In its first week, Lady Gaga’s third album Born This Way hit No. 1 on the charts and sold 1,108,000 copies, according to Billboard. This makes it the biggest debut of the year, and the best total since 50 Cent’sThe Massacre notched 1,141,000 sales in 2005.
Gaga is also the fifth female artist to have a million-plus week, following Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard, 1992), Britney Spears (Oops! I Did It Again, 2000), Norah Jones (Feels Like Home, 2004), and Taylor Swift, whose Speak Now sold 1,047,000 copies in its first week last year. *NSYNC hold the record for highest first-week sales: 2000’s No Strings Attached debuted at No. 1 with 2,416,000 copies.
Gaga’s chart victory is not without controversy, however, as the pop star embarked on an unconventional marketing blitz to promote Born This Way. Amazon offered up the album for $0.99 last week – the bargain brought down the e-retailer’s site on May 23 before being offered up again on May 26 – and critics called on Billboard to disregard those sales in the first week tally.
Gaga also formed deals with Best Buy to give away the album for free (with the purchase of a cell phone and two-year contract) and to sell it through popular online games like Farmville. (Billboard included Amazon sales in its first-week tally, but rejected Best Buy figures, saying that customers did not necessarily want to get Born This Way with the purchase of a phone.)
Ultimately, Gaga’s revolutionary marketing plan paid off. Born This Way sold 662,000 copies via online retailers – the biggest week for a digital album in SoundScan history – and there were more copies sold via the Internet than through traditional record stores. Billboard estimates that 440,000 digital versions were sold through Amazon.