NEW YORK (Billboard) - The initial U.S. shipment of Michael Jackson's "Michael," due December 14 on Epic Records, is 900,000, according to retail sources.
Record label 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," though that album had the marketing strength of a major motion picture behind it.
"This Is It" 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%.
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.
"Michael" will carry a $10.25 wholesale cost and a $13.98 list price. Most music merchants say the controversy surrounding the posthumous single "Breaking News" should stoke awareness and sales for the new album "Michael."
"I think people will come out to buy the album, especially with the controversy," Edge Entertainment Distribution music buyer Danny Cohen said.
The debate on song quality and authenticity will likely be a moot point by November 15, when the Jackson website is scheduled to debut "Hold My Hand," which features Akon.
That first commercially available single from "Michael" will be available for sale the same day at digital stores like iTunes.
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.
(Editing by Zorianna Kit)