders at iTunes will wind up at about 450,000, while Amazon’s pre-orders have already topped 100,000, for both CDs and MP3s.

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Industry prognosticators add that the split between CD and digital downloads will probably be around 60/40, a shift from Adele’s last album, the 11.2 million-selling 21, where digital only accounted for 28 percent of sales.

If the digital and CD projections are hit, that means Adele would be selling about 2.5 million units in her debut week, which would make it the largest-selling album in a week in Nielsen SoundScan history, which began monitoring album sales in 1991. That record is currently held by *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached, which sold 2.415 million units back in the week ending March 26, 2000.

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At press time, nearly 28 hours from the album’s Friday, Nov. 20, street date, it’s still unclear if streaming sites will have the album. One service source says the album is not expected to arrive to streamers until the Wednesday after street date but could not say if that applied to all services or if one of the services was getting an exclusive.

In addition to the initial week-one projection of almost 2.5 million, sources add that Sony projects it will sell an additional 1 million CDs over the following three weeks. By Christmas, 25 could be at 4 million units total.