Original Album Sales – Comments
2013 Frozen – 10,900,000
Only four albums topped the 10 million mark on pure album sales during the last five years, both Adele blockbusters 21 and 25, Michael Buble‘s Christmas and then Frozen. This simple fact alone puts the soundtrack among true massively successful records.
That success had mixed fortunes depending on the country though. In Japan, it moved more than 1,2 million units, the highest selling foreign album of the last 10 years. In Italy, the record needed more than a year to reach only Gold status. Why such a discrepancy?
To answer that question, I’ll first ask something else. Have you ever wondered why international movies are much bigger outside of the richest countries than international music?
There is two reasons for that. The first one is that you can sub-title a movie or even record again voices with the local language, you can’t do that in popular music. Way back in the 60s, various artists used to record their songs in many languages to break new countries because English material wasn’t selling. Now that everyone can access to all songs thanks to internet, big pop acts aren’t going to issue songs in several languages of dubious quality. Just think about how credible would Bruno Mars be while singing in Japanese!
The second element explaining the largest worldwide appeal of movies is that it doesn’t require a record player. In the past, poor countries inhabitants had no money for luxury products like record players while buying a theater ticket times to times was affordable.
That wider appeal led Soundtracks to be historically bigger in many countries than standard studio albums. It is no coincidence if up to 1979 the three best selling albums ever, Sound Of Music, Grease and Saturday Night Fever, were all Soundtracks.
As a global company publishing movies, Disney has been very well installed in many countries for long. They clearly know how to run their business and know about movies specificities. They also know that while adults may buy an album as soon as they can dance to it or like the rhythm, kids need to sing-along the track to enjoy it. They understood as well that the relationship created between a person and a movie when he watches it replaces the relationship a fan will have with his favorite singers. As a result, Disney soundtracks do not need popular acts to be part of them, unknown singers may be just as successful. The huge advantage with unknown singers is that you can switch of vocalist from one country to an other.
Just put all those background elements together. If a Disney movie hits big – which happens quite often – a soundtrack translated into numerous local languages will be a real dark horse to crush the competition. That’s exactly how they handled the Frozen album. The single Let It Go has been issued in as many as 42 different languages!
Oh, one last word. You may wonder “ok, an album which is near a local album in all countries pushed by a huge hit movie may sell well, but then why hasn’t it done too well in Italy?”. This happened in countries where physical album sales have been collapsing a lot for many years and where digital sales never took off, which is the case of Italy. Both facts combined mean almost nobody under 30 ever had the habit to buy albums there, thus the average age of records consumers is fairly high, which obviously limits a lot sales of a product like Frozen.