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Church’s ‘Outsiders’ grabs top spot on Billboard chart iTunes launching music festival at SXSW

LOS ANGELES, Feb 20, (Agencies): Country singer Eric Church on Wednesday zoomed past the competition to the top of the weekly Billboard 200 album chart with the best opening sales week of the year. “The Outsiders,” the North Carolina singer’s fourth studio album, sold 288,000 copies last week, according to figures compiled by Nielsen SoundScan. His previous album, 2011’s “Chief,” was the 36-year-old singer’s only other album to top the 200 album chart, which takes into account total album sales across all musical genres. It was the music industry’s best album sales week since Beyonce’s self-titled album sold 310,000 copies in its second week of release in December. “The Outsiders” was the only new release in the top 10 this week.

Hits
Last week’s top album, the hits compilation “Now 49,” dropped to third with 77,000 in sales while the soundtrack to the Disney animated film “Frozen” held in second with 100,000 copies sold. Beyonce’s self-titled album rose to No. 4 from No. 7 with 48,000 in sales, edging pop singer Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” by a few hundred in sales. Mars’ album, released in December 2012, continued its strong sales bump after his Feb 2 televised performance at football’s Super Bowl. Pharrell’s song “Happy,” which is on the “Despicable Me 2” soundtrack and is nominated for an Oscar, topped Billboard’s Digital Songs chart with 329,000 downloads. Total album sales for the week totaled 5.4 million, down 21 percent from the same week last year, according to Billboard. Year-to-date album sales are 32.9 million, a 16 percent decline compared to the same period in 2013.

iTunes is putting its stamp on South by Southwest, piggybacking on the annual event with its own music festival. The company said Wednesday in New York it will debut its popular iTunes Festival, a free concert series held in London for the past seven years. While the London version is a 30-day event, the US festival will feature five nights of rock, country, pop and hip-hop at South by Southwest, an international showcase for music, film and interactive projects to be held next month in Austin, Texas.
“We’re pretty excited about doing this for the first time here in the US at South by Southwest,” said top Apple executive Eddy Cue in an interview Tuesday.
 

“One of the cool things about trying to do the festival is that it’s all about the music, the musicians and the fans,” Cue said. “You want it in a really close atmosphere where the fans are getting to see these musicians in places they’ll never see them again, because they play in much bigger venues.” The iTunes festival will be held March 11-15 at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, where Austin City Limits is held. The first night will include performances by Coldplay, Imagine Dragons and London Grammar. Coldplay said it was “thrilled” to be playing on opening night, adding: “It’s a great honor for our band and we hope everyone has a fantastic time.”

Other performers include Keith Urban, Willie Nelson, Pitbull, Zedd and newcomer Mickey Guyton. Cue said other acts will be announced later. One artist who likely won’t be appearing is Kanye West, who performed at the London festival in 2009. During a concert in New Jersey last weekend, he called out Apple CEO Tim Cook, singing via auto-tune: “Tim Cook, the head of Apple, stop trying to get performers to play your festivals for free, you are rich as (expletive).” Cue declined to comment on West’s criticism.
The iTunes festival in London typically attracts artists like West and Coldplay. Lady Gaga, Elton John, Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry were among the performers at the Roundhouse Theater last September.

The festival will be streamed live and on-demand through the iTunes store, iTunes radio and on Apple devices. Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, said iTunes had long considered having a US counterpart to its UK festival, but had struggled to find the right fit. SXSW turned out to be a natural. “It’s got a great vibe for music, and it’s centrally located, so timing-wise it works well to broadcast across the US,” he said. While Cue didn’t say whether the iTunes Festival at SXSW would become an annual event, he pointed to London as an example of how it could grow. “We’ll see where it leads us. I can tell you when we did the London one for the first time, we did it for a week in London and look what it’s become.”

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