Michael Jackson rules pop charts for 3rd week

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson’s memorial proved to be good for business, sparking another nostalgic frenzy for his music that continues to put the King of Pop atop music charts since his sudden death three weeks ago.

Jackson’s catalog of solo albums sold 1.1 million U.S. copies in the week ended July 12, and his greatest-hits set “Number Ones” ranked as the top-selling album for a third straight week, Nielsen SoundScan reported on Wednesday.

Physical CDs, rather than Internet downloads, accounted for 90 percent of the business as music stores rushed to restock their Jackson inventory. Downloads had dominated sales immediately after his death.

The bulk of last week’s sales came in the days following a two-hour-plus memorial salute to Jackson, which was televised live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles last Tuesday and featured numerous recording stars performing musical tributes.

The 1.1 million tally marked a 37 percent increase from the week before, when 800,000 Jackson albums sold, which in turn almost doubled the previous sales week, 422,000 units, ending just three days after his June 25 death.

By comparison, Jackson’s entire catalog sold fewer than 10,000 albums the week before he died, and the last time he had a top-selling album while alive was his last studio release, “Invincible,” which debuted at No. 1 with 366,000 copies sold in 2001.

Jackson’s post-mortem sales total has now reached 2.3 million copies, led by “Number Ones,” the first catalog album in SoundScan history to best a newly debuting album, a feat achieved for three weeks in a row.

“We never thought that could happen, and it turns out that the only person who could ever do it was Michael Jackson,’ said Billboard magazine chart editor Keith Caulfield.

Ironically, “Number Ones” climbed no higher in the charts than No. 13 when it first came out in 2003.

This past week, it sold 349,000 copies to eclipse R&B star Maxwell’s “BLACKsummer’s Night,” the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart of new releases with 316,000 units sold.

In fact, Jackson had six of the top 10 bestsellers last week, including his 1982 blockbuster “Thriller,” “The Essential Michael Jackson,” “Off the Wall,” “Bad” and “Dangerous.” All saw sharp increases over the previous week.

Five of Jackson’s solo albums reached No. 1 in the charts during his lifetime -- “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Dangerous,” “HIStory” and “Invincible.”

All-time sales for “Number Ones” now stand at 2.6 million copies, and it also ranks as the eighth-best-selling album so far this year. If sales remain robust through the year, it could eventually even surpass the reigning No. 1 album, Taylor Swift’s “Fearless.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte