CSPC: ABBA Popularity Analysis


There is so many things to say about ABBA that it is hard to know where to start. Pretty much every single article about the cult Swedish band contains at least one myth about the band and its success. Even when a reunion tour is announced as it happened a few days ago, we need to get into the details before learning it refers to a virtual 3D show without the band itself.

I’ll temper all fanciful legends right from the start – no, ABBA hasn’t sold 360 million records. No, their album Arrival hasn’t sold 20 million units, nor Fernando single did 21 million. All those myths are very, very wrong. When working on their record sales, we quickly met many such claims, including from usually valid sources like Billboard. Their management team at the time was very busy promoting the group by using such claims, not hesitating in communicating huge exaggerations, misleading people with sales of illegal copies and many more marketing tricks. It surely worked well as nearly 35 years after the group disbanded the general public still views their success as bigger than it is, putting them with the likes the Beatles, Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson while they do not belong to that league.

Ironically, if people with no detailed knowledge about the music industry inflate their achievements, most chart followers deflate their success, often considering the band is only able to sell their classic 1992 compilation Gold and all the rest can be thrown away. A key element often not understood well by those specialized watchers is how much availability is an issue. They tend to believe the general public purchase voluntarily specific albums. In reality, persons from the general public don’t really care about the album, they only aim to pick one with the few tracks they are looking for.

In the case of ABBA, their label decided to go extensively by compilations, barely keeping their original studio albums available. As an example, their debut album Ring Ring was first issued in the US in 1995 only, some 22 years after its initial release. Speaking of that country, ABBA success was decent but not that big there, limiting their sales in comparison to all-time top sellers. Thus, with promotion focusing on compilations, an average global market at their time and relatively low US sales, sales of their original albums aren’t record breaking. The doesn’t mean their popularity is weak yet, it just means that popularity got translated into their compilations. It is a good day for your as our CSPC approach serves very precisely to define the real popularity of an album independently of how it got exploited initially and as a catalog item.

As a reminder for users who are not yet familiar with the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept you do not need to worry, it is quite simple as it only consists in merging every format sales an artist has been getting and attributing them to respective studio albums. We will start by focusing on raw data, setting how much each ABBA album sold. Then, we will check sales of each track from those albums on each format – physical, digital and streaming – and weight them to value those figures on a par with album sales. To complete the study, we will study sales of the all compilations, live albums and music videos they dropped. Once all the raw data is set, we will only need to apply appropriate weighting to get the overall picture of the pop band career results.

Let’s go!

15 thoughts on “CSPC: ABBA Popularity Analysis”

  1. Amazing work! Thank you so! Just with 8 studio albums! They are amazings!

    Please! You can made the same thing with: You Can Dance, TIC, Something to Remember, ghv2 and Celebration? Just like Gold? The sales country by country?

    Thank you so much!

  2. You have many ABBA singles and albums listed in countries as N/A. Where the albums and singles have been released.

    Therefor your sales figures are way off.

    No, ABBA did not sell 360 million. But something between 250 – 300 million is more realistic.

    1. Hi Marnix,

      As mentioned previously, N/A barely means barely means there was not enough information to set a precise figure, it doesn’t mean the album wasn’t considered into estimations. In fact, if you check European and Worldwide estimations, they are all way higher than the cumulative total of figures specifically noted. A figure of 250 million is pure wishful thinking, let alone 300 million.

  3. Thank you very much for this article MJD! It made my day lol as I was looking forward to seeing ABBA’s CSPC results.

    I had 1 question about Arrival in Australia

    – How did you come up with the 850,000 figure? Billboard mentionned “an estimated 900,000 sales” in a 1979 article. Have you got other information about this? It’s just a detail and that 50,000 units don’t make much of a difference but I was just curious about this.

    1. Hello dear!

      Ironically I came up to 850,000 by misreading the exact same source as you 😀

      I had in mind they mentioned 1 million orders earlier and real sales at 800,000 by 1979, while after checking again you are indeed correct as they wrote 900,000 instead. Then I added 50,000 units for catalog sales. I fixed the figure, thanks for spotting out the typo!

  4. This analysis does not take into account ABBA’s enormous success behind the Iron Curtain. In Hungary a country of less than 11 million people, ABBA’s albums and singles were sold like hot cakes.
    The country’s record company, Hungaroton, even bought the rights to press two of their albums, Voulez Vous and Super Trouper, along with many ABBA singles. I don’t have actual numbers of their sales, but I know that both of the above mentioned albums were certified “diamond” records, which means 500,000 copies sold.
    By the way, I don’t think it’s fair to look at ABBA as a s single’s group just because they sold more singles than albums. 7 out of the 8 albums are simply perfect as albums.
    Give them a try!

    1. Hello Popcult!

      I’m sorry to say but those are just some more fanciful claims. Their Hungarian success was covered by Billboard, their sales were really phenomenal but no album ever sold anywhere near 500,000 units there, in fact Voulez-Vous was mentioned by Billboard as their top seller at 75,000 units.

      Their first albums weren’t released in Hungary, after the first 3 a best of came out selling 20,000 units. In most, Hungaroton and its firm Pepita were extensively used to press and export copies all over Europe, an activity led by Pal Kornis.

      Once again, while it is tempting to take as facts everything we read about record sales, one need to seriously question each and every claim before assuming it is accurate.

  5. Hi dear MJD !!!

    Congratulations again for the website is also for CSPC analysis ABBA.
    I am very astonished by your great wisdom, you are an encyclopedia of music, after the famous flashy group that we have seen are Abba, which singer or group will you analyze ?
    Then as you did for the compilation Gold (ABBA) that you analyzed in detail for each country with the respective image or album cover, could you do the same with the three famous and important compilations of Beatles that are The Beatles 1 (One); 1962-1966 (The Red Album); 1967-1970 (The Blue Album) !!!

  6. Forgive my English maybe not perfect dear MJD, there are mistakes now rewrite the post

    Congratulations again for the website and also for CSPC analysis ABBA.
    I am very astonished by your great wisdom, you are an encyclopedia of music, after the famous flashy group that we have seen are Abba, which singer or group will you analyze ?
    Then as you did for the compilation Gold (ABBA) I would like you to analyze in detail for each country with the respective image or album cover, the three famous and important compilations of Beatles that are The Beatles 1 (One); 1962-1966 (The Red Album); 1967-1970 (The Blue Album) ?
    I hope, you answer me soon !!!

  7. Hi everyone!

    Here are the 25 ABBA’s tracks that have generated the most sales:
    1 1976 Dancing Queen [Arrival] – 24,300,000
    2 1975 Mamma Mia [ABBA] – 14,810,000
    3 1977 Take a Chance on Me [The Album] – 9,720,000
    4 1974 Waterloo [Waterloo] – 9,030,000
    5 1980 The Winner Takes It All [Super Trouper] – 8,190,000
    6 1979 Chiquitita [Voulez-Vous] – 6,710,000
    7 1975 SOS [ABBA] – 6,090,000
    8 1979 Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) [Orphan] – 5,940,000
    9 1979 Does Your Mother Know? [Voulez-Vous] – 5,880,000
    10 1976 Knowing Me, Knowing You [Arrival] – 4,950,000
    11 1980 Super Trouper [Super Trouper] – 4,640,000
    12 1980 Lay All Your Love on Me [Super Trouper] – 4,190,000
    13 1976 Money, Money, Money [Arrival] – 4,020,000
    14 1976 Fernando [Orphan] – 3,960,000
    15 1977 Thank You for the Music [The Album] – 3,370,000
    16 1979 Voulez-Vous [Voulez-Vous] – 3,150,000
    17 1977 The Name of the Game [The Album] – 3,090,000
    18 1979 I Have a Dream [Voulez-Vous] – 3,020,000
    19 1974 Honey Honey [Waterloo] – 2,990,000
    20 1981 One of Us [The Visitors] – 2,940,000
    21 1973 Ring Ring [Ring Ring] – 2,260,000
    22 1975 I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do [ABBA] – 1,880,000
    23 1980 Happy New Year [Super Trouper] – 1,610,000
    24 1981 When All Is Said and Done [The Visitors] – 1,260,000
    25 1977 Eagle [The Album] – 1,160,000

    To date (taking in account all the artists studied by MJD), “Dancing Queen” is the 4th biggest track of all time, the 3rd of the 70’s!
    Here is the top5 of all time:
    1 1997 Céline Dion – My Heart Will Go On [Let’s Talk About Love] – 36,370,000
    2 1975 Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody [A Night At The Opera] – 26,270,000
    3 1971 Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven [Led Zeppelin IV] – 25,500,000
    4 1976 ABBA – Dancing Queen [Arrival] – 24,300,000
    5 1987 U2 – With Or Without You [The Joshua Tree] – 23,140,000

    If you have any questions / remarks, do not hesitate to let a comment!

  8. Hi dear Anthony Blanchard !!

    hello Anthony , congratulations to you too that collaborate with MJD and Hernàn, Do you know which singer or group will be analyzed in the coming days ?

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