France best selling albums ever:
Gold by ABBA (1992)

ABBA has the perfect profile of a large selling compilation acts with so-so studio album sales along with massive singles hit. To get into blockbuster sales status, one of their compilation thus barely needs to be their main available hit package during a large enough time span. This happened with Gold.

Years 89/92 were strongly impacted by the LP to CD replacement movement. One needs to understand that catalog sales are equally big to singles lasting popularity. Average buyers do not care that much about the tracklist of an album, they barely want to get the hits that appeal them. Once the average buyer gave up his LP player in early 90s, he had no more way to listen to his old favorite tunes. Buying all his old studio albums  in a new format would be fairly expensive. The music industry understood that context very well to flood the market with career retrospective albums for most big acts like Madonna, The Beatles, Elton John, Police, Queen, Simon & Garfunkel and many more. ABBA was no exception, which is why late 1992 saw the arrival of Gold album.

Unsurprisingly, it was one of those who performed the best. While compilation charts in the first half of the 90s are hardly available, we still have certifications available. What’s interesting to notice is that the album went 2xPlatinum (600,000) in April 25 1994, along with a huge amount of similar packages released by Polygram. Below is the list of artist compilation albums of that label certified on that date, along with their release date:

  • 05/1992 Lionel RichieBack To Front – 3xPlatinum: 900,000
  • 09/1992 ABBAGold – 2xPlatinum: 600,000
  • 09/1992 PoliceGreatest Hits – Platinum: 300,000
  • 10/1992 Jimi HendrixUltimate Experience – 2xGold: 200,000
  • 10/1992 Bee GeesSuccess Story – 2xGold: 200,000
  • 11/1992 SupertrampThe Very Best Of – Gold: 100,000
  • 11/1992 Serge ReggianiCompilation – Gold: 100,000

In 12/1995, Polygram did another audit, this time certifying about two dozens of compilations all released from 1985 to 1990 by French acts, but none of those 1992 best of albums. Both audits interpreted together means Gold was anywhere from 600,000 to 900,000 in April 1994 and could have been over 1 million soon after. It just happened that way as it was certified Diamond in mid-1996, although this is one more certification absent from SNEP database. The album had an incredible showing that year topping the compilation chart for six weeks, ending the year at an estimated 1,1 million.

From 1997 to 2002, the album sold approximatively 380,000 units. Officially, Gold only charted in May 1998 during that period, at #20 for one week. On its side, Forever Gold charted strongly in late 1999 / early 2000, peaking at #4 and lasting eight weeks Top 10. After additional researches, it appears this was just one more mistake from IFOP charts as it was indeed Gold rather than Forever Gold which was selling.

The strong catalog sales never went down despite the competition from other ABBA best of albums. The Definitive Collection, 18 Hits, the Name Of the Game among others challenged Gold but this latter always continued selling, just like Legend did for Bob Marley. From 2003 to 2008, it added 201,000 more units (as per GFK), including 71,000 in 2008 thanks to Mamma Mia! revival. This one was still going in 2009 with almost 30,000 sales. It added 100,000 more units since.

Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,810,000 copies.

As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!

Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, IFOP, GFK.

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