In the wake of Prince’s death on April 21, the music legend is heading for No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with the greatest hits album The Very Best of Prince. If the set tops the list, it will mark Prince’s fifth No. 1, and first since 2006’s 3121.
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The top 10 of the new May 7-dated Billboard 200 chart is scheduled to be revealed on Billboard’s websites on Sunday, April 24.
Prince died on the final day of the most recent Billboard 200 chart tracking week, so the chart will reflect the immediate reaction to his passing. Anything beyond that (purchases and streams occurring on April 22 and later) will be reflected on the following week’s chart.
Industry sources suggest The Very Best of Prince could earn more than 150,000 equivalent album units in the week ending April 21, with between 90,000 and 100,000 in traditional album sales. (Sources say the album sold around 85,000 through the iTunes Store alone on April 21.)
The overall total unit figure for The Very Best of Prince is large because of the popularity of its 17 tracks, which includes 13 of his 19 top 10-charting hits on the Billboard Hot 100. The highlights set — which was released in 2001 and debuted and (so far) peaked at No. 66 — boasts iconic tracks like “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” and “Purple Rain.”
It’s likely that his second-biggest-selling album for the week will be the classic Purple Rain soundtrack, which, according to sources, moved more than 40,000 copies through iTunes yesterday. The album spent 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in 1984 and 1985.
Prince’s catalog is selling incredibly well, not just because of the artist’s extraordinary popularity, but also because his music has limited availability on streaming services and YouTube. The only streaming service with access to his songs is Tidal. And, as noted in Billboard magazine’s cover story about Prince in 2013, finding classic videos or performance footage of Prince on YouTube or anywhere else on the Web is difficult. “I have a team of female black lawyers who keep an eye on such transgressions,” Prince said at the time. “And you know they’re sharp,” he added with a laugh.
Thus, outside of listening to his music on the radio, for many the primary way to experience Prince’s music is to purchase it.
Prince has led the Billboard 200 four times previously, with 3121 (for one week in 2006), the Batman soundtrack (six weeks in 1989), Around the World in a Day (three weeks in 1985) and Purple Rain.