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How Justin Timberlake (Probably) Broke A Million In First-Week Sales For ‘The 20/20 Experience’

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(Christopher Polk/Getty Images for DirecTV)

(Christopher Polk/Getty Images for DirecTV)

Shannon Carlin
Shannon Carlin Shannon is an associate music producer for Radio.com....
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Justin Timberlake could sell a million records in The 20/20 Experience’s first week of release, making it his second No. 1 album and his highest sales debut ever. No easy feat, especially in this unpredictable musical climate, but the business-savvy singer understood you have to do more than just promote the music if you want to break records.

Timberlake managed to saturate the news cycle leading up to his album’s release with TV commercials, late night comedy stints and a very smart Target sponsorship, which managed to bump up his sale predictions from an initial figure of 500,000 copies to Billboard reporting it was looking like he had sold 950-975,000 copies by the end of the week. (The final sales stats for The 20/20 Experience are expected, at the latest, Wednesday morning.) Even more impressively, he accomplished all this without making you feel sick of him.

Timberlake seemed to be everywhere leading up to his third album’s release on March 19. His latest release marked his return to music seven years after releasing 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, a record that sold 684,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Timberlake took over your television, from those Bud Light Platinum commercials that featured the brand’s Creative Director performing “Suit & Tie” alongside some very thirsty fans to his fifth time hosting SNL, which gave the NBC show its highest-rated episode in 14 months. Not to mention JT joined Jimmy Fallon for a week-long Late Night residency that had him not only previewing songs off the album, but showing how funny he really is with skits that ranged from a barbershop quartet rendition of “Sexy Back” to a Michael McDonald impression that featured McDonald himself.

Timberlake’s decision to release a deluxe edition of the album with two extra songs only available through Target, also helped grab sales. The store ran fan-centric commercials featuring Timberlake week of release, along with a release day concert that aired on the CW and helped premiere his new video for “Mirrors.” Target is reported to be the album’s second-biggest retailer, right after iTunes.

“Initial sales for The 20/20 Experience at Target are exceeding our expectations and put it in a position to be one of our best-selling albums in the last 10 years,” Anne Stanchfield, Target’s divisional merchandise manager of entertainment, told Billboard.

The store also kept Timberlake’s album affordable by selling their deluxe edition for $9.99, a dollar less than iTunes despite the two extra songs, giving fans more bang for their buck. Amazon and Walmart sold the album for even cheaper, charging only $7.

Teaming up with Target was something Taylor Swift did for last year’s Red, which sold 1.2 million records, earning the biggest sales week totals for an album since 2002 when Eminem’s The Eminem Show sold over 1.3 million. She also trounced Mumford & Sons, who previously held the 2012 record for biggest first week sales with 600,000 for their second album, Babel, which earned those numbers based on word of mouth and radio play.

But to exceed the million mark, Swift not only teamed up with Target for a deluxe edition, she sold her album at Starbucks, Walgreens (where she had her own mini-merch store in the drugstore selling her album alongside blankets, folders and notebooks with her face on them) and Papa John’s. The pizza place even featured her face on their takeout boxes and offered her CD as part of a large one-topping pizza combo for $22.

If Timberlake’s latest does sell a million in its first week, it would become only the 19th album to do so since SoundScan started tracking music sales in 1991. Oddly enough, it’s ‘N SYNC, who released their debut 15 years ago this week, that holds the record for the highest first-week sales, selling over 2.4 million in 2000 with their second album, No Strings Attached.

But even if Timberlake does not end up breaking the million mark, he can earn himself the best first week sales for a male artist, stealing that honor away from Lil Wayne who sold 964,000 copies of Tha Carter IV in 2011. And with Timberlake announcing that he’s planning to release a follow-up to The 20/20 Experience before the year ends, there’s even a chance the singer could have two of the biggest releases this year. Should be interesting to see what pre-promotion Timberlake has planned for that one.

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