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Michael Jackson is likely to posthumously rocket to various number one slots around the world — and digital music retailers could do a kind of business that would only be bettered by eventual digitization of The Beatles.
Since downloads were included in UK and US charts in 2005, long-ago out-of-print tracks qualify to re-emerge in charts, as we saw when renditions of Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen resurfaced following covers on American Idol and The X-Factor last year.
Ten hours after his death was confirmed, Jackson tracks accounted for 21 of the iTunes U.S. top 100, with Thriller the highest at 11. In the UK, where news broke later Thursday night, three tracks cracked the top 100. Jackson almost entirely dominates Amazon MP3’s top 25.
It’s not just casual fans’ sudden recollection of the strength of Jackson’s repertoire that’s prompting the surge, nor just the tributes on radio and TV. His death had barely been confirmed an hour or so when online music retailers, expecting a Friday full of reminiscence, started building special Michael Jackson storefronts…
— iTunes Store, offering 41 MJ albums, devoted its top homepage promo to Jackson, saying: “You’re looking at a spectacular array of pop and soul.”
— Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) MP3 in the UK and US published a homepage tribute and opened a condolence book, linking to 121 albums
— Spotify’s blog hailed the “King Of Pop”; the European streaming app, which does downloads on an affiliate basis, filled its weekly office playlist with Jacko tracks, but MJ didn’t figure on the welcome page of the app itself, which is set aside for new releases.
— We7 turned its lead promo over to a staff-compiled tribute playlist.
A UK Official Charts Company spokesperson told me Jackson downloads are “expected to surge”: “But I’m not sure that it’s a particularly digital phenomenon. Record companies can make their catalogue available more easily than having CDs, for example – but prior to digital being available, there were instances where, when a well regarded and popular artist died, there would inevitably be a resurgence of their record.”
But Jackson tracks are already being played more per hour by a multiple of about 40, Last.fm stats show…