Rapper Lil Wayne's 2008 album Tha Carter III was the last record to sell a million copies in a single week. But even Wayne (born Dwayne Carter) isn't immune to the slings and arrows of music-industry fortune. The release of his upcoming rock album, Rebirth, was pushed back last week to February 1 -- but 500 lucky Amazon (AMZN) customers got the surprise stocking stuffer in the mail this week.
Lil Wayne's label, Cash Money Records, distributed by Vivendi's (VIVEF) Universal Music Group, has delayed Rebirth throughout the year. Most recently, the album was slated for release on December 22.
Rough Ride for Rebirth
The Carter III's strong sales notwithstanding, Wayne's genre switch from rap to rock has given his new album a rough ride: Rebirth has been delayed six times. One single, the grungy, Autotuned "Prom Queen," peaked at no. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another, "On Fire," has sold a disappointing 6,000 copies since its Dec. 3 release to digital-music stores.
About one million copies of the album had been manufactured before last week's delay, according to Billboard, and about a third of them were shipped to retail outlets, including Amazon.
Cancellations and Returns
A message-board thread about the album's accidental early release was started on Amazon on Monday by a user who noted that he'd received a note that the album had shipped. Some commenters said they had received the record, while others said that their shipments had been rerouted back to Amazon's warehouse or canceled outright. Some whose albums were returned to Amazon during transit said they'd received a $5 refund after calling Amazon's customer service.
The full album has yet to make it into the wilds of the filesharing universe. A few tracks, including a collaboration with Eminem, have made it online, and music pirates threatened to leak it last night.
The news comes at a bad time for Wayne, whose sentencing date on a felony weapons charge in New York was set for Feb. 9 -- eight days after Rebirth. The sentencing seems less likely than the album to be postponed.
This isn't the first time this year a retailer has hastened a high-profile release. In February, Apple's (AAPL) Norwegian outlet of iTunes put Kelly Clarkson's All I Ever Wanted on sale early, and a Universal Music Group–run store in Australia leaked U2's No Line On The Horizon a week and a half before its street date.
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