AVENGED SEVENFOLD's seventh studio album, "The Stage", debuted at No. 4 on The Billboard 200 album chart, selling 76,000 physical and/or digital copies in its first week of release. While the sales were decent for the current music business, they represent the lowest first-week total for any AVENGED SEVENFOLD album since "City Of Evil" in 2005. "The Stage" sold less than half as many copies in its first week as the group's two previous efforts, 2010's "Nightmare" and 2013's "Hail To The King".
It's possible that the sales reflect the unorthodox manner in which the band released the album, making it available at midnight on October 27 with almost no promotion beforehand, save for the arrival of a new song one week earlier. While artists like Beyoncé and Kanye West have staged similar stunts to great success, AVENGED singer M. Shadows admitted to Inc. it was a harder task for his band.
"We have mixed feelings right now," he said. "We know we could have done a boring lead-up and taken the number one spot. When you do a three-month buildup, you roll pre-orders, singles, etc. into your first week. The way we did it, our numbers are just for one week. Like Kanye: his first week numbers were low compared to what they could have been had he done the traditional release."
He continued: "We knew [the drop in first-week sales] could happen, but we felt it was worth the risk. We also take a longer-term view. The average album following a three-month release model typically sees sales drop as much as 80 percent for the second week. We expect some drop-off, too... but we also expect our album sales to continue over a longer period of time."
M. Shadows added: "It's mixed feelings, but I'm very excited to be doing new things. I would be depressed if we had done the old buildup process. That feels very 2009.
"Right now we have an album that sold less copies in its first week than the last one. And that's okay: you can't break the rules and expect the same result."
M. Shadows told The Pulse Of Radio that his band doesn't "have 85 million Instagram followers like Beyoncé does. So getting the word out there is a lot harder for a band like us than it is for her. When she does it, Spin writes about it, Rolling Stone writes about it, New York Times writes about it, and one Instagram post, you have 85 million people that are looking at it."
Asked how important album sales are for bands like AVENGED SEVENFOLD in 2016, M. Shadows told Inc.: "People consume music differently. Ultimately, though, people hearing our music is very important. As for buying records... it's hard to say how important that is, but you definitely want to keep the label happy and involved.
"We wouldn't have a problem selling tons of records [laughs], but we see the realities and challenges of the fact that people can get music everywhere.
"If people respect us as artists, they know we'll give them something different every time, they know we're pushing ourselves... even this surprise release helps people know we're still trying hard to be innovative."
The surprise arrival of "The Stage" made AVENGED SEVENFOLD the first-ever rock band to issue an unannounced album in both digital and physical form.
The quintet revealed that the album was out during a live-streamed performance from the rooftop of the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood, California.
The band is locked in a legal battle with its former label, Warner Bros. Records, over what the label claims is a breach of contract.
The relatively soft sales of "The Stage" could impact that fight, with the band's attorney, Howard King, saying last month: "We don't know what Warner could have done with an AVENGED album other than screw it up." But the lower sales could also reduce the damages that the band may have to pay to Warner if the label wins its case.