Tag Archives: Billboard

2016 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

2016 was a hell of a year, huh?

Music sales continued to fall, streaming continued to climb. Apple Music still kinda sucks. Spotify is just alright. Not a lot of excitement around new album releases. For me at least. I didn’t get into too much new stuff this year. The new release I was most excited by was the Monkees’ Good Times and seeing Mickey and Peter on their 50th anniversary tour was a thrill; I even bought a replica of the poncho from the “Randy Scouse Git” video! Other albums I enjoyed were new ones by Andrew Bird, Robbie Fulks, Wilco, the Handsome Family, Regina Spektor, and Two Cow Garage. I didn’t hear about Car Seat Headrest until they started showing up on everybody’s year-end lists, but I’m liking what I’ve heard of that, too.

I’m bummed about Prince and Leonard Cohen dying, regretting having blown multiple opportunities to see them in concert. George Michael, Sharon Jones, George Martin, Scotty Moore, David Bowie, Bernie Worrell, Glenn Frey, Leon Russell, Paul Kantner, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Vanity, Phife Dawg, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Jerry Heller, Fidel Castro, Nancy Reagan, Abe Vigoda, Garry Marshall, Garry Shandling, Grizzly Adams, Mrs. Brady, Schneider, Father Mulcahy, Big Ang… A lot of people died in 2016. A lot more are going to die in 2017. The Baby Boomers are in their 70s now. We can expect classic rockers to start dropping like flies. Prepare yourself. Let people know you care about them when you have the chance.

Until then, let’s look at the data from Nielsen Music via Billboard

Total U.S. Album sales (physical + digital in millions)

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2016: 200.54 million
2015: 241.39 million
2014: 257.02 million
2013: 289.41 million
2012: 315.96 million
2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 542.4 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 667 million
2003: 687 million
2002: 681 million
2001: 763 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 711 million
1997: 651.8 million
1996: 616.6 million
1995: 616.4 million (I’ve heard the figure is 616,957,000)
1994: 614.7 million (I’ve heard the figure is 615,266,000)
1993: ~573 million (1994 was 7.4% increase over 1993)

Continue reading 2016 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

“Uptown Funk” is certified Diamond with 11 million units

You might have seen the news that “Uptown Funk” has been certified Diamond by the RIAA, which means that it achieved 10 million sales. Billboard says that “Uptown Funk” has sold over 12,422,016 in downloads and 938,694,569 audio streams in the U.S.” and that the video “has streamed over 1.9 billion times.”

The RIAA’s certification requirements state that units are defined as follows:
• Each permanent digital download counts as 1 Unit for certification purposes.
• 150 on-demand audio and/or video streams will count as 1 Unit for certification purposes. [Note: this contradicts Billboard saying “100 streams counting as one certifiable unit.”]

But if those numbers are accurate, that would add up to 31,346,646.46 certifiable units. And the RIAA only has 11 million units certified for “Uptown Funk.” So who knows? Math is hard.

This is only the thirteenth Diamond single since the RIAA established the certification in 1999. The first single to be certified Diamond was Elton John’s Princess Diana tribute “Candle In The Wind 1997” and it took almost 16 years for the next one: Bieber and Luda’s “Baby.” If you look at the rest of the list there’s certainly plenty of garbage, but there are also some jams.

1. Elton John – “Candle In The Wind 1997 / Something.You Look Tonight” (October 9, 1997)
2. Justin Bieber – “Baby (Feat. Ludacris)” (May 9, 2013)
3. Eminem – “Love The Way You Lie (Feat. Rihanna)” (May 9, 2013)
4. Eminem – “Not Afraid” (June 10, 2014)
5. Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance” (May 29, 2015)
6. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive” (July 6, 2015)
7. Katy Perry – “Dark Horse” (October 29, 2015)
8. Katy Perry – “Firework” (October 29, 2015)
9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Thrift Shop (Feat. Wanz)” (November 19, 2015)
10. Lady Gaga – “Poker Face” (November 30, 2015)
11. Florida Georgia Line – “Cruise” (April 1, 2016)
12. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe” (September 28, 2016)
13. Mark Ronson – “Uptown Funk Feat. Bruno Mars” (October 18, 2016)

Continue reading “Uptown Funk” is certified Diamond with 11 million units

When was Blonde on Blonde released? Nobody knows.

Fifty years is not ancient history. And yet mysteries are still possible.

Earlier this week everybody celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the release of two groundbreaking albums: the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. Both of them are masterpieces but only one of them was released on May 16, 1966.

Why is there confusion around the release date of Blonde on Blonde? Aren’t these things documented? Especially for an artist with the stature and scrutiny of Bob Dylan! Of course they are, but sometimes we don’t have immediate access to everything.

But we do have enough information to definitively rule out the idea that Blonde on Blonde came out on the same day as Pet Sounds.

On Monday morning when I checked my twitter and started seeing people celebrating this milestone, I wondered how many people were fans of both albums at the time. Can you imagine going into the record store and seeing those two albums side by side on the new release shelf? But in 1966, were the Beach Boys loved by the same people who loved Bob Dylan? It’s a fascinating question but there weren’t many publications at the time that took rock and roll very seriously, so it’s hard to find any contemporary comparisons. Rolling Stone wouldn’t publish its first issue for another year and a half (November 1967).

I busted out my trusty edition of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Albums to see how the two albums sold and was surprised that while Pet Sounds debuted on Billboard’s Top LPs chart on May 28, Blonde on Blonde didn’t bow on the chart until July 23. That seemed odd since Dylan was coming off a hit single with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” His new album couldn’t have been that much of a sleeper, could it?

Continue reading When was Blonde on Blonde released? Nobody knows.

2015 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

UPDATE: Here’s the 2016 Soundscan data.

Last year Soundscan was rebranded as Nielsen Music. Whatever, I’m still going to call it Soundscan. I’m a fogey like that.

2015 was the year that streaming really took off. Apple finally got into it after acquiring Beats, which had acquired my beloved MOG. Apple Music still kinda sucks, but I renewed my subscription after my three month free preview ran out. I’ve gotten my money’s worth by downloading all those Velvet Underground box sets and a bunch of other stuff. Some of it I probably would have bought, some of it I probably wouldn’t have.

My favorite albums of the year were Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear, and Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell. I also liked Craig Finn’s Faith In the Future, Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free, Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material, the Mountain Goats’ Beat the Champ, Wilco’s Star Wars, and I’m happy the Libertines got their shit together enough to pull off Anthems for Doomed Youth.

But the biggest story of 2015 was Adele who proved that there are still a bunch of people out there who are willing to pay for an album. Billboard’s Ed Christman points out, “By herself, Adele accounted for three percent of total album sales in the U.S.” Which is insane. 25 sold 7.44 million copies. That would have been bonkers in any year, but it’s especially crazy in these days of cultural fragmentation.

Anyway, here’s the data…

Total U.S. Album sales (physical + digital in millions)

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2015: 241.39 million
2014: 257.02 million
2013: 289.41 million
2012: 315.96 million
2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 542.4 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 667 million
2003: 687 million
2002: 681 million
2001: 763 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 711 million
1997: 651.8 million
1996: 616.6 million
1995: 616.4 million (I’ve heard the figure is 616,957,000)
1994: 614.7 million (I’ve heard the figure is 615,266,000)
1993: ~573 million (1994 was 7.4% increase over 1993)

Continue reading 2015 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

Adele’s Album Sales Are Historically Bonkers

Adele’s new album, 25, sold 3.38 million copies in its first week in the United States. This is bonkers. That’s more — way more — than any other album has sold in a week since Nielsen started tracking real sales in 1991.

Only one other album has sold more than two million albums in a week, and nobody’s sold three million. *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached sold 2.42 million in 2000. For the mathematically challenged, 25 sold 960,000 more copies than its closest rival which happened to be released at the absolute zenith of record sales. Billboard‘s Glenn Peoples has some crazy figures that claim that adjusted for inflation (or something) this would somehow be “equivalent to her selling 7.59 million units in 2000.” I don’t know about that, but I know that 3.38 million is a shitload of records in 2015 or any other year.

Pre-SoundScan data is unreliable at best, but it took Sgt. Pepper three months to sell 2.5 million copies according Bob Spitz’s Beatles biography. Beatles' Record-Busting LP (Rolling Stone Dec 21 1968)It took Meet the Beatles four years to sell 5.8 million copies, according to issue No. 24 of Rolling Stone. That same 1968 article points out that the top selling album of all time then was The Sound of Music soundtrack with 8 million. It was front page news that Capitol Records had shipped 3,301,275 copies of the White Album to stores.

So this is big news.

In addition to those 3.38 million “pure album sales” 25 also moved 96,000 “track equivalent album units” and another 8,000 “streaming equivalent album units” bringing its official Nielsen total to 3.48 million equivalent album units.

More sales details: 1.71 million compact discs, 1.64 million digital albums, 22,000 vinyl albums. Sorry hipsters, there was no official cassette release.

A year ago when Taylor Swift sold 1,287,000 copies of 1989, I pointed out how rare it’s always been to sell more than a million albums in a week. SoundScan began compiling its figures May 25, 1991, and for the first 8 years there were only two albums that achieved it. The year 2000 was insane when there were 5 albums that broke the million mark, but since then it’s been about one album per year despite the fact that album sales have been declining steadily. It’s obvious now that 2000 was a bubble.

But Adele is a force of nature. The question now is how long will 25 keep selling? I was mesmerized by the staying power of 21, which managed to sell 100,000 copies every week for what seemed like forever. Will 25 have those kinds of legs? We shall see.

Continue reading Adele’s Album Sales Are Historically Bonkers

Music Sales Over the Years: 2014 Year-End Soundscan Data

UPDATE: Here’s the 2016 Soundscan data.

In last year’s wrap up I wrote, “I wouldn’t be surprised if within a few years Billboard starts incorporating streams into their year-end charts somehow.” In fact, they started doing it in November. Which proves that actual sales of albums are becoming irrelevant as more and more people turn to streaming instead of purchasing.

Personally, I still like physical media. I found a dope old school integrated amplifier for $20 at a garage sale this summer and after some minor repairs it’s powering my main system that I’ve been putting together over the years. I upgraded the cartridge on my turntable and I’ve finally got a setup I’m pretty happy with. I wish new vinyl sounded better, but I’ve been having fine luck in the used bins. It’s a great time to buy used CDs too. Neil Young might be crazy and crotchedly (and Pono was doomed from the start) but he’s right about the difference between lossy sound files and high fidelity recordings: the average listener might not be able to consciously hear the difference, but you can certainly FEEL it.

That said, my favorite album of the year is one that I downloaded for 99 cents via the Microsoft Music Deals app: Taylor Swift’s 1989. Even as crappy old MP3s it’s still totally infectious. I also just ordered it on vinyl, allegedly for my 8 year old who got his own record player from Santa. Other highlights for me this year were Run the Jewels 2, the CSNY 1974 box, Spoon’s They Want My Soul, Tweedy’s Sukierae (which I wasn’t really expecting to like as much as I do), Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager, and Conor Oberst’s Upside Down Mountain. And I was super excited that Tim Warren and Crypt Records resurrected Back from the Grave for Volume 9 of the ultimate sixties punk compilation series 18 years after the release of Volume 8.

So anyway, here’s the Soundscan data for 2014 compared to as much prior history as I could scrape off the internet. If you can help me fill in any gaps (especially 1991-1995, the early Soundscan era), I would certainly appreciate it.

Continue reading Music Sales Over the Years: 2014 Year-End Soundscan Data

Music Industry Gives Up on Albums

Last night Billboard announced some big changes to the way it calculates its Billboard 200 album chart, incorporating streams and individual track sales. Who cares, right? I do.

Billboard has been charting albums since 1945 under many different names and formulas, but since May 1991 it’s been based on album sales as reported by Soundscan. They used to exclude “catalog” albums from the chart, which seemed ridiculous to me around the time of Michael Jackson’s death when his old albums were selling better than any current releases. I campaigned hard to have these included in the Billboard 200, because I believed the main album chart should reflect which albums people are actually purchasing. That’s what it’s all about: the top selling albums.

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Selling a Million Albums in a Week is a Big Deal

Taylor Swift has sold 1,287,000 copies of 1989 in its first week of release. That’s a lot of albums. Only 18 other albums have managed to move a million copies in a week since 1991 when SoundScan started tracking sales.

And that 1.287 million isn’t even counting everybody in the U.S. who legally purchased 1989. Microsoft was selling the album for 99 cents via its new Music Deals app, but none of those sales are counted. (Billboard’s Keith Caulfield confirmed this to me in a tweet.) We may never know how many additional albums were sold this way. I can personally vouch for one sale.

First week album sales are a measure of true fandom. Real fans get excited to support their favorite artists, and the number of selfies with the 1989 CD on Instagram is anachronistically hilarious. I wonder if half of those kids even own a CD player. Doesn’t matter. They need it.

It’s sometimes tough to remember that even back before Spotify, YouTube, the Pirate Bay, and Napster, it was still rare as hell for an album to break that million/week point. In the first seven years of SoundScan tracking, only one album managed it: The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1993. After that it was almost six more years before another album did it: Garth Brooks’ Double Live at the end of 1998.

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Eleven Million Adele Fans Can’t Be Wrong

A couple of years ago, it blew my mind that Adele’s 21 had sold more than 100,000 copies per week for what ended up being 45 weeks by the time I stopped paying attention. Back then 21 had cumulative sales of a little over seven million. Well, guess what: it’s still selling.

Last week Adele’s 21 surpassed 11 million in U.S. sales. This is 189 weeks after it was released, and it has never once fallen out of the Billboard 200. In fact, Billboard‘s Keith Caulfield points out that “It has spent all but 11 of its chart weeks in the top 100.” That’s just bonkers.

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Music Sales Over the Years: 2013 Year-End Soundscan Data

UPDATE: Here’s the 2016 Soundscan data.

I love it when Billboard releases the year-end Soundscan data. It’s fascinating to see how people are spending their money on music. I wouldn’t be surprised if within a few years Billboard starts incorporating streams into their year-end charts somehow. Although — come to think of it — I’m not sure whether or not the streaming services have a way of tracking “album streams,” or if they even care. I would imagine it’s a miniscule number anyway without much relevance to anything.

I still listen to albums sometimes, but I spend most of my day with iTunes shuffling a byzantine custom playlist that depends on a song’s ranking, when it was last played, etc. It’s convoluted but it works for me and makes sure that songs I love don’t fall off my radar completely. I’ve dipped into streaming a bit but it doesn’t totally appeal to my sense of hoarding. Yet.

My favorite albums of 2013 were Phosphorescent’s Muchaho and Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City. I also totally obsessed over Father John Misty’s Fear Fun (2012).

Anyway, here’s the Soundscan data for 2013 compared to as much prior history as I could scrape off the internet. If you can help me fill in any gaps (especially 1991-1995, the early Soundscan era), I would certainly appreciate it.

Continue reading Music Sales Over the Years: 2013 Year-End Soundscan Data