Lady Gaga's second album, Born This Way, sold 1.1 million copies in its first week, becoming, according to Vulture, "only the 17th record to sell that many copies since Soundscan began tracking these sort of things in 1991.” It's hard to deny that these numbers at least sound pretty impressive but are they?
That all depends on your perspective. Entertainment Weekly reports Amazon sold 444,000 copies of Born This Way at the bargain-basement price of 99 cents over the course of two days last week. With a reported total of 662,000 digital copies sold, that would mean only 218,000 of the album's first week digital sales were made at full price. Subtracting digital out, hard copy sales of the album come in at around 478,000. In other words, the album sold--really sold-- 696,000 copies, with the 444,000 albums sold through Amazon looking something like a PR expense.
Now, there's no shame in selling nearly 700,000 albums your first week in release. Susan Boyle did it in 2009. The Eagles did it in 2007, with an album that was available exclusively at Wal-Mart. Then again, they're not the ones with the meat-wearing public image to uphold. 1.1 million just sounds better when you're Lady Gaga.