CSPC: Adele Popularity Analysis


Sixth Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept career breakdown is on the way! This time we will be studying a very interesting case, the only contemporary artist who sold numbers that challenge historical blockbusters, Adele.

Starting her career in 2008 with a successful album – 19 – in the UK and the Netherlands that failed to make that much noise elsewhere, there were very few indicators of what was going to happen in 2011 with her second effort 21. An earthquake. Millions and millions and millions of copies sold. A success confirmed with the fastest selling album ever, 2015 album 25.

Sales-wise the album 21 is one of the 30 best selling albums of all-time, but charts domination and the rarity of this success in a dreadful market context open doors to various interpretations about the real position of this record in an historical hierarchy. Arguments backing this album include the gap of sales between itself and its contemporary contenders, chart runs at #1 and inside the Top 10 compared to older blockbusters, the fact it sold so much within’ five years while its challengers had decades of catalog sales to amass various sales. All those arguments as valid as they seem can be easily destroyed. It outsold other albums by very far mostly because no other artist reached A-League promotion everywhere as Adele did, making it much easier to sell albums compared to her peers. While the fact she was promoted on much hotter marketing spots than standard music acts must be fully credited to her and her widespread attractiveness, it decreases a lot the comparison argument. In the same way, a weak market makes it easier to dominate charts. The bad environment reduces investments into artists marketing, thus getting a top scaled promotion opens the way to extensive Top 10 residencies. The timespan available to sell is a valid argument but must be weighted with the cannibalization factor that strongly reduced the catalog appeal of various historical best sellers only a few years their respective releases.

Thanks to our CSPC approach, we will now be able to give a fair comparison of Adele success against older albums as well as against younger pop stars. We studied among others three females, results have set Madonna at 244 million albums equivalent, Rihanna at 65 million and Taylor Swift at 55 million. Albums-wise, the former trio of albums Like A Virgin, True Blue and Like A Prayer lead the way at 39,5 million, 36 million and 26,7 million respectively. How both Adele and 21 performs against all those giants?

As a reminder for users who are not yet familiar with the CSPC idea you do not need to worry, it is quite simple since 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 Adele 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, if any. Once all the raw data is set, we will only need to apply appropriate weighting to get the overall picture of the biggest star of the millennium career results.

Let’s go!

10 thoughts on “CSPC: Adele Popularity Analysis”

  1. Hi MJD!
    Very impressive sales and success, despite only 3 albums.
    How increase the numbers after the promo period? Could “21” reach the threshold of 50 million albums sales equivalents as did “Nevermind”?
    PS: a little mistake with the albums European sales, they are not consistent with the values per country.

    1. Hello Tony!

      Thanks for the typo in European sales, it is now fixed. As for your question, the promo period is over for 21 but not for Adele. Although greatest hits-type albums have been losing ground, if she releases a fourth album and then a compilation the tally of 21 will strongly increase. In the same way, each live and / or DVD release will add sales into 21 total as they will most likely features its hits. Of course, ongoing sales of already issued products keep on increasing the total as everything considered the album added over 2 million from its 2015 results only. Nevermind is up to 50+ million some 25 years after release, my expectation is that 21 will be there in less than 15.

  2. Hi MJD! I want to point out that you made a mistake with 19 album sales number. On your breakdown, you have it at 8,4m. But on the last page and on page 5, you have it at 8,3m. Which one is correct?

  3. Hi MJD! I was wondering if you know how much 25 and 21 have moved over the past 8 months (pure sales and CSPC), as they keep on selling considerably well!

  4. Hi do you think you could update on adele? She has been pulling decent sales and streams

    Be nice to have an update if you have time

  5. I think her sales are very2 impressive for the current market condition, is simply because she is an adult contemporary singer. We haven’t had a great adult contemporary singer since Celine Dion and that was a long2 time ago when she was at her peak. Her singing adult contemporary songs is good for album sales because people who listen to this genre are usually old people and old people have the purchasing power to buy original album, plus older people have more nostalgia and they are more likely to buy a physical album sales compared to just streaming her songs through the internet.

    1. Hi Test!

      All markets are accounted for. The figure you point out includes streaming units while sales figure from the digital sales category focus on pure digital sales.

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