Understanding: Music Clubs #1 – Janet Jackson, Celine Dion

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IV) Estimating

A) Janet Jackson

Often quoted as one of the most under-certified artist ever, Janet Jackson enjoyed tremendous sales at BMG Music Club. The list below.

Year Album Certified Units (Cert. Date) – SoundscanBMG
1986 Control 5,000,000 (10/26/1989) – 505,000883,000
1989 Rhythm Nation 1814 6,000,000 (11/19/1992) – 1,389,0001,100,000
1993 Janet. 6,000,000 (04/12/1994) – 7,041,000860,000
1995 Design Of A Decade 2,000,000 (12/18/1995) – 2,439,0001,480,000
1997 The Velvet Rope 3,000,000 (01/15/1999) – 3,237,000420,000
2001 All For You 2,000,000 (05/18/2001) – 3,109,000100,000

As you can easily notice, all her albums have been certified at the end of their initial run and then never audited again. Also, her sales at BMG Club are quite massive with her biggest albums being released at the perfect timing. Assuming similar, if not bigger sales, from Columbia House, would led us to very high estimates for all those albums. Once again, that’s a huge trap.

A key element is that from 1991 Janet Jackson moved from A&M to Virgin label. Both Control and Rhythm Nation 1814 as well as the compilation Design Of A Decade were available on both, BMG and Columbia Clubs. This being said, Virgin policy about Clubs was pretty different. Checking in details the BMG Top 100 list, we notice two of her albums are concerned by an asterix:
63. Janet Jackson – Janet. (Virgin) (860,000 units) *
95. Janet Jackson – The Velvet Rope (Virgin) (420,000 units) *

* Items that were at one time apart of a Special Promotion, sales restricted titles available for a limited time due to popular demand.

In the same original article, BMG stated “other Jackson title’s include “All For You,” (100,000 units sold and issued under contractual agreement)“. Also, when we check Columbia House full catalog from 1997, only three Janet Jackson albums appear, the three ones released by A&M:

139501 : $16.98 : JANET JACKSON : DESIGN OF A DECADE: 1986-1996
343319 : $15.98 : JANET JACKSON : CONTROL
388918 : $15.98 : JANET JACKSON : RHYTHM NATION 1814

The reason is quite simple, in early 1995 Virgin decided to drop its agreement with Columbia House, along with Geffen and MCA, later that year they also failed to renew their contract with BMG Music Club. This is the reason why unlike other labels, Virgin never fully audited his artists after 1994 RIAA rules change – others like Tina Turner or Mike Oldfield are in the same case – because they were going to quit them. With those new facts highlighted, Janet Jackson certifications make much more sense:

Year Album Certified Units (Cert. Date) – SoundscanBMG
1986 Control 5,000,000 (10/26/1989) – 505,000883,000
1989 Rhythm Nation 1814 6,000,000 (11/19/1992) – 1,389,0001,100,000
1995 Design Of A Decade 2,000,000 (12/18/1995) – 2,439,0001,480,000

One can hardly argue those certifications are up to date giving available facts. Still, on their audit programs, labels always separated current albums and catalog albums. Current albums are certified very, very regularly, almost automatically, what happened for those three albums. Time to time, labels audit their deep catalog records to update them. In this case yet as Janet Jackson is no more a A&M artist, she was most likely out of their audit lists.

Sales-wise, those albums are also not good contenders for strong sales at Columbia House despite their availability with a target audience way too young for the Club standards in the 80s. Rhythm Nation 1814 still was pictured for its debut on Clubs in January 1990 but was already moved to standard listings by the next month. Similarly, even when it was incredibly hot in January 1987, Control was barely included among listins.

1993 Janet. 6,000,000 (04/12/1994) – 7,041,000860,000
1997 The Velvet Rope 3,000,000 (01/15/1999) – 3,237,000420,000
2001 All For You 2,000,000 (05/18/2001) – 3,109,000100,000

Here comes the trio of Virgin studio albums. What is safe to say is that those albums were never part of Columbia House catalog as they do not even have an ID on it. Janet. sold 4,3 million units as per Soundscan in 1993, 1,6 million in 1994 and 1,1 million since. It was up to about 5,4 million copies scanned and with many more copies shipped when certified 6xP. With BMG sales likely happening in 1993 fall / during 1994 as it was a special offer due to popular demand, the album crossed 7 million overall copies by mid-1995, when Virgin dropped out of BMG Club. As they completely stopped that contract, they were very unlikely to keep related bills at their disposal, naturally archiving them. With this assumption in mind, Janet. became eligible for a 7xPlatinum award quite recently, while by now majors hardly care about updating their artists anymore. Of course, if all bills were fully audited tomorrow, the album would end up 8xP.

The case of The Velvet Rope is even more striking as the album is not even under-certified when we know that it wasn’t available at Columbia House. Considering all certification dates and both Club sales and Soundscan sales since, below is the most realistic estimates we can set for this bunch of albums:

1986 Control – 7,000,000 
1989 Rhythm Nation 1814 – 8,100,000
1993 Janet. 8,000,000
1995 Design Of A Decade 4,000,000
1997 The Velvet Rope 3,800,000
2001 All For You 3,300,000

10 thoughts on “Understanding: Music Clubs #1 – Janet Jackson, Celine Dion”

  1. Hi MJD, great article. Thanks for explaining this to us. Music club sales have always been so confusing to me but I’m glad you cleared it up.

    Do you have music club figures for Britney Spears and Madonna?

  2. Of course everybody is waiting for a detailed article on Mariah Carey as her album sales via music clubs remain one of the huge mysteries of the chart debate in several music forums.

    It would be both helpful and a great contribution to the debate if you granted the world an insightful view in Mariah’s history concerning music clubs, especially since she has often been accused of having “fake diamond” albums as both Music Box and Daydream are quite a bit off the 10 million mark on SoundScan.

    I hope you dedicate her a good bit of your time.

    I hope her comprising article is also yet to come.

  3. This is a very good article, thank you! As music clubs mainly targeted a 30+ year-old audience, I wouldn’t be surprised if many easy-listening/jazz/classical music/country singers got to sell high amounts of records with those clubs whereas they were not big sellers in traditional record stores (especially at a time when Billboard record charts only ranked the music sold in big cities). Do you have any information about those over-looked artists ?

  4. I wonder if Janet’s catalog will ever be recertified… she is more than 10 platinum behind of what should be… such a shame.

  5. Hi MJD! I would like to ask how do you come to the conclusion of Janet Jackson’s Control and Rhythm Nation 1814 selling 7m and 8,1m copies in the US respectively?

    The only information we have are SoundScan figures for sales after 1991, their out-of-date certification (5 and 6 times platinum) and their BMG club sales, which are probably already included within their certifications. As a result, can you explain to me how you managed to conclude that they both sold 2m above their certifications?

    Thank You!

    1. Hello Raffi,

      The huge majority of Club sales started to be allowed by RIAA rules from 1994 only, majors weren’t certifying them before. Thus, both Control and RN1814 certifications do not include their BMG sales. To best estimate their sales in an easy way, you then need to sum last certification + full BMG sales + Soundscan sales since last certification minus excess shipment from certification time.

      1. Question MJD,

        What if their labels are late with their certifications? What if Janet’s albums are certified 6 times platinum with 6.7 million shipped? How can certs determine sales?

        1. Hi Fan!

          On some articles I mentioned how fundamental to understand which certifications are date-specific or not. One needs to check the artist other albums or the label remaining albums to study if the cert was specifically targeted to that album or if it was a global audit, on which case the album could have been anywhere from its new certification to the next one.

          Luckily for us most big albums had various certifications over time. The idea is to define a sales timeline which fits with all of them and checking which certification came ASAP after the criteria was reached, then we can use it to gauge remaining awards.

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