While the rest of the world debated the authenticity on whether Michael Jackson’s voice is actually present on the posthumous single “Breaking News,” most music merchants say the controversy should stoke awareness and sales for the new album “Michael,” due Dec. 14 on Epic Records. 

Indeed, the debate on song quality and authenticity will likely be a moot point by Nov. 15. On that day, the Jackson website is scheduled to debut the first commercially available single from “Michael,” a duet with Akon for the song “Hold My Hand,” which is noticeably stronger and is clearly identifiable as Jackson. That track will be available for sale the same day at digital stores like iTunes.

Merchants hope the lead commercially available single will provide a stronger introduction to “Michael,” which will carry a $10.25 wholesale cost and a $13.98 list price.The initial U.S. shipment of “Michael” is 900,000, according to retail sources. Sony is projecting first-week CD sales of 340,000 and digital album sales of 60,000. That projection is similar to debut-week sales of Jackson’s album “This Is It,” which sold 373,000 units in its first week and has sold 1.6 million units since its release in October 2009, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Second week projections for “Michael,” are set at 280,000 units, while digital sales are expected to slip from its debut week percentage of 15% to 8%. But both of those percentages are better than the digital sales garnered by “This Is It” in its first week when the format accounted for 5.6% of total sales.

“I think people will come out to buy the album, especially with the controversy,” Edge Entertainment Distribution music buyer Danny Cohen says. 

Some merchants worry that the quality of the first song being streamed from Jackson’s site may not inspire consumers to run out and buy the set on street date. One merchant described “Breaking News” as “an interesting choice to sell an album. It’s not a good first look for the album.”

Merchants say that Sony sales representatives have told them the single was chosen more because of the lyrical content as a way to herald the news about the upcoming album.



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