Kanye West has finally achieved a crowning victory in the long, confusing rollout of his 7th solo LP, The Life of Pablo. The album is debuting atop the Billboard Top 200, mostly on the back of millions of streams rather than traditional CD or digital download sales.
To briefly summarize Pablo’s winding journey to the top of the charts: Kanye released a work-in-progress version of the album exclusively on Tidal in mid-February. At the time, West claimed the album would never go on sale or be available on Apple Music. On April 1 he reneged, and an updated version of Pablo was released widely across all the major streaming services, including Apple’s. The album was also put on sale as a digital download on Kanye’s website.
In its first week of wide release, Pablo attained 99 million streams in the U.S., which equates to 66,000 traditional album sales. Add in the 28,000 digital downloads Kanye sold on his and Tidal’s websites, and the album finished its first official week with 94,000 units sold. The math makes it the first album to reach the top of the charts with a majority of its sales coming from streaming, though Justin Bieber’s Purpose gained slightly more total streams in its first week of release.
Pablo might have had a more impressive debut if it was able to chart in its first week available on Tidal. According to the streaming service, the album attained 250 million streams in its first 10 days available, which equates to 167,000 albums sold. However, Tidal never shared this data with Nielsen Music, according to Billboard, so the album’s previous streaming activity never charted.
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