And what this means for Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys

By Craig Seymour
March 29, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

First they broke hearts — now they’re breaking records. ‘N Sync’s sophomore album, ”No Strings Attached,” will debut at No.1 on Thursday, having moved 2.41 million copies — more than double the sales of any album in music history. (The prior record holders were the Backstreet Boys at 1.13 million.) Not only does this stand the industry on its head and give ‘N Sync their first No. 1 album (their debut sold 10 million copies but never reached the top spot), it also ups the stakes for forthcoming albums by their Jive Records label mates Britney Spears (May 16) and the Backstreet Boys (fall).

How’d ‘N Sync do it?

Meet the Press In the three weeks before the album’s March 21 release, ‘N Sync did more media than Darva Conger, Rick Rockwell, and the relatives of Elián Gonzalez combined (MTV, ”Good Morning America,” ”Saturday Night Live,” the Oscars). ”It didn’t matter what it was,” says their manager Johnny Wright of this multimedia blitz. ”They weren’t picky. They weren’t lazy. They did whatever it took to get the message out.” Adds James Grandoni, VP of purchasing at the 185-store National Record Mart: ”You had to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to know that this record was coming out.”

Strategic Leaks While most of the industry is in a hand-wringing sweat over bootlegged songs on the Internet, Wright thinks cyber leaks actually aided the boys in reaching their sales record. ”Some people got the album ahead of time — we don’t know how — and actually put a lot of the tracks up on the Internet,” he tells EW Online, ”so people had the opportunity to hear more than just the single the radio was playing. I think that helped a lot.”

Stock Those Shelves What has the industry buzzing is not only that 2.4 million fans rushed to the stores, but that teen-pop behemoth Jive Records was in a unique and almost unprecedented position to meet the stores’ demand. Jive shipped 4.2 million copies for the album’s March 21 street date, then sent out 2.3 million in reorders on March 22. ”In every instance they had enough product pressed and ready to go, and turned around orders in a day,” says retailer Grandoni. ”If they hadn’t been ready for it, stores would have sold out after a couple days which would have limited their first-week sales.”

So what do ‘N Sync’s sales mean for Britney and the Backstreet Boys? Although it seemed unimaginable just a few days ago, Wright (who also manages Spears) thinks Britney has a shot at topping 2.41 million in her debut week: ”She’s a tiger, and she’ll do everything in her power to do that.” And now that Jive has honed its promotion and distribution to a sweet science, insiders say the Backstreet Boys could even regain their record for first-week sales. Parents, start raising that allowance.