CSPC: Bruce Springsteen Popularity Analysis

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Original Album Sales – Comments

1973 Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. – 3,950,000
1973 The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle – 3,550,000
1975 Born to Run – 10,700,000
1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town – 5,700,000
1980 The River – 10,050,000
1982 Nebraska – 4,200,000
1984 Born in the U.S.A. – 29,300,000
1987 Tunnel of Love – 8,350,000
1992 Human Touch – 4,600,000
1992 Lucky Town – 3,700,000
1995 The Ghost of Tom Joad – 2,850,000
2002 The Rising – 5,000,000
2005 Devils & Dust – 1,950,000
2006 We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions – 2,050,000
2007 Magic – 2,750,000
2009 Working on a Dream – 1,950,000
2012 Wrecking Ball – 1,750,000
2014 High Hopes – 1,000,000

How many artists can claim studio album sales of over 100 million units? The Boss is one of them with a total of 103,4 million albums sold. The high point is obviously Born In The U.S.A. which is closing in on 30 million copies sold.

This 1984 blockbuster also accelerated the entire catalog of the artist, while also creating high expectations for following LPs. Tunnel of Love proved that Springsteen wasn’t going to remain one of the very top sellers like Michael Jackson or Phil Collins. After this though, the next 25 years were incredibly consistent for him.

In fact, High Hopes at 1 million units is his only album under 1,75 million. That figure is easily explained by the drop of the market and by its track list as it contains outtakes and re-recording of some old songs, making its sales good after taking everything into consideration.

However, Springsteen hasn’t been that strong in Latin America and Asia, making his sales all the more impressive. Up to this day, all his albums are surefire #1s in most European markets. This highlights the unbelievable strength of his fan base, especially 44 years after his debut album.

His sales aren’t only the result of a loyal fan base though, his two early classic albums Born To Run and The River are now over 10 million copies sold.

17 thoughts on “CSPC: Bruce Springsteen Popularity Analysis”

  1. This is interesting as far as it goes, and represents a lot of hard work, but it’s not a measure of popularity, as claimed. It’s a sales chart, which does an admirable job of weighing the value of different formats, but there are other factors determining popularity, many of them subjective: for example, many people who bought Born in the USA believing (in a misguided Reagan/Mondale way) that it was tub-thumping patriotism rather than a more nuanced critique (!) don’t like Bruce any more because of his politics. The biggest factor missing from this analysis though is live ticket sales. In that field Bruce has been hugely popular for at least four decades.

  2. Hey MJD! Great Job on this analysis of The Boss!

    I always wanted to know how big Born In The USA was since it produced 7 Top 10 hits in the US! Regarding that 1984 album, I expected album sales in the US higher (20m+). 16m is similar to what Prince sold there with Pruple Rain, right? Its sales outside that market, most notably Europe, is fantastic though! I never expected 8m+ in that continent! It did wonders in Oceania as well!

    Speaking of Europe, I’m positively surprised by how well Springsteen did there! Almost 50m+ albums sold is higher than most big artists that had several huge albums in that continent (eg. Whitney, George Michael etc.) I would definitely classify him as an A-list seller in that continent, more so than his native market! His sales in France and the UK are very good, but throughout his career, he was absolutely massive in Sweden! I belive Born in the USA’s 425K there is the highest selling album analyzed so far? Also, with in excess of 3m albums sold there, how would he rank in all-time top selling artists in Sweden? Highlights in his European stats also included Germany (Born in the USA and Greatest Hits were huge million sellers there!), Italy and Spain.

    Furthermore, his sales in Oceania are brilliant! For all the artists studied so far, how many of them have sold in excess of 3m album in Australia?

    What’s disappointing only was his Asian figures, that are proportionally much weaker! Still, 4m albums sold in Japan is nothing to be ashamed of! I’m surprised by only 2m albums in continental Asia! I thought huge American acts were quite big in markets like Malaysia and Philippines?

    Aside from the market breakdown, I would like to add The Boss is truly an album seller. Although not weak as a singles seller, as 21m singles sold in the physical format is quite healthy, he doesn’t own several million sellers for most of his albums, with the exception of his 1984 blockbuster album. That album was huge in this format though, with 5 million sellers and over 9m singles sold!

    As for his digital results, it’s not good, but not bad either. His streaming is quite nice for his back catalogue, but his newer materials is doing quite weak considering the huge audio streaming market, similar to the case of Britney Spears. As for his downloads, I’m quite surprised that Born to Run is his biggest seller in this format rather than hits from Born in the USA! I’m also underwhelmed from how his other materials performed in this area, especially those that were released duriing the peak of download sales!

    One thing I’ve noticed is that The Boss has the same situation as Janet Jackson-no signature song! Although hits like Born in the USA, Dancing in the Dark and Born to Run are really big hits, it seems like there’s no 1 song that is reallly dominant in streaming or downloads. He does have a truly dominant and signature album though- Born in the USA.

    Finally, what really caught my eye is the unreal consistency The Boss had throughout his career. He only has 3 albums pass the 10m mark (though 1 of them is over 40m, one at 20m and one close to 20m) plus 1 that’s close to 10m (Tunnel of Love). However, all 18 of his albums pass the 2m mark, something past divas (eg Mariah, Britney) and even recent pop girls (eg Katy, Gaga) are struggling doing. What’s more impressive is that a majority of these sales comes from pure album sales in a market where this exact format is dying. Even after the 90’s , almost 20 years after his debut, Bruce managed to have 9 albums ranging from 2-5 million album sales equivalents, which is absolutely amazing!

    Regarding the most successful male solo artist, is he only surprassed by the artists you’ve mentioned (Michael, Elvis, Elton John and Frank Sinatra), making him 5th on this list, or are there others (eg Prince, Bob Marley, Phil Collins)?

    Also, can you give us a hint on who is going to be the next artist you update? I might guess it right again this time🤓

    1. Hi Raffi!

      Several of your answers are now available on a new page I’m introducing, page 52, “Records & Achievements”! 😉

      In Australia, he is about 20th ever in a country were the very top selling foreign acts ever like the Beatles and ABBA are slightly over 5 million. Speaking of ABBA, they naturally have albums well over 425k in Sweden. Apart from them, you are right, no artist studied so far has a bigger album there.

      Indeed no unique signature song. They are not only close, depending on the market the leading song is different. If you check YouTube insights, his most seen video in the US is Born in the USA, in the UK it is Dancing In The Dark, in France it’s Streets of Philadelphia, in Japan Born to Run.

      True about Asia too. It is rather amazing how poorly he did there – his albums do not even enter the Top 100 chart in South Korea, the available database of certifications for Hong Kong show no Springsteen album, not even Born in the USA going gold and in YouTube the first asian country among his watchers is India with a dreadful 3,9 million views in 3 years, under countries like Croatia or Chile.

      Incredibly stable indeed, his recent albums are still going top 10 of the year in Scandinavian countries!

      So far, I have no idea myself about who come’s next 😉

  3. Hey MJD,

    Along with successful male artists, are you planning on studying Garth brooks? I’m pretty sure he has the most diamond certified albums in the US. It would be interesting to see how the country singer performed worldwide

  4. You’re doing a great job.
    Love reading this kind of articles.

    But, why don’t you post Norwegian stats??

    1. Hi Trond!

      The European panel is made of countries that:
      – have enough information to accurately gauge sales from at least the 80s
      – are representative of some non-panel countries

      Norway as well as Denmark is represented by both Sweden and Finland. Those two latter countries were chosen simply because there is certifications available for more than 30 years. In the other side, Norway and Denmark certifications availability have been way less regular.

      When an artist is big there and some data exists, I do consider Norway, which is the case for Springsteen. I just ended to add a “Records & Achievements” category and his sales there are part of it!

  5. Hi! You wrote “With some 2,2 million album sales in Norway, he is also the all-time leader of the country among non-Scandinavian acts.”
    Do you have a list of Best Selling “non-Scandinavian acts” in Norway?

    1. Hi old friend! 😉

      I haven’t compiled a full list of Norwegian sellers. I felt free to do the assumption on Bruce Springsteen because he is way, way, way, way ahead of anyone else! His Norwegian sales are on par with the top sellers ever in Sweden, a much bigger market!

      Along with the upcoming articles, I’ll try to build such lists to feed easily this new Records & Achievements page!

      To answer your implicit question, I would say Neil Young could be near the Top 10 ever in Norway ^^

  6. Fantastic job MJD!

    I was wondering though. Didn’t you make a slight mistake for Greatest Hits in Australia? You have it at 420,000 units but it was certified 9 x Platinum in 2009 (630,000 units). Given it’s been a solid catalog seller Down Under, I would expect it to be very close to 770,000 units.

    What do you think?

    1. Hi Innocent Eyes!

      I was expecting this exact question precisely from you 😉

      I voluntarily downgraded that certification, the very first time I do so for Australia!

      IIRC (I have ARIA blocked by my proxy right now), GH went 1xP in 1995, 2xP in 1997 and 4xP in 2008 before jumping to 9xP in 2009. If we check Year End Charts, they are perfectly in line with the 1-2-4 Platinum certifications. The one from 2009 makes really no sense at all. I can see two possible explanations – 1) a simple typo and the album should have been shown as 5xP instead, 2) a Jay-Z / Ariana / Lorde / Lady Gaga-like offer of a popular site / company buying the album and giving it away to consumers. For this reason I decided to go from the 4xP award only, ignoring the one from 2009!

  7. You know me too well haha 😉

    Well, I must admit that I found that 9xP cert. a bit fishy at first, particularly since it came so soon after the 4xP. I thought though that it may have been due to unaudited sales (a bit like how John Farnham’s Whispering Jack jumped from 17 to 24x Plat. from 1997 to 2006).

    But your explanation does make sense and would perhaps explain why Greatest Hits has never been re-certified in the 2017 audit when Sony even updated his singles certs.

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