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If you listened to Dr. Dre's latest (and certifiably dope) album Compton following its August 7 release through Apple Music and/or iTunes - since the release was exclusive to Apple that was the only way to do so legally - you were far from alone. In a statement to the New York Times, Apple executives reported that the album racked up 25 million streams globally in its opening week (11 million in the U.S.), in addition to selling nearly half a million downloads through the iTunes Store.
These numbers are impressive, and the album release made quite a splash for the still relatively brand new Apple Music streaming service. However, it was not quite enough to push the album to number one on the Billboard chart, as country star Luke Bryan and his latest album took that position (via Billboard). Still, Dre landed at number two with 276,000 in pure sales (and 295,000 equivalent album units, which also includes track purchases and the aforementioned streams). Confusingly though, the NYT report does not specify what Apple actually counted as a "stream." It is still unclear whether they counted a stream as instances where someone listened to the album in its entirety or merely select songs.
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While 25 million streams in one week is certainly imporessive, it doesn't quite stack up to other high-profile releases by more contemporary superstars. Kendrick's TPAB hit 39 million streams in March, while Drake's IYRTITL managed to top that handily with 48 million streams in February. To be fair, those projects were released on multiple streaming services, and while it's impressive that Apple Music has secured 11 million trial subscribers since its recent launch, it should be noted that Spotify still leads the industry with 20 million paid subscribers and another 55 million using its free version. Dr. Dre isn't working for Spotify, though. He's an Apple man now, as is his Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who seemed happy with the first-week results when he told the NYT, "We’re beginning to show what we can do in terms of communicating music to a worldwide audience and helping artists at the same time.”
It will be interesting to see how Compton's sales and streams perform once the Apple exclusivity is lifted, as the period is set to last for only the first two weeks following the release. Regardless of its commercial performance, the album is faring pretty damn well on the critical front and currently holds a score of 83 on Metacritic, garnering "universal acclaim" from an aggregate of respected critics. Straight Outta Compton, the film by which the album was inspired, is also finding massive success; the film brought in $56 million during the opening weekend at the domestic box office, and both the album and film likely helped to generate further interest in one another. Stream or download, Billboard charts or Apple Music, it's already clear that Dr. Dre's got one of the biggest albums of the year on his hands.
[By Brendan Varan, Dre fan and Apple Music trial subscriber. Follow him on Twitter.]