Jack White photographed for the Observer New Review at Third Man Records, Nashville USA by Mike McGregor May 2014 Photograph: Mike McGregor for the Observer
Jack White has set a US record for the biggest one-week vinyl sales since the industry started counting accurately. Fans snatched up 40,000 vinyl copies of White’s new solo album, Lazaretto, which was packed with special effects that only work on turntables.
Prior to Lazaretto’s blockbuster week, Nielsen SoundScan’s vinyl record had remained unbroken for almost as long as the organisation has been monitoring sales in 1991. The previous benchmark was Pearl Jam’s LP Vitalogy, released three years after SoundScan’s creation, which moved 34,000 copies in its first seven days. Unlike White’s split song intros and hidden tracks, the grunge band’s only trick was its sale date: Vitalogy’s vinyl edition dropped two weeks before it came out on CD or cassette.
Lazaretto doesn’t have a cassette version. But its CD edition scarcely outsold the vinyl. Overall, including more than 80,000 digital purchases, Lazaretto sold about 138,000 copies – the same figure as White’s solo debut, 2012’s Blunderbuss. Though this number pales next to top-sellers like Taylor Swift, who sold 1.2m albums in one week in 2012, it was enough to make Lazaretto this week’s Billboard No 1 full-length. According to Billboard, White’s vinyl sales alone, split from the rest, would be enough to make it No 4.
“This [object] … is my proudest moment with Third Man Records,” White said on a recent Conan O’Brien appearance. “We got away with a lot of things.” In the UK, Lazaretto debuted at No 4.