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.