Total Albums Sales Drop Below 5 Million

Bill boredAccording to Billboard, “Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending May 30) totaled 4.98 million units.” That surely must be the lowest sales week of the Soundscan era. A few weeks ago, the New York Times claimed that 5.3 million was the “fewest number of total album sales…in a single week since Nielsen SoundScan started its tracking in 1991” (despite the fact that sales were even lower a few weeks before that). Regardless, 4.98 million is even lower.

Update: Billboard confirms this was the worst sales week in the Soundscan era…and maybe since the early 70s…

Here’s the Top Ten:

1. “Glee: the Music, Volume 3 – Showstoppers” – 63,000 (down 54%)

2. Stone Temple Pilots – “Stone Temple Pilots” – 62,000 (debut)

3. Justin Bieber – “My World 2.0” – 50,000 (down 19%)

4. Lady Antebellum – “Need You Now”- 46,000 (up 1%)

5. Usher – “Raymond v Raymond” – 35,000 (down 13%)

6. Lady Gaga – “The Fame” – 31,000 (up 11%; cume: 3,398,000)

7. Rolling Stones – “Exile On Main St.” – 28,000 (down 64%)

8. Black Keys – “Brothers” – 26,000 (down 65%)

9. Carole King and James Taylor – “Live at the Troubadour” – 26,000 (down 16%)

10. Nas and Damian Marley – “Distant Relatives” – 25,000 (down 56%)

Further down:

11. Marc Anthony – “Iconos” 24,000 (debut)

13. “Sex and the City 2” soundtrack – 22,000 (debut)

20. Hank Williams III – “Rebel Within” – 17,000 (debut)

23. Band of Horses – “Infinite Arms” (down 64%)

27. Widespread Panic – “Dirty Side Down” – 13,000 (debut)

38. LCD Soundsystem – “This Is Happening”

158. Rihanna – “Rated R: Remixed” – 3,000 (debut)

Additional sales data via MTV and Yahoo.

11 thoughts on “Total Albums Sales Drop Below 5 Million”

  1. All these low sales… the day the music died? Does this chart count downloads as “units sold”, or is this purely physical media sold?

  2. It counts digital albums sold, but NOT “track equivalent” albums (I.e., 10 downloads of the song “Bad Romance” = 1 album).

    Just physical would be much lower.

  3. Why would somebody take the name “Antebellum?” Isn’t that like a Jew taking as their sure name the phrase “3rd Reich?”

    Also, why are so many of these record label manufactured productions also using the name “Lady?” That would be as if after Madonna’s first hit every female pop singer for the next 5 years started renaming themselves with single word Abrahamic religious references, like “Fatima” or something.

  4. So help me figure this out. To have the number one album in the country, I only need to sell 63,001 copies. The STP album in mp3 format sells for $7.99 at Amazon. So let’s say I release my own album, does that mean it would only cost me $50,345 to buy enough copies to make it rocket straight to #1? Why is no independent record label doing this?

  5. Okay, I just realized I did the math wrong. It would be $503,778, which is more than half a million dollars. But still, not a whole hell of a lot of money in the grand scheme of things in the music industry.

  6. Why is no independent record label doing this?

    They are…kind of. Earlier this year, Vampire Weekend’s new album was the Amazon Daily Deal at $3.99. They debuted at #1 with 124,000.

  7. That trick is as old as the charts. There are all kinds of old timey stories of labels and/or management teams buying up their own stock to get a higher chart position. Seems like that’s a practice that has been accounted for though and there are some rules in place against that or something? What do I know…

  8. Update: Billboard confirms this was the worst sales week in the Soundscan era…and maybe since the early 70s…

    Also, “Digital track sales for the week totaled 21.7 million.” So if you add those in as track-equivalent albums, you’ve got 4,984,000 + 2,170,000 = 7,154,000. But I supposed if you’re going to include TEAs, you’d have to include singles from previous eras… Very difficult to come up with apples-to-apples comparisons, especially since pre-Soundscan nobody tracked sales (just shipments).

  9. It’s not just the music biz: there are quite a few books by political figures/commentators that scale the upper reaches of The New York Times’ best sellers list that are in fact purchased en masse by ideologically sympathetic think tanks for the purpose of giving them away and ensuring the book reaches its intended audience.

    As Derek mentions, in the music biz its equivalent is internal purchases (ie, the label, artist management). Higher chart placement enhances promotion (“the #1 album in the country“, etc) and can help create a buzz. And I doubt this practice has been discontinued. It’s probably is done differently, but still out there.

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