NEW YORK (Billboard) - Tweens stocked up on iPods and iTunes gift cards during Christmas. Now the 14-and-under set is making its presence felt in digital music sales.
"High School Musical" -- the soundtrack to an immensely successful Disney Channel made-for-TV movie -- stormed 48 places to No. 10 in the latest Billboard 200 albums chart, and placed nine tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, driven in large part by a surge in downloading through iTunes.
Forty-five percent, or 24,000 units, of the soundtrack's sales came from digital retailers. And proving just how big an impact digital sales can have on the singles chart, its songs' dominance on the Hot 100 (five songs in the top 40 and seven debut tracks) comes without a stitch of airplay among the 1,028 radio stations that factor into that chart. Instead, the chart positions reflect digital sales of 341,000 tracks.
"High School Musical," which debuted January 20, has steadily laid claim to the top-selling album, the top-selling track ("Breaking Free") and as many as five additional tracks on iTunes' daily top lists in the wake of the TV movie's debut. "Breaking Free" tops the current Hot Digital Songs chart with 82,000 paid downloads.
Disney executives say it is no accident that the soundtrack, now in its third week of release via Disney Records, is doing as well online as it is.
"It's novel for a TV movie soundtrack to take over iTunes," says Gary Marsh, president of entertainment for Disney Channel Worldwide, "but you've got the perfect iPod storm: holiday gift cards burning holes in kids' pockets and content with themes that speaks to kids, just waiting for them to embrace it."
The movie, a contemporary musical comedy in the vein of "Grease," was a ratings smash.