CSPC: The Beatles Popularity Analysis

Remaining Long Format Part 9 – 00s Major Items

After exploiting studio albums (1963-1970), compilations (1973-1983), CD releases (1987-1993) and side projects (1994-1999), EMI was looking for a way to create one more sales splash with the Beatles catalog.

A awful lot of talks obviously happened in their offices prior to One release. That it was going to sell bucket loads was a safe bet. The market was better than ever, various countries saw their boundaries open and their health improve, the sound quality was at last good and, more than anything, getting all Beatles classics for the price of 1 CD only was the strongest argument one can get. It was basically the most worthy album ever released, at the best moment ever.

But, because there is a but, putting so much value into a unique CD sale is a risky move in the long run. Songs on it are easily strong enough to generate sales of several distinct releases so putting them all into one only will diminish tremendously the interest in the rest of their catalog. The question ends up being will it sell more by itself than it will cost to other releases sales?

They decided that it will. And it happened. Let’s compare UK sales of the five years before (1995-1999) and after (2001-2005) that release. The market increased 14,65% between both eras, from 1,01 billion albums sold to 1,16 billion. Nevertheless, Abbey Road shifted 324,946 units in the first time frame against only 128,144 in the second, a drastic 60,6% drop. This illustrates how important it is to re-assign sales of compilations into studio albums, because they are not newly created sales but instead a mere attractiveness transfer from one support to an other.

Impressively, the two leading sales providers of One are Help! and Let It Be. Surprising? Well, not that much. EMI knew what they were doing. The track list axing around #1 hits wasn’t only a marketing trick, it was more than anything a way to elude all LPs promoted as pure albums during the 60s. When you pick One, you still have no track at all from Rubber Soul, Sgt Pepper’s or the White Album. Thus, in spite of purchasing one best of album, their studio albums still remain absolutely essential records. Then, once you got into picking them, the complete my discography logic is triggered and consumers ultimately buy multiple Beatles records still. This is why One got considered as a positive expected value release.

Let It Be, already a strong item across all compilations, grows even more with the 3-million selling remix album of it.

Are you still really sure about which Beatles albums are the strongest at this point?

18 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.

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