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

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The End

V) Concluding

I decided to focus mostly on two artists for only for examples as they cover most specificities of Club sales and as it gives you room for requests. In fact, during upcoming days I’ll be posting an other article about US Music Club sales covering main albums of various artists.

I hope you have now a better idea of Columbia House and BMG Record Club sales. The most important thing to keep in mind is how different both Clubs were in terms of best sellers. One started way before, had steadier sales spread over various decades and targeted mostly an audience liking adult contemporary music and soft and huge cross over acts. The second one was ridiculously hyped, with a high number of regular consumers pushing a group of 80-ish albums to high sales in no time. If you want to know if a specific artist or album was available at Columbia House, you can check both lists here and there, both from about 1997 with the second coming a few months later. If you are looking for more recent albums, or older ones that could have been available before and then removed, I suggest you to use the string “Terre Haute, Indiana 47811-1129” on Google plus the name of the artist / album you are looking for. This was the Columbia House PO Box, so this string was written on every possible ad of the Club that you can find.

Ultimately, do not forget there is still RIAA certifications. They may have their limits, comparing Soundscan sales with jumps in certifications is still the best way to gauge how many units of an album were sold on non traditional avenues. As I’m going to post a second part article, feel free to ask for additional clarifications, I’ll add paragraphs to answer them.

Oh, just one last word. I focused on the US as due to Soundscan availability it creates a lot of confusion when figures aren’t on par with certifications. For most other countries as only certifications are available there is no ambiguity, but be aware such clubs existed pretty much everywhere. In the UK (Britannia Music Club), in France (Club Dial), BMG / Columbia subsidiaries in Mexico and Canada and even Classical and Latino Clubs, the phenomenon wasn’t restricted to the US and to popular music.

As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!


Sources: RIAA, Soundscan, Billboard, NYTimes, Popular Science, Ski, Spin, Weekly World News, Audio.

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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