U2 album sales near 500,000 in U.S.

Band manager expects disc to hit No. 1 in 40 countries

The new U2 album is on track to exceed industry forecasts by selling almost half a million copies during its first week on sale in the United States, according to the band's manager Paul McGuinness.

"No Line on the Horizon," the first superstar release of the year, went on sale last Tuesday in the United States and a day earlier everywhere else.

"The first week, we think it'll be very close to half a million, a little under," McGuinness told Reuters, following a U2 radio broadcast at a Hollywood record label.

Preliminary data issued last week indicated that the album's first-week tally in the United States could reach between 400,000 and 450,000 copies -- a far cry from the 840,000-unit start for the band's previous album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," in November 2004.

But McGuinness, who has steered U2 for almost 31 years, said the sales decline was "a sign of the times" amid the recording industry's decade-long decline.

"And what people in this country don't realize is that the American industry is collapsing at a far quicker rate than in the rest of the world. In Europe, sales of physical material are holding up far better. They're in decline, but not as rapidly as in America."

Already this year, total U.S. album sales are off 12% from the year-ago period, according to tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan.

McGuinness expected "No Line on the Horizon" to debut at No. 1 in 40 countries, becoming U2's seventh chart-topper in the United States. Official U.S. sales data will be released on Wednesday. The band is signed to Universal Music Group, which is controlled by Vivendi SA.

As for other major recent rock releases in the United States, AC/DC's "Black Ice" opened with 784,000 copies in October, and Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" with 722,000 copies in June.

The strong start for "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" was arguably an anomaly. The U2 album before that, "All That You Can't Leave Behind," debuted at No. 3 in 2000 with 428,000 copies, which at that point was a record for the band.

Despite being one of the biggest groups in the world, U2 has left no stone unturned promoting the album. In the past month, the band has performed at the Grammys in Los Angeles, atop a roof at the BBC in London, and most recently in New York on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" for an unprecedented five nights and on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"Every time we release a record, you have to make the band again," McGuinness said of U2's ubiquity. "That's the same as it ever was. We find a new audience with each record. That's really important. It's deliberate. That's the ambition.
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