Modern tech helps 'Modern Times'

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Bob Dylan's surprise chart success is not without precedent. In July, Johnny Cash scored his first No. 1 album since 1969 by selling 88,000 copies of his "American V: A Hundred Highways," according to Nielsen SoundScan. But Mr. Dylan, in charting his first No. 1 since 1976's "Desire," more than doubled Mr. Cash's haul, with 192,000-during a competitive week on the Billboard 200, no less.

And given Mr. Cash's posthumous charting, Mr. Dylan also became the oldest living artist (at 65) to score a No. 1 album, beating Louis Armstrong's previous record by three years.

Geoff Mayfield, director-charts and senior research for Billboard, said an iTunes tie-in providing fans with first-dibs ticket purchasing for Mr. Dylan's fall tour was a boost to digital sales. Digital sales typically make up 5% of an album's weekly total; "Modern Times" boasted an impressive 10% its first week out.

"The older consumer is one who needs a little bit of a wake-up call. For a rap act or a modern act, their fans can smell a street date. ... But for the older fan, it takes them a little longer to find out one of their favorite artists has an album coming out," he said. "Being in this high-profile commercial really did help create awareness for [Mr. Dylan's] street date that wouldn't have been there otherwise."
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