Destroying Myths: Fake 10 million sellers

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Janet Jackson – The Velvet Rope (1997)

Claimed Sales – 10,000,000
Estimated Sales – 7,500,000

After her golden years in the US and in Japan from 1986 to 1993, Janet Jackson added strong European appeal with her The Velvet Rope album. Still, while her previous three albums made it to the 10 million level, this one failed to do so.

How? That’s quite simple, while she increased her appeal in various new countries, she proportionally lost it in the US and in Japan. If her previous albums were climbing up to the 8 million sales in the US, this one failed to sell even half that total.

Well, considering her more recent albums results, I’m sure the R&B star wouldn’t complain if she could only  sell 4 million North American units with her upcoming set!

44 thoughts on “Destroying Myths: Fake 10 million sellers”

  1. It seems crazy when some figures are criminally inflated but not so much when, according to your estimation, is around 9.4/9.5 million. A 10 million claim sounds not so out of question.

    1. Hi Gustavo!

      Indeed from 9,4 million to 10 million there isn’t that much difference in absolute terms. In relative terms yet, a 7% inflation applied on a catalog worth 150-200 million sales as it is the case with the likes Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Madonna represents a 10 to 15 million sales exaggeration! This is why we must be careful with favorable rounding and such. In addition, those claims often came out when respective albums were still on 8 million or something, which once again in terms of % brings a huge difference.

  2. lol expose ha! katy perry definitely has the most REAL 10+ million sellers. Roar, Dark Horse, I Kissed A Girl, Firework and California Gurls. What an icon and LEGEND. Poor ATRL gays (especially the monsters and swifties)

  3. ok sis let’s talk about sales that are too low. all of katy’s albums!!!!! she’s easily sold over 30 million albums WW

  4. Great work, again, you should wrote the story of “sales inflation” by artists. It’s really something that went crazy after the success of Thriller when suddenly a gold or platinum LP seemed to small and even insulting.

    I have one objection concerning Barbra. First I didn’t know A star is Born Soundtrack was rumored selling over 10 millions. For a long time it was a 4xPlatinum LP in the US. two things is to take into consideration. This LP is the first worldwide success for Barbra Streisand and in 1992 when she had all her certifications published it went like this : Gold or platinum : Australia/New Zealand (they were merged by CBS), Canada, UK, Brazil, Mexico, France (for a while it was on their available certification list), Italy, Holland. The Lp also charted high in Germany and Japan ( over 50 000 on Oricon).
    This was in a time when she didn’t gain all the fans she will have after “Guilty” in 1980. Many of them, including me, bought all her back catalog after that date. So I don’t know if this soundtrack had pass the 10 millions mark, but it was a worldwide success.

    1. Hi Grendizer! Thanks for the good words 🙂

      Definitely A Star Is Born was proportionally to the market of its time a massive success and also quite a decent catalog seller in its category. I do mention in Blondie page this Barbra Streisand album is the #2 best selling solo female studio album of the 70s, only topped by Carole King album Tapestry and fighting with Janis Joplin set Pearl for runner up spot. This is definitely a real big achievement.

      1. Don’t you think her “greatest hits2” out sold “A Star is Born”?
        I also didn’t know Blondie was that big…

        1. I speak about studio albums only as for such old releases compilation have a too big advantage and it doesn’t reflect at all the popularity of the release at the time. Plus, as the article is about sales myths, I voluntarily focused on studio albums as there is little marketing on hits package, except a few exceptions (ABBA Gold, Madonna The Immaculate Collection, Bob Marley Legend etc.) they are not seen as proper brands and as such are the subject of much less fanciful claims!

          1. Ok … Is it over or are there more to come ? On wiki, Oxygen and Equinoxe by J M Jarre are well over 10 millions.

            By the way, there is at least one illustration concerning a singer suing her label and manager for unpaid records royalties resulting from inflated sales. In France, in the nineties, Sheila turned to the tribunal to get paid for her 70 millions records sales. That figure was given by her label since 1980 … They went to court for that and her label, had to prove she sold about 20 millions.

          2. Hi Grendizer,

            I can definitely do a second bunch of such albums. I’ll try to find out at least 10 to make the article worth it!

  5. Wow! Mariah Carey is really unlucky, having so many albums close to the 10m mark. Anyway, thanks MJD for clearing up these myths.

    Regarding Mariah, can you tell me whether Butterfly has passed the 10m mark as well? Wikipedia states it at 15m (obviously inflated), but has it really shipped 10m copies? The album barely sold 4m on Soundscan yet was certified 5XP in the US. Also, the album sold slightly over 1m copies in Europe. Where did the remaining 4m copies come from? Was it really THAT big in Asia?

    1. Hello Raffi!

      Thanks to mention Mariah as when checking my detailed Excel sheet for her I realized I never uploaded the last version from 2012 of her sales. Figures on my Fan Of Music DB for her remain those of 2007. In-between, various additional information came out that enabled me to adjust all results. The main differences of the 2012 version:
      Mariah Carey from 14,1 to 13,5 million
      Emotions from 9,3 to 8,2 million
      Daydream from 21,9 to 20,7 million
      #1’s from 15,8 to 16,2 million
      Rainbow from 9,0 to 8,0 million
      Greatest Hits from 3,2 to 4,2 million

      What’s interesting is that Butterfly does remain over 10 million in any case, with some margin as it is at 10,5 million. In Europe the album is on 1,60 million while in the US it sold 5,25 million. Remember Soundscan figures are not comprehensive. With 1,6 million Japanese sales too and half a million in Canada plus Oceania, it climbs up to nearly 9 million. China, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong alone add the missing million!

      I’ll be obviously fixing the article appropriately.

      1. Thanks MJD for clarifying. Although, i think you made a typo. It’s Butterfly that you were talking about, not Rainbow I assume?

  6. first off certifications are based on shipments not actual sales the diamond award is for 10 million shipments in the US alone so Mariah has 2 Music Box and Daydream her sales were huge in Japan Butterfly sold 1.000.000 but her biggest sales in Japan was #1’s which sold 3.5 million

    1. I know certifications were based on shipments. I was just pointing out that since Butterfly sold so low on Soundscan, and that it sold less than 300,000 in BMG clubs, perhaps its absolute maximum shipments can’t be that much over 5m copies.

      By the way, Butterfly sold 1,1m according to Oricon, but was certified 8XP for 1,6m. #1’s sold over 2,8m on Oricon, but was certified 18XP for 3,6m. However, the album was reported to have shipped 3,6m in early 1999. Although catalog sales are weak in Japan, i don’t expect the album to have shipped close to nothing just after 2 months, much more in the past 16 years! Therefore, i expect #1’s to be at least 3,8m copies shipped, perhaps even close to 4m.

  7. Some of these claims are ridiculous indeed! Seeing albums at 9.5-ish million being passed as 10 million sellers is one thing, but seeing albums like Parallel Lines (8.7 million) being claimed at 20 million (not even 10 million) is just insane!

    I have a question for you. Do you know if the following albums (claimed as 10 million sellers, either by stans or press) have crossed the 10 million mark? If not, what are the real sales?

    Christina Aguilera – Stripped
    Britney Spears – Britney
    Britney Spears – Greatest Hits: My Prerogative
    Mariah Carey – Butterfly

    Thanks for another great post and for helping us to be more accurate!

    1. 7 million for Greatest Hits: My Prerogative by Britney fans is inflated and no amount of fake overshipped certifications in Asian markets or non-existent, made up claimed sales will change that.

  8. Hello MJD, you did a really good job with post! However Im not sure about something, you said that Mediatraffic inflated Britney’s first two albums on their all time list, I dont really know about that however I think the difference in numbers is because you estimated the Brazilian sales for Baby One More Time and Oops i Did It Again to be only 200k, when they sold more than 1 million and 850k respectively according to her label Jive Records (from Billboard Magazine, 2001)

    Here’s the link:

    It may not seem like much, but thats additional 800k sales for Baby one more time, and 650k for Oops I did it again. Theyve shipped additional copies since 2003 which we know thanks to the shipment codes

    Kind regards and respect for your work ^^

    1. Hello Joao,

      I have read this article more than once but it is obviously some kind of typo, it states itself that both albums were awarded with a Gold certification. Had they sold that much, they would have been 4xPlatinum and 3xPlatinum respectively. I have check a lot Brazilian market in latter years and there is no doubt those albums failed to hit Platinum.

      As for Mediatraffic, you are strongly overrating him if you think he has work breaking down markets for all historical albums. He did only a copy/paste of my 2010 list, inflating Britney by over 2 million for each album but still mentioning my name as the source of the list!

      1. Hello again, thanks for replying!

        To be fair, brazil is really bad to certify stuff…..Britney (and most other artists) have undercertified records that we know shipped gold or platinum thanks to shipment codes but are not even certified at all

        for example:

        Greatest Hits My Prerogative:



        Total: 72,000+

        gold at the time of release: 50,000
        certification: none


        Circus (Deluxe Edition) with DVD

        Total: 65,000+

        platinum at the time of release: 60,000
        certification: none, not even gold

        The Singles Collection:



        Total: 72,000+

        platinum at the time of release: 60,000/40,000
        certification: none, not even gold

        Femme Fatale:

        Femme Fatale (Deluxe Edition)

        Total: 69,000+
        platinum at the time of release: 40,000
        certification: none, not even gold

        Britney Jean shipped more than 37,000 but not even certified gold (should be gold or platinum)

        my point is that the Brazil certification site is very useless…i wouldnt take it into account if her label is releasing real numbers…if her first two albums are only gold thats very wrong, and if Katy Perry got diamond award in Brazil in 2015 and so did Demi Lovato. i find it hard to believe Britney Spears only went gold in the 90s/early 00s. especially because her less popular albums (some flop) have gotten close to 2x platinum in the late 00s/10s. Britney has huge popularity here in Brazil since her debut. big albums like Baby One More Time and Oops I dId it again selling barely selling more than femme fatale is very strange to me.

        and you said in your post “every time a label make an official statement about some record sales, it will have to pay the related artist royalties accordingly” the statement was made by Jive Records to Billboard so i dont think they’re lying

        I now get the Mediatraffic part, thanks for explaining!

        Cheers! and sorry for the bad English

        1. Hi Joao,

          There is several crucial mistakes in your message.

          1) ABPD not comprehensive. None such organization is as it requires majors input. Still, there is a massive difference between “no certification” and “under certification”. Except on very, very rare examples the latter case do not exist. All examples you point out are a standard case of unrequested certification. For all Britney first 5 albums her label requested an audit to ABPD, and none of them was up to Platinum level. It doesn’t mean they haven’t reach it later, nor it means they stopped “just” at 100,000 units or whatever the level was depending on the period. It is rather clear her first two albums came close to Platinum in their first 18 months for several reasons (relatively quick Gold awards, albums sales in similar markets, sales of her own later albums), but arguying they sold 1 million and 850,000 units is pure nonsense. With the exception of Thriller album, no English album sold a million within’ a few months in Brazil. Brothers In Arms took 7 years to be on 650,000, Jackson own Bad album was on 600,000 units after 5 huge years, Bodyguard took 3 years to reach 500,000 units and Dark Side Of The Moon was on 450,000 units after 40 years. Those Britney Spears figures are true wishful thinking.

          2) You point out a comment I said about majors not lying. Indeed. But this is not a comment by the major but by Billboard instead. Of course they argue it comes from Jive but legally speaking that has no value at all as it is a second hand news. Thus the whole argument about royalties that prevent majors from lying goes down. Plus once again, the very same article states how both albums were presented a Gold award at the time and on every on-court debate as soon as a party has inconsistant versions it is flagged as inadmissible and the ‘evidence’ gets cancelled.

          3) The argument about Femme Fatale. Comparing relative sales between an artist albums is a valid method. There is exception yet and here you are getting into two big traps due to Brazilian market specificities. First this album came out when majors got the idea to produce much cheaper Digipack albums, that ended up being rather unsuccessful elsewhere as it was regarded as a cheap product, not worth collecting, but did wonders in Brazil where foreign albums are way too expensive for local consumers. Second and even more important, Brazil is by far the country giving the biggest importance to live performances. They buy tons of live albums and get crazy when a huge international star visits them. In 2011 she did two stops in Rio and Sao Paulo during her Femme Fatale Tour, which remain to this date her only solo dates in Brazil of her career. This explains why it had several big shipments after the first one. Even her 2001 date was part of Rock In Rio festival, a strong promo for sure but not the kind of boosting a whole artist catalog as tons of acts get promoted so the impact is on a few artists currently hyped albums and that’s it.

          4) Same error on Katy Perry. Her last two albums sold 200,000 and 170,000 units respectively, against only 20,000 for her first one during its promotion. This is because she made no stop there for her first two but then did 2 and 3 shows in Brazil for her last two tours, both times streamed live on several popular Brazilian Medias.

  9. Hello MJD!
    Can you post the detail per country for all these albums? I think it could help some fans to understand that what they believe for their favourite star is wrong.

    1. Hi Tony!

      To be fully honest I prefer saving them for CSPC analysis and it makes them so much more interesting. Also, I think it would put the focus on some tiny details and miss the real point that was to take care about claims made here and there!

  10. Amazing list! But where is Dangerously in Love?

    Madonna and C.O.A.D.F are very close to the 10 million copies!

    Like a Virgin
    True Blue
    Like a Prayer
    The Immaculate Collection
    Something to Remember
    Ray of Light

    She have 7 albums had sold 10 million copies! Amazing!

    1. Madonna is a singles artist, she always needed controversy, getting naked, appealing to younger generations, hopping on trends, collaborating with hot artists and producers in order to sell her albums. Celine eats her for breakfast when it comes to albums sales despite English not even being her first language. When Celine got THAT hit, she snatched all wigs. The fact that Titanic soundtrack outsold all Madonna’s soundtrack combined with all those quick lil hits (that are all forgotten today) speaks volumes. And yes, Celine deserves the credit. My Heart Will Go On was the only single from the soundtrack, Billboard gave her the award for album of the year (Titanic soundtrack). Avatar was the biggest movie of all time yet Leona failed to replicate Celine’s success and the soundtrack tanked hard. Also, MHWGO is more remembered and iconic than any Madonna song. Celine>>> Madonna

  11. Hi! I don’t know why you put Rihanna there when the roof figure that we use for the album is 9 million (Mediatraffic said 8.5 million). As for 15 million, we know that would be TEAS+SEAS combined with albums sales, no one ever claimed that the album sold that much in pure ssales (maybe some people got confused when the album was certified 5xP by RIAA but that’s it).

      1. Thanks! Didn’t know about that, but I assure you no Rihanna fan claims that number, 9 million is the roof figure. And it’s clear they were referring to SPS since the album got certified 5xPlatinum in the USA when they announced it.

        I have a question about certifications in Philippines. I see fans of many stanbases claiming some sales from there, but they are nowhere to be found on the official list here:

        Do you think this is the only reliable source? And how we are supposed to know about sales from countries like that one?

        1. Hi Gwen!

          The point is that PARI is not affiliated with, which means it isn’t properly official. Thus, international labels have shown very little interest (if not none) to certify their artists there. It seems they started to change their mind recently, hopefully this trend will continue and PARI will get in touch with IFPI to turn official!

        2. From the Wikipedia article: ” On 1st June 2016, Rihanna’s management RocNation announced on their official instagram account that the album had now sold over 15 million copies worldwide.” There is of mention of SPS. Hence, it is very misleading indeed.

          1. Oops, The last statement should read, “There is NO mention of SPS. Hence, it is very misleading indeed.”

  12. Hi!
    I’ve been checking out UWC weekly to see the album sales of my favorite artist, Ariana Grande.
    She recently dropped an album named ”Dangerous Woman” and according to UWC (Fred) it has already sold 642,000 in 10 weeks, selling between 28,000-31,000 weekly.
    Some people are claiming this is impossible because it is selling like 4,000-6,000 weekly on the US, and even though she is great on a worldwide level, people still find this odd.
    Can you please tell me (if you have them) the REAL Dangerous Woman numbers? How much has it sold WW to date?
    Thank you so much.

  13. Hi MJD! Nice article and infos as always!! Talking about fake 10 million albums sold:
    I found out in a lot of places and reliable websites that Nelly Furtado’s “Loose” has shipped or even sold 10 million copies worldwide to the date.
    I really don’t think it’s true at all, because until the end of 2006, the album has sold around 7.5 million copies. It’s impossible to sell an additional of 2,5 million copies without promo and after 8 singles. Do you know the real shippments or sales? Thanks in advance.

    1. Thank you. This is a good example as well. Her fans claim that Loose has sold more than Good Girl Gone Bad, but in fact it did only better in German speaking countries and GGGBs numbers decent there as well. GGGB has outsold it in every single English speaking country (maybe Canada is debatable) and only from UK + US the difference is 1.5 million. I believe its roof figure is 8 million.

  14. Hi dear MJD !!!

    For a while we did not write, I would be curious to know what singers or groups will be analyzed this week (CSPC analysis).
    I hope you will answer me soon !!!

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