CSPC: Madonna Popularity Analysis

Madonna - Art

Piece by piece, we keep building a body of work to fully exploit our  the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept. Applying it to historical albums and young popular artists helped us to understand that album sales aren’t the only valid indicator of popularity both because of the impact of various compilations and of large singles sales. Now, it is time to apply this concept on a case that involves both situations combined to see how much it impacts our perception of each album popularity. One perfect example appears to be Madonna.

The American superstar had both strong singles sales all over her career as well as notorious compilations downgrading a lot catalog results of her original albums.

No one can seriously doubt Madonna popularity, just like no one can seriously argue against the fact she is the best selling female artist of all-time. One ranking on which she is often overshadowed by several of her peers yet is the best selling studio album by a female artist. Incredibly enough, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Alanis Morissette, Celine Dion, Adele, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Norah Jones and soon both Tracy Chapman and Carole King all have at least one studio album that outsold every Madonna studio set. The latter biggest seller, True Blue, ends up being pushed out of the all-time Top 10 female studio albums.

While an unexperienced eye would conclude that Madonna never really had a true massive hit album, others will notice most of those female artists had one standout album that was well other the par inside their own discography. This situation is clearly favorable to the one-off record that keeps getting enduring catalog appeal – which is precisely why Tracy Chapman and Carole King blockbusters are now passing by True Blue – while the extensive career of Madonna makes compilations more relevant to the casual buyer. In fact, the singer outsold all other previously mentioned females minus Celine Dion by over 2 to 1 in terms of compilation sales. No need to say she also outsold all those females in terms of physical sales by a considerable margin.

Thus, merging results of all her records ends up being absolutely necessary to properly define how successful – or unsuccessful! – her albums have been. If there is little doubt that True Blue would appear into a Top 10 most successful, in opposition to best selling, female studio albums list it is interesting to know how high it would be and if other Madonna albums can climb into those high waters as well.

As a reminder for users who are not yet familiar with the CSPC idea you do not need to worry, it is quite simple as it only consists in merging every format sales an artist has been getting and attributing them to respective studio albums. We will start by focusing on raw data, setting how much each Madonna album sold. Then, we will check sales of each track from those albums on each format – physical, digital and streaming – and weight them to value those figures on a par with album sales. To complete the study, we will study sales of the all compilations, live albums and music videos she dropped. Once all the raw data is set, we will only need to apply appropriate weighting to get the overall picture of Madonna career results.

Let’s go!

28 thoughts on “CSPC: Madonna Popularity Analysis”

  1. It be pretty unfair to put LAV above all the other aforementioned albums without them being “updated” in this same vein of popularity calculation. Nevertheless, this has been an amazing read and a great work. Congratulations for the effort and keep it up, I’ll be looking forward for the Mariah, Whitney, Michael, Prince, Celine & Janet analysis. lol

    1. Hello Gas!

      My comments about Like A Virgin being the 6th biggest female album of all-time ahead of several other albums (Adele, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston first two etc.) takes into account CSPC method for all its challengers, not only pure album sales of the latter records!

      Many more artists are yet to come, I hope you will be enjoying them as much 🙂

  2. Isn’t there a typo ont he Italy figures? It was certified platinum,did you mean sales are at 55000 there (not 15000)?

  3. Great work, as usual.

    I think there might be a typo concerning Rebel Heart: you have it at 15.000 units in Italy, while the album has been certified platinum long ago.

    Which artist is coming next? Can’t wait to see the same analysis for MJ, Whitney, Celine and Mariah. Can’t wait to see Lady Gaga and Adele’s results too.

  4. Nicolò & Christophe,

    Nice spot on! Good to see such precise feedbacks from educated people 🙂

    I’ll be focusing on artists that have either one album over 40 million CSPC sales or one album post-2000 over 20 million or post-2005 over 10 million. The aim obviously is to build a real list of biggest albums ever rather than the flawed list of strict ‘best selling albums’ that is subject to all limitations that we know!

    1. I’ve got another curiosity to ask. Have you re-worked your estimations concerning 80s singles US sales (physical)?

      Just some of examples: I clearly remember you estimating 1,2m physical units for “Material Girl” in the US and 0,9m units for “La Isla Bonita” and “Express Yourself”. That would lead to a slightly bigger total worldwide, wouldn’t it? Especially in MG case: assuming it sold 1,2 million units in the US, it would certainly be above “Angel” worldwide!

      By the way, congratulations on you work, really. The CSPC method is really a good way to measure all records sales without giving a privilege to artists from digital era, who are often put on the same level as music legends because they sold million of downloads.

      1. Hi again Nicolò!

        To be precise on US Singles sales, in the past I haven’t estimate them, I calculated them instead. I have various sheets that depending on the chart run, the country concerned and the year of release will bring a realistic estimated total with the size of the market took into consideration.
        The aim of those calculations wasn’t to define an exact number of sales for each singles, but instead to create a valid ranking of best selling artists while using a consistent method for all acts.

        In the case of the US, for simplicity reasons the Hot 100 was used as input values of chart runs. Now, when doing this Madonna analysis I went more into details, applying a similar method but using Hot Singles Sales ranking instead and adjusting as per RIAA certifications. Most 80s Madonna singles performed better on radio than on sales rankings – hard to believe from a 2016 eye! – which, added to the fact Airplay runs are in general longer than sales ranking, bring lower results to those calculations.

        Thanks for all the nice words, I hope you will keep enjoying upcoming content!

    1. Hello Mat,

      Obviously, those three albums got used as soundtracks for some movies. This doesn’t prevent them from being studio albums and from having been promoted just like every other album with 3-4 singles each. The main concern of the CSPC is to define the added value of each records, as such soundtracks just like proper studio albums are on a par since they bring new material and create value in terms of catalog for the artist. Then, everyone is free to remove those three records from a sales average of her albums, but in terms of catalog value I just can’t ignore them!

      1. Great work and thanks for edit.

        For Madonna fans! Please visit The Most Successful Female Artist on Facebook.

        Thanks Michael Jackson FAN. I read UKMIX for more than 5 years.

  5. Very impressive work. As proven by this entry, getting into Madonna always brings great feedback. The “battles of divas” still pay after all this time!

  6. Salut MJD!
    Fantastique boulot comme toujours! Vraiment intéressante cette idée de CSPC pour analyser le succès des albums.
    Est-il possible d’avoir le détail par pays des ventes des autres albums que les albums studio? Au moins pour les grosse ventes comme The Immaculate Collection?

  7. This is an incredibly fair comparison between older artist and younger artist. People claim Rihanna has sold over 200 million records, more than Whitney, while in fact tons of her sales came from digital downloads instead of albums.

    That being said, we can’t compare 1 digital download (1 song) with 1 album sold (over 10 songs). So “album equivalent units” is the best thing to look at.

    People say that Rihanna is so close to break Madonna’s record as the best-selling female artist. However, sorry Navy, with 244 million album-equivalents vs. 65 million album-equivalents, it’s still far far far away.

  8. Do you know how much the “The Next Best Thing” soundtrack sold? Its chart-run was short-lived but it managed to peak at #36 on Billboard 200, at #19 in Germany and at #24 on the UK Soundtrack compilation chart.

  9. Hi everyone!
    I reversed MJD’s formulas to determine the CSP for each track. We could interpret this as the CSP total “due to” a track, so its success.

    I have calculated the top 15 below:
    Track [Album] = CSP total (millions sales equivalent)

    Like A Prayer [Like A Prayer] = 19,21
    Like A Virgin [Like A Virgin] = 15,45
    La Isla Bonita [True Blue] = 14,76
    Vogue [I’m Breathless] = 11,78
    Material Girl [Like A Virgin] = 11,52
    Holiday [Madonna] = 9,46
    Into The Groove [Like A Virgin] = 9,24
    Frozen [Ray Of Light] = 8,46
    Papa Don’t Preach [True Blue] = 8,12
    Music [Music] = 7,00
    Hung Up [Confessions On A Dance Floor] = 5,96
    Take A Bow [Bedtime Stories] = 5,88
    Ray Of Light [Ray Of Light] = 5,75
    Live To Tell [True Blue] = 5,62
    Who’s That Girl [Who’s That Girl] = 5,12

    It is not a surprise, some tracks have impressive results!
    We can see that 3 songs from “Like A Virgin” are in the top7, it is really incredible from an artist who has so many hits!

    If you have any question/remarks about the method/calculation I used to obtained these numbers, I will be pleased to answer you.

      1. Hello Mat!

        Here is the top100:
        1 1989 Like A Prayer [Like A Prayer] – 19,210,000
        2 1984 Like A Virgin [Like A Virgin] – 15,450,000
        3 1986 La Isla Bonita [True Blue] – 14,760,000
        4 1990 Vogue [I’m Breathless] – 11,780,000
        5 1984 Material Girl [Like A Virgin] – 11,520,000
        6 1983 Holiday [Madonna] – 9,460,000
        7 1984 Into The Groove [Like A Virgin] – 9,240,000
        8 1998 Frozen [Ray Of Light] – 8,460,000
        9 1986 Papa Don’t Preach [True Blue] – 8,120,000
        10 2000 Music [Music] – 7,000,000
        11 2005 Hung Up [Confessions On A Dance Floor] – 5,960,000
        12 1994 Take A Bow [Bedtime Stories] – 5,880,000
        13 1998 Ray Of Light [Ray Of Light] – 5,750,000
        14 1986 Live To Tell [True Blue] – 5,620,000
        15 1987 Who’s That Girl [Who’s That Girl] – 5,120,000
        16 1986 Open Your Heart [True Blue] – 4,450,000
        17 1985 Crazy for You [Orphan] – 4,210,000
        18 1989 Express Yourself [Like A Prayer] – 3,620,000
        19 1983 Borderline [Madonna] – 3,360,000
        20 1992 Erotica [Erotica] – 3,180,000
        21 2008 4 Minutes [Hard Candy] – 3,170,000
        22 1983 Lucky Star [Madonna] – 3,120,000
        23 1998 The Power of Good-Bye [Ray Of Light] – 2,880,000
        24 2000 Don’t Tell Me [Music] – 2,870,000
        25 1996 Don’t Cry For Me Argentina [Evita] – 2,860,000
        26 1994 Secret [Bedtime Stories] – 2,740,000
        27 2000 American Pie [Music] – 2,650,000
        28 1986 True Blue [True Blue] – 2,310,000
        29 1992 Rain [Erotica] – 2,290,000
        30 2003 Die Another Day [American Life] – 2,140,000
        31 2005 Sorry [Confessions On A Dance Floor] – 1,970,000
        32 1989 Cherish [Like A Prayer] – 1,870,000
        33 1994 Human Nature [Bedtime Stories] – 1,690,000
        34 1990 Justify My Love [Orphan] – 1,510,000
        35 1984 Dress You Up [Like A Virgin] – 1,470,000
        36 1983 Everybody [Madonna] – 1,300,000
        37 1992 Deeper And Deeper [Erotica] – 1,210,000
        38 1987 Causing A Commotion [Who’s That Girl] – 1,170,000
        39 1992 This Used To Be My Playground [Orphan] – 1,120,000
        40 2005 Jump [Confessions On A Dance Floor] – 1,050,000
        41 1996 You Must Love Me [Evita] – 1,030,000
        42 1995 You’ll See [Orphan] – 950,000
        43 1983 Burning Up [Madonna] – 930,000
        44 1995 I Want You [Orphan] – 910,000
        45 2003 Hollywood [American Life] – 890,000
        46 2000 What It Feels Like For A Girl [Music] – 880,000
        46 1998 Drowned World/Substitute for Love [Ray Of Light] – 880,000
        46 1984 Angel [Like A Virgin] – 880,000
        46 1998 Nothing Really Matters [Ray Of Light] – 880,000
        50 1999 Beautiful Stranger [Orphan] – 850,000
        51 2012 Give Me All Your Luvin’ [MDNA] – 820,000
        52 1989 Oh Father [Like A Prayer] – 810,000
        52 1994 I’ll Remember [Orphan] – 810,000
        54 2012 Girl Gone Wild [MDNA] – 760,000
        55 1984 Love Don’t Live Here Anymore [Like A Virgin] – 720,000
        56 2005 Get Together [Confessions On A Dance Floor] – 710,000
        57 2008 Give It 2 Me [Hard Candy] – 610,000
        58 1992 Bad Girl [Erotica] – 570,000
        59 1996 Another Suitcase In Another Hall [Evita] – 510,000
        59 2003 American Life [American Life] – 510,000
        61 2008 Miles Away [Hard Candy] – 490,000
        61 1992 Fever [Erotica] – 490,000
        63 1994 Bedtime Story [Bedtime Stories] – 470,000
        64 1990 Hanky Panky [I’m Breathless] – 430,000
        65 1983 Physical Attraction [Madonna] – 420,000
        66 1986 Where’s The Party [True Blue] – 410,000
        66 1987 The Look Of Love [Who’s That Girl] – 410,000
        68 2005 Future Lovers [Confessions On A Dance Floor] – 380,000
        68 1996 Oh What A Circus [Evita] – 380,000
        68 1990 Rescue Me [Orphan] – 380,000
        71 1996 Buenos Aires [Evita] – 360,000
        71 1998 Swim [Ray Of Light] – 360,000
        73 2009 Celebration [Orphan] – 350,000
        73 1998 Shanti [Ray Of Light] – 350,000
        73 1998 To Have And Not To Hold [Ray Of Light] – 350,000
        76 2005 Isaac [Confessions On A Dance Floor] – 340,000
        76 2003 Love Profusion [American Life] – 340,000
        76 1998 Sky Fits Heaven [Ray Of Light] – 340,000
        76 1996 I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You [Evita] – 340,000
        76 2005 I Love New York [Confessions On A Dance Floor] – 340,000
        76 1996 High Flying, Adored [Evita] – 340,000
        82 1998 Candy Perfume Girl [Ray Of Light] – 330,000
        83 1998 Skin [Ray Of Light] – 320,000
        83 1989 Dear Jessie [Like A Prayer] – 320,000
        85 1989 Keep It Together [Like A Prayer] – 310,000
        86 2015 Bitch I’m Madonna [Rebel Heart] – 300,000
        87 2005 Forbidden Love – Confessions On A Dancefloor [Confessions On A Dance Floor] – 290,000
        87 1994 Forbidden Love – Bedtime Stories [Bedtime Stories] – 290,000
        87 1984 Over And Over [Like A Virgin] – 290,000
        90 1996 Goodnight And Thank You [Evita] – 280,000
        90 1992 Bye Bye Baby [Erotica] – 280,000
        90 2000 Paradise (Not for Me) [Music] – 280,000
        93 2005 Let It Will Be [Confessions On A Dance Floor] – 270,000
        93 1998 Little Star [Ray Of Light] – 270,000
        93 1985 Gambler [Orphan] – 270,000
        96 1996 Rainbow High [Evita] – 260,000
        97 2003 Me Against The Music [Orphan] – 250,000
        98 2003 Nothing Fails [American Life] – 240,000
        99 1990 Something To Remember [I’m Breathless] – 230,000
        99 2000 Impressive Instant [Music] – 230,000
        99 2009 Revolver [Orphan] – 230,000
        99 2008 Candy Shop [Hard Candy] – 230,000

    1. Sorry about not including this in my original post, but who comes out ahead between Michael Jackson and Madonna for total album sales (original, compilation, etc.)

      1. Hi again cbvnm,

        I’ll add The Immaculate Collection breakdown this weekend when I’ll be on my personal computer.

        About your second question, Michael Jackson quite easily.

        1. He’s still sold more albums without counting any of the Jackson 5 discography?

          That’s probably the most impressive statistic given that Madonna is one of the biggest album sellers while also probably having more than twice the number of album releases as Michael Jackson.

          1. Yes!

            You can completely remove his Motown records, both with his brothers or as a solo artist (Got To Be There, Ben etc) and he will still be easily ahead of Madonna in terms of album sales.

    2. Not sure how I managed that but I can’t put my hand on TIC sheet anymore. Anyway, roughly figures are detailed below:

      – US – 11,900,000
      – Canada – 900,000
      – Argentina – 200,000
      – Brazil – 750,000
      – Mexico – N/A
      – Japan – 1,125,000
      – Australia – 925,000
      – New Zealand – 120,000
      Europe – 9,120,000
      – UK – 4,200,000
      – France – 1,085,000
      – Germany – 850,000
      – Italy – 625,000
      – Spain – 350,000
      – Sweden – 150,000
      – Netherland – 275,000
      – Switzerland – 125,000
      – Austria – 65,000
      – Finland – 95,000
      World – 28,600,000

  10. Really good numbers, still sold well for this decade with her last albums, specially because old pop divas are so underestimated with them new records.

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