Kelly Clarkson's 'Ron Paul Sales Bump' Debunked: 'Stronger' Sales Actually Dropped Last Week

4:55 PM PST 01/05/2012 by Keith Caulfield, Billboard
RCA Records

Heavy iTunes promotion more likely spurred sales of the "American Idol" winner's new album, not her endorsement of the Republican presidential hopeful.

Kelly Clarkson's endorsement of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul on Dec. 28 may have helped draw attention to the original American Idol champion, but despite multiple reports from other news sites, it did little to help the sales of her Stronger album. According to both Nielsen SoundScan data and sources in the know at Clarkson's label, RCA, little evidence exists to support the theory that Clarkson's praise for Paul helped her sales.

In fact, her album sales actually dropped when compared with the previous week. Let's take a look:

In the week that ended Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, Stronger sold 40 percent fewer copies than it did the previous week (25,000, as opposed to 41,000 in the week before Christmas). And while it moved from No. 39 to No. 17 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, its upward momentum this week was caused by it having a less-steep decline in sales as compared to the rest of the titles on the chart (the overall album market was down 49 percent in the week after Christmas). Its total sales stand at 451,000 after 10 weeks.

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Its smaller drop, as compared to the rest of the market, is owed to its gain in download sales — it saw a 232 percent increase in the digital space (selling 14,000 downloads for the week). But Paul probably didn't have much to do with that rally, either. The bulk of digital album sales — for Clarkson or any other artist — comes from the Apple iTunes Store. And last week, coincidentally enough, iTunes heavily promoted both her sale-priced Stronger album and her new exclusive iTunes Session EP (released Dec. 27) on the front page of the store.

In other words, it wasn't Clarkson's political preferences that pushed digital sales of Stronger — its $7.99 sale price (which was matched by AmazonMP3) and iTunes' advertising were the real reasons behind the gain. Those spikes were usually cited as evidence of the sales gain in the "Ron Paul Sales Bump" articles.

Further, the album's second single, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," has been making inroads on top-40 radio stations and should debut on the Pop Songs airplay tally in the coming weeks. That building traction, along with the continued airplay success of lead track "Mr. Know It All," also could be fueling the album's digital increase. "Know" is currently in its fourth week at No. 1 on the Adult Top 40 airplay chart and sits at No. 13 on Mainstream Top 40 (after having peaked at No. 11).

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Speaking of "Mr. Know It All," the song sold 123,000 downloads last week — its best sales frame yet. However, that number should be examined a bit more closely. While its sizable 55 percent sales increase is impressive (and the second-largest gain among the top 50 titles on the Hot Digital Songs chart), it was only natural the song was going to sell well last week and see a big sales spike.

Why? All digital songs generally sell well in the week after Christmas as consumers fill up their newly acquired MP3 players — as evidenced by the fact that on the entire 75-position Digital Songs chart only three titles declined in sales.

Though "Mr. Know It All's" gain was out of character compared to much of the chart, again, its growth can be tied to the iTunes promotion. Consumers who were lured in by the advertisement — but perhaps didn't want to buy the whole album — may simply have opted to download the most popular track on the set, which is "Mr. Know It All."

So while it's certainly possible that Paul supporters decided to show their approval of Clarkson's endorsements by voting with their wallets or iTunes gift cards, the motivation behind the story was more likely a strong headline during a slow news week …

Twitter: @keith_caulfield

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