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

II) Understanding

A) Clubs treatment on charts & certifications

Now that we know Club sales represented roughly 10% of US sales during four consecutive decades from the 60s to the 90s, we must understand how that impacts charts and sales as we know them.

Charts-wise, it is quite simple – Club sales have always been fully excluded from Billboard Charts. They are completely excluded from Soundscan figures as well, the automatic tracking system in place in the US since 1991.

What about certifications? Technically speaking, Club sales have always been allowed into certifications. In reality, it was pretty much impossible to certify them until January 1st 1994. To understand why, you must consider there was three distinct naming of a sale on Clubs:

A – Membership agreement offer
B – Bonus / gifted albums
C – Regular sales

The first two category of sales were excluded from RIAA certifications until 1994 rules change. The point is that those sales represented the large majority of Columbia House and BMG Music Club sales. As shown in 1977 Columbia House commercial at the top of the page such induction offers have been on place from the first day to the last one of those two clubs history. Those famous “12 albums for $1” offers led many people to register in the Club, wait for special bonuses to pick their mandatory 4 to 8 regular priced albums and then stopped the enrollment to start a new one, benefiting again from the induction offer. This is how Joseph Parvin collected 26,554 albums for almost nothing, over 2,417 different customer accounts, then selling them illegally.

One may say there is still regular sales eligible for certification purpose. While this is in theory true, Clubs royalties payments weren’t allowing it. Indeed, those payments were done on a monthly basis as per sales of each album. Membership agreement offer sales weren’t reported at all as Clubs weren’t paying royalties on them while both bonus and regular sales were reported together, making it impossible to certify just one category of sales. As a result, from 1994 to 1996 many historical strong sellers enjoyed huge jumps in certifications thanks to the retrospective addition of copies sold through Clubs over years.

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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