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

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3. Clubs-only Albums

There is no more such albums nowadays, but back in the day artists with extensive catalog of songs often had albums issued on direct marketing that were never ever released in standard retailers.

Elvis Presley is a good example of an artist that got various clubs-only albums, some moving large amounts. Even his famous Christmas Album was available only through direct order in 1977 fall after his death. His 1973 Elvis album went 5xPlatinum for 2,5 million sales on the back of mail order alone

4. Exclusive Albums

One of the biggest errors in Club sales estimations consists in assuming large sales on every Club as soon as an album sold well on one of them. The reality is pretty much the opposite as huge sellers on one side have often been so huge very precisely because they weren’t available on other Clubs.

Among examples, we can point out Eminem, a huge seller on BMG Music Club who wasn’t available at Columbia House at all. We will be studying several such cases on following pages.

5. Ads Listing Effect

In 2016 we can see various complains from chart watchers against streaming because popular playlists benefits some songs over others. If that has some impact, one can still create his personal playlist and search for anything he wants. Clubs were largely using magazine advertising, listing a predefined set of albums. A handful of them was highlighted with large pictures, several dozens were listed within’ the page while the rest of the catalog was not displayed at all.

Columbia House Records, February 1984 01

The point is that consumers had to note the identifier of the album listed in the page inside the order box. In this picture, Police album Synchronicity ID appears to be 320499 for example. Consequently, it was impossible to order an album that wasn’t listed. Only members who were receiving the full catalog accessed IDs of lower profile albums. This created a situation of very unequalled sales depending on how an album was listed, if listed. Of course, both BMG and Columbia used to provide a better showing to albums that were exclusive at their end, increasing even more the gap.

In the very next page, we will study the all-time BMG Top 100 albums to see how much the ad listing effect impacted sales through Clubs.

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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