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How Bob Marley’s 30-Year Old ‘Legend’ Album Finally Hit the Top 10

It only took 30 years, but Bob Marley & the Wailers' 1984 greatest-hits album Legend has hit the top 10 on the Billboard 200 -- and in doing so, gives the reggae great his highest-charting album.

It only took 30 years, but Bob Marley & the Wailers‘ 1984 greatest-hits album Legend has hit the top 10 on the Billboard 200 — and in doing so, gives the reggae great his highest-charting album.

Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’ Finally Heading for Top 10

Legend zooms from No. 100 to No. 5 on the chart dated Sept. 20, thanks to deep discounting at the Google Play store during the tracking week that ended Sept. 7. The retailer slashed the album’s price to 99 cents (down from normally around $9), helping spark its 41,000 sales for the week (up 1,166 percent). Industry sources suggest about 38,000 of Legend’s sales in the week came from the Google store.

With the surge, Legend also secures its biggest sales week since the frame ending Jan. 3, 1993, when it sold 43,000. The leap gives Marley his highest peak on the Billboard 200, surpassing the No. 8 apex of Rastaman Vibration in 1976 — his only other top 10 effort.

As for the selection of Legend for the promotion, sources close to Universal Music Group, which distributes the album, say that Google Play selects the artists and titles for its sale offers and discounted Legend “on their own.” Google Play regularly discounts albums, but few markdowns have come close to the kind of chart splash that Legend has made.

“We love to celebrate artists like Bob Marley whose music is timeless and beloved,” says Google Play head of global music partner management Gwen Shen. “Our hope is that this promotion … will introduce his music to the next generation of fans and continue his legacy.”

With regards to pricing and cost matters, Google Play wouldn’t share its business conversations with label partners. However, label sources say the store is paying Universal “full price” for the album, which could be around $7 a pop.

Legend was originally released on May 1, 1984, and initially reached No. 54 on the Billboard 200. It went on to a very lengthy run on the list, previously peaking at No. 18 in 2012. The album regularly sells between 3,000 and 5,000 copies per week, and has sold 11.6 million copies in the United States since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales. It is certified as selling 15 million, according to the RIAA, a total that accounts for sales before 1991.

Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’ Finally Heading for Top 10

Bob Marley & the Wailers' greatest-hits album Legend is on course for the Billboard 200 chart's top 10 next week. The album, which was released in 1984, has been a steady seller for years, but has…

A Legend is heading for the top 10 for the first time.

Bob Marley & the Wailers‘ greatest-hits album Legend is on course for the Billboard 200 chart’s top 10 next week. The album, which was released in 1984, has been a steady seller for years, but has never visited the top 10.

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The sudden surge in sales is owed to discounting of the album in the Google Play store to 99 cents. Normally, the album sells for around $8. Industry sources forecast the album to sell between 20,000 to 24,000 copies in the week ending Sept. 7 — with the bulk of those sales coming from Google.

The Billboard 200’s new top 10 will be revealed on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

Sources close to Universal Music Group, which distributes Legend, say that Google is paying the company full price for the album. Google selects the artists and titles for its sale promotions and discounted Legend “on their own.”

(A “full price” cost of the album to a digital retailer could be around $7, say other sources.)

Google regularly offers albums and songs at a deeply discounted price, or sometimes even free (they recently gave away Katy Perry‘s PRISM album for a short time). Those giveaways did not count towards the album’s sales with Nielsen SoundScan, or its ranking on Billboard’s album charts. Sale priced albums are eligible for inclusion on Billboard’s charts, so long as they are not priced below $3.49 in their first four weeks of release. (Free or giveaway albums are never included.)

Upon its release in 1984, Legend initially reached No. 54 on the Billboard 200 chart that year, but went on to chart a lengthy run on the list and continued to sell well as the years — and decades — went by. The album regularly sells between 3,000 and 5,000 a week, and reached a peak of No. 18 in 2012. On the most recent Billboard 200 chart (dated Sept. 13), the album ranked at No. 100 with 3,000 in sales for the week ending Aug. 31, according to SoundScan.

The album has sold 11.6 million copies in the U.S. since 1991, when SoundScan started tracking sales. It is certified as selling 15 million, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (which would account for sales before 1991). Legend was recently reissued in a deluxe package for its 30th anniversary, though, notably, the reissue is not the version that is on sale for 99 cents.

If Legend hits the top 10, it will mark Marley’s second top 10 album, following 1976’s Rastaman Vibration. It peaked at No. 8 on the July 4, 1976-dated chart.

Marley’s Legend album won’t be the only exciting news in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 next week, as Maroon 5 are set for their second No. 1 album. The pop band’s new V could sell around 150,000 copies, which should easily give them the top slot for the first time since 2007’s It Won’t Be Soon Before Long.

Also aiming for high debuts: Jeezy‘s Seen It All: The Autobiography, which should start in the No. 2 slot with around 100,000, and Counting CrowsSomewhere Under Wonderland, which should debut in the top 10 with 28,000 or so.

On SoundScan’s Building chart (below), Maroon 5 and Jeezy are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. The Building tally is a precursor to the final Billboard 200 ranking — reflecting the first four days (Monday through Thursday) of SoundScan’s tracking week as reported by six major merchants.

As for the rest of the Building chart’s top 10, the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack is No. 3, followed by Ariana Grande‘s My Everything at No. 4 and Counting Crows at No. 5. The Now 51 compilation is No. 6, Sam Smith‘s In the Lonely Hour is No. 7 and Miranda Lambert‘s Platinum is No. 8. (Lambert’s album could zip back into the top 10, as it is currently sale priced for $6.99 in both the iTunes and Amazon MP3 stores. The artist’s Twitter and Facebook accounts also linked fans to the discounted iTunes album on Sept. 2.) The Frozen soundtrack is No. 9 and 5 Seconds of Summer‘s self-titled album closes out the top 10.

Marley’s Legend album does not appear on SoundScan’s Building chart, as the list does not include catalog (older) albums.

Nielsen SoundScan Building Chart
Rank LW
BB 200
Artist Title
1 NEW Maroon 5 V
2 NEW Jeezy Seen It All: The Autobiography
3 4 Soundtrack Guardians of the Galaxy
4 1 Ariana Grande My Everything
5 NEW Counting Crows Somewhere Under Wonderland
6 8 Various Artists Now 51
7 5 Sam Smith In the Lonely Hour
8 33 Miranda Lambert Platinum
9 7 Soundtrack Frozen
10 7 5 Seconds of Summer 5 Seconds of Summer
The Building Chart reflects the first four days (Monday through Thursday) of SoundScan’s tracking week (which ends Sunday) as reported by six major merchants: iTunes, Trans World Entertainment, Best Buy, Starbucks, Target and Anderson Merchandisers. Billboard estimates that they make up about 85% of all U.S. album sales.