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Radiohead debuts at No. 1

EW.com tells you how they did it — plus, more about the top 10

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Thom Yorke, Radiohead
Radiohead: Brad Miller/Retna

OK computer? You betcha. This week, Web savvy alt rockers Radiohead claim the top spot on Billboard’s album chart by selling 207,000 copies of their critically acclaimed ”Kid A.” Rappers Mystikal and Nelly finish No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Another rock act, Green Day, scores the week’s second highest debut at No. 4 with their fourth Warner Bros. release ”Warning.” And slipping three places to No. 5 are those beefy boys of 98 degrees (”Revelation”).

So how in the world did a low key, un-teen pop friendly act like Radiohead manage to top the charts? Blame it on the Web. Because the British quintet chose not to release a music video or radio single from the album, their label, Capitol, took a particularly aggressive approach to promoting ”Kid A” online. Capitol set up a minisite where fans could listen to the entire album — via Naptser proof streaming audio — three weeks before its release. This differs from the usual record company strategy of letting fans download snippets or single tracks. ”We wanted people to hear the album from beginning to end,” explains Capitol’s director of new media, Robin Bechtel. ”It’s like Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ It’s meant to be experienced that way.”

And once they built it, the label actively recruited fan sites, radio station sites, and various online retailers to link to it. This kit and caboodle approach paid off immediately — through online orders. ”From the day they started streaming the record, advance sales increased,” says Andy Jassy, director of product management for Amazon.com. ”Our customers liked being able to hear the album in its entirety and that helped us sell a lot of units [10,000].” So credit Radiohead (and its label) for starting yet one more music trend: Online access to full length albums prior to release. ”We’ve been getting a lot of calls from other labels asking how we did it,” admits Bechtel.

In other chart news, Madonna slips 3 spots to No. 6; ”Last of a Dying Breed” by Houston hip hop vet Scarface debuts at No. 7; and rounding out the top 10 are Creed (No. 8), Baha Men (No. 9), and 3 Doors Down (No. 10). Where’s Eminem? This week he nosedives from No. 7 to No. 11. Who knew he too could lose his powers to ”Kryptonite”?