CSPC: The Beatles Popularity Analysis

Now On Apple's iTunes: The Beatles! (Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA)

Controversy #4: The Splash Strategy Illusion Part 2

In 1993, after enjoying years of huge catalog sales from their studio albums, EMI regenerated Red and Blue compilations. By then, the last Top 10 compilation in the US was 1976 set Rock N’ Roll Music. If someone wanted to pick a greatest hits album, it had to go after old LPs and Cassettes which were the only items available for many years. After creating such a background, it isn’t surprising that Red and Blue CD releases got shipped at a combined 5,5 million units within’ a couple of months. The same happened with Live at the BBC in 1994, the first live album issued in CD, some 17 years after the previous similar set, Live at the Hollywood Bowl, that was not released in CD format until much later.

With One, they did it again. The 1-CD compilation was long awaited creating a terrific wave of hype upon release.

Then came the digital era. While all artists moved to the new format as it happened two decades earlier with CD releases, thus being all a non-event, EMI did it the other way for the Beatles catalog. From the start of legal downloads in 2003 to the band availability in 2010, billions of tracks got downloaded. Why waiting until 2010 then? To force the buying of full high-priced albums and to strongly boost the 2009 albums remasters, making it a major event. Had people from all over the World been cherry-picking their main hits for years, their impact would have been much lower. Once again, compilations got reissued after studio albums – Red and Blue in 2010, One in 2011 – to fully maximize sales, first selling several studio albums then publishing the cash-in material.

Digital release was a event too, scheduled in November. Obviously, it was no coincidence. If pre-Christmas days are the hottest of the year for physical sales, downloads biggest time-frame is the couple of weeks after Christmas thanks to all teens spending the iTunes gift card they received that day. Thus, by issuing the Beatles catalog in November, EMI granted them a huge promotion just in time for Christmas purchases. This decision made sure consumers bought both remastered CDs and iTunes cards as gifts, boosting sales in both avenues.

Five years later on December 24 2015, for the exact same reason, EMI sent the Beatles catalog on all Streaming platforms. As offering a subscription isn’t an habit as iTunes cards were, they waited for Christmas purchases to be completed before revealing the catalog in streaming. They did so in 2015 since the break point that saw estimated streaming revenues getting bigger than estimated sales lost due to that availability got reached, after which they joined all other artists in those services.

All those successions of demand retention and hyped offer create the illusion of insane domination due to concentrated sales with various charts records, pushing uneducated chart followers to inflate their results and sales. It looks like a similar event – CD releases, remasters, download availability, streaming availability etc. – for the Beatles always outperformed insanely the results of other acts. If we get into details of each act, we would notice this is just not true. Results are undoubtedly way more visible thanks to perfectly timed and sized marketing campaigns, but not necessarily much bigger.

30 thoughts on “CSPC: The Beatles Popularity Analysis”

  1. holy moly you guys this is epic!! i knew you were working on something huge!! phenomenal job. wow. i need to read this article a few more times again to fully grasp everything. once again, all 3 of you, BRAVO!!!

  2. Fantastic job! I’ve waited for this moment!!!

    I also noticed these massive sales from Argentina. Their studio albums sold more there than in much larger markets like France, Brazil and Australia, do you know if there’s any particular reason for that?

    1. Hi Al,

      Thanks for your comments and we are very glad you liked the article, that was our purpose!

      As for Argentina, there are a number of reasons, some related to the market’s size and others to the cultural impact made by British groups, starting from The Beatles.

      The first thing to mention is that Argentina isn’t a very strong market now, but it was quite big (let’s say medium-to-big level) until the mid 70s. For instance, 32 million albums and singles were sold during 1975, more than in several key markets like Netherlands, Spain and even slightly bigger than Italy. The Argentinean market was similar, in size, to that of Mexico or Brazil despite the latter two countries being then and now far more populated. If we go further back in time, the mid to late 60s, the Argentinean market was actually the biggest in Latin America. Argentina is almost a unique case in the following sense: the local market was almost in better shape from about 1964 to 1975 than from 1976 to about 1990, which favoured The Beatles.

      The market returned to a big level during the 90s -athough this was a worldwide phenomenon-, in time for the public to start buying The Beatles’ stuff in CD format, whose explosion occurred in 1992/1993.

      And then, of course, we have the cultural reasons, which exceeds the content of the article and would need to be studied more deeply in the future. But Argentina has always had a positive bias toward British groups. The most populated and richer zone of the country is the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, a highly cosmopolitan city and massively open to the music of the world, notably foreign rock/pop and the British one in particular.

      It is a combo that perfectly benefitted The Beatles, I would say.

      1. Thank you for the answer!

        Do you know if The Beatles are the best selling artist of all time in Argentina? (in album sales)

        1. Counting foreign music not sung in Spanish, they are the very best selling act ever and by a huge margin.

          Counting all sort of acts, disregarding the language, then Luis Miguel is likely to have sold a similar amount or even slightly bigger. That would take some research and no doubt that Luis Miguel will eventually be covered on Chartmasters.

          Julio Iglesias and Sandro (local singer) are both very strong selling artists, but highly unlikely to rival The Beatles in albums sales.

          So The Beatles are likely to be either the very best selling act in Argentina or the second best selling, easily the best selling non-Spanish act.

    1. Yes I can’t see either topping The Beatles. I’d also imagine that while MJ (if analysed) will not be an easy or quick task to undertake, Presley (if analysed) would be an absolute nightmare given the plethora of different titles released under his name, globally and locally. I certainly wouldn’t like to undertake the that mission lol

  3. I appreciate your work. Thanks for showing how amazingly well the Fab Four did! The orphan album is just so massive, wow!

    I am hoping for you to finally cover Mariah Carey for her birthday on the 27th of March! See ya!

  4. I was wondering, have you tried putting these figures on Wikipedia, I know the editors there are pretty strict but if these figures are correct (or at least in the same ballpark) then why not put them there?

  5. Very interesting reading and historical overview. Enormous amount of work and documentation are involved here.
    Anyway, I am very surprise by the amount of record sold in south america, especially if the sixties and seventies are concerned.
    This is what I found in Cashbox 1968-7-6 :
    “Sales figures in Argentina remained at the same level of 66/67, with strong hits selling between 60.000 and 100.000 (singles), LP’s ranging from 30.000 to 60.000 and many best sellers lits not surpassing the 15.000 mark.”
    This is about the same than Spain when per hit “Delilah” by Tom Jones did 125.000.

    1. Hi Grendizer!

      In all countries, including in Latin America, sales during the 60s represent only a small fraction of their albums sales to date. Their albums have been tremendous catalog sellers ever since the first day.

  6. Amazing job!

    you have a new follower in latin america . Could you please post the BONUS: Total Album (all types) Sales per Country for the Beatles? please!!

    Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Hi John,

      There is an entire page (25) demonstrating the real sales of Sgt Pepper’s in the UK. The 5 million plus figure is pure fantasy from Alan Jones.

    1. Hi John,

      All countries aren’t listed, which doesn’t mean they have been ignored – in fact if you add detailed countries numbers and the Worldwide total you will be able to see the difference.

      As for Africa or India, their markets are tiny / non-existent depending on the period. Up to the mid-80s their records weren’t issued in most Asian / African countries. Even in latter years, only South Africa, Turkey and Israel developed some kind of an album market, the rest of the continent was relying exclusively on pirated records and a few imports.

  7. Hello MJD !!!
    Due to keep blocking or removal Apple many videos on YouTube have been removed, so imagine that YouTube streaming of The Beatles is disappointing,insignificant or irrelevant.
    What do you think about it ? I’m curious about your opinion !!

    1. Hi Pelvis,

      The lack of continuity of songs on streaming services in general is obviously an issue. I try to collect as many streams as possible – and manage to access in direct to disabled pages of Spotify to get streams of currently unavailable songs – but if a video is suddenly deleted from YouTube before I log its views they will be effectively “lost”. Very often, the same videos are re-uploaded, plus YouTube equivalent sales are still kind of irrelevant for historical artists like the Beatles so the impact is quite minimal still. I’m confident that all songs will be consistently available on YouTube / Spotify in the future when it will be impossible to ignore streaming for labels.

      1. Hello MJD, would it be possible to add total albums per country
        and records and achivements for The Beatles ?..Thanks in advance
        for your work on this site 🙂

      2. Thank dear MJD for the full answers, then noticing the section of the orphane songs I saw that 2 songs are missing : All Things Must Pass (demo) which is present in the Anthology 3 and Fly On The Wall (Interview – Let it Be…Naked) (Medley).
        I think you upgrade the Beatles with their respective YouTube streaming towards the beginning of March 2018. Did I Guess ?

  8. Then when you will see their respective videos on YouTube I noticed that some videos find them without putting the article The preceding into the word Beatles.

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