As if to prove the point I was making last week, Coldplay does me the favor of debuting their new album at number one, while the title single, which was number one last week, drops to six. Katy Perry's taking number one in the same week her album debuted proves nothing either way--the single is still climbing on radio, and I suspect she would have hit number one anyway. As a debut artist (if you don't count her brief foray into contemporary Christian), people are probably more wary of putting money out for the album and are sticking to the known quantity until they get a chance to hear a few more tracks.
Meanwhile, there's another possible trend that suggests people are being more cautious in the way they're buying music, at least in terms of paying more than once for the same track. Last year, ten different artists had more than one single in the top ten. The year before, eleven. This year, so far, there have been three. More to the point, almost all of those previous multiple charting artists were pulling material from a single album--Fergie, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake. The labels squeezed those LPs until they bled.
This year, the three artists who have managed to make more than one appearance on the chart have done so either with material from different albums (Miley Cyrus), or with bonus cuts added to special editions of their previous LP (Chris Brown and Rihanna). In both Brown and Rihanna's case, those cuts were issued over a month before the special edition came out, making them essentially non-LP singles. Brown's "Forever" is especially illustrative. His next single was supposed to be another album track, "Take You Down", but a week after it debuted at a dismal 99, "Forever" was released on iTunes with little promotion and went straight into the top ten. "Take You Down" never cracked the top forty, and is now at 48 and dropping, while "Forever", though it fell out of the top ten for a while due to lack of airplay, is now at number seven and climbing while the album itself slowly moves down the chart.
This is all anecdotal, of course, and I'm not going to make any sweeping statements based on a handful of records (well, I'll try not to anyway), but it looks more and more as if the audience is adjusting to the digital era and turning it to their advantage far more quickly the than record labels are. I still won't vouch for their tastes, but they obviously know they've been getting the short end of the stick, and have become much more savvy in their buying habits--those who are still buying, that is, and not just downloading.