CSPC: Michael Jackson Popularity Analysis

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Streaming Part 2

The albums Music & Me and Forever, Michael were flops in the first place and haven’t reversed that trend since. The name of Michael Jackson draws plenty of users on his page though, so even the least known songs manage nearly 300,000 streams. The only noticeable song from those two albums is One Day In Your Life which had a second youth in 1981 when Motown released it to utilize the new found popularity of the pop star.

129 thoughts on “CSPC: Michael Jackson Popularity Analysis”

  1. This is brilliant work. My question is: Why’s it that “We Are The World” is never counted towards Jackson’s total single sales? I mean, he sung on the song and co-wrote/co-composed the song. I think it should be counted towards his (and Lionel Richie’s) total record sales imo.

    1. They wrote the song and they are credited for that. The same as “You Are Not Alone” was written by R Kelly but it’s not credited to him, it’s a Michael Jackson’s single.
      “We Are The World” is correctly credited to the one-time collective USA FOR AFRICA.

    2. Hi Stephon!

      As mentioned by GUS, the real credited artist on We Are The World is USA For Africa. While the impact of MJ is clear on that song, this is an all-star line-up for a charity reason so it can’t be used to increase the popularity of one artist or an other!

      1. willst du mich verarschen Justin Bieber der King of Pop da lache ich mich ja tot niemals kommt einer an Michael Jackson Plattenverkäufe dran das wird keiner schaffen weil er der größte war und kein anderer wird der King of Pop es gibt nur einen King of Pop und der ist Michael Jackson und lass ihn endlich das wird keiner schaffen weil er der größte war und kein anderer wird der King of Pop es gibt nur einen King of Pop und der ist der King of Pop und wird es immer bleiben fertig aus

  2. How do you estimated the sales of his 3 first albums here in Brazil?! The codes for the CD are too low to estimate that amount…

    1. Hi Marcus!

      Codes of his first 3 CDs are pretty big – 11,500, 17,200 and 5,000 respectively with codes eventually missing and of course no digital sales. There is still 30 years of sales missing. Those CDs were available from day 1 in Brazil, issued in 1972 / 1973 by Tapecar there. They were widely available during the madness of the 80s and were re-issued in 1993 to benefit from the Dangerous Tour. The 4 to 1 ratio pre/post 2009 is fairly conservative everything considered, in fact that’s the highest % allowed for post-2009 sales of all countries.

  3. Hi MJD,

    What an amazing work for an amazing career! The sales are so huge!
    At least, Thriller doesn’t do 100 millions in pure sales but it does in CSPC!

    Always a pleasure to read your work!

  4. Amazing piece of work ! you are truly a great team!

    So if we count records sales The Beatles would be at ~ 500 million aprox while MJ at ~410 million records… I think in the long run he can catch up TB sales.

    Thank you for your amazing work!.

  5. Amazing work!!! My Thriller’s 100 millions finally is alive hahaha.

    So Madonna pure album sales (200kk+) is higher than MJ (183kk)?

      1. Yes this is were I was confused. If his pure album sales er 235. In the analys he claim that mj sold over 80 mill physical singles and that puts him at over 300. He sure sold more than 10 mill digital singles

        1. Studio Album: sales of the original album
          Other Releases: sales of compilations generated thanks to the album
          Physical Singles: sales of physical singles from the album (ratio 3/10)
          Download Singles: sales of digital singles from the album (ratio 1,5/10)
          Streaming: equivalent album sales of all the album tracks (ratio 1/1500 for Audio stream and 1/11750 for Video stream)

    1. Not quite
      Madonnas Studio Albums 146,450,000 pg20
      MJs Studio Albums 182,600,000(without posthumous 173,500,000) pg16

      Madonnas Wirldwide Albums 201,900,000 pg53
      MJs Worldwide Albums
      235,440,000 pg47

  6. Great work as usual MJD, nice to see that you included some sales
    from my home country Norway.
    I was guessing that CSPC for MJ was in the range of 300-325,
    and yes Thriller is an absolute monster > Keep up the good work 🙂

  7. Hello MJD really complimented for analyzing the undisputed myth ” the king of pop ” that is Michael Jackson. Then I have 2 questions to ask :
    1) Don’t stop til you get enough counting both the official video on VEVO and the other videos uploaded to this song, I believe it exceeds 143,500,000 views
    2) then I thought that Thriller had only sold in U.S. about 33 million copies sold

    1. Yes, I would love to see Elvis. I kinda feel as tho he sold more compilation albums than actual original material studio albums. If it wasn’t for the endless amounts of greatest hits & box set releases… MJ would be over Elvis in total sales.

  8. Wow! Thriller is an absolute monster in every category! I can’t really see anything taking it’s top spot in the future, even if the music industry peaks again.

    All in all an amazing article!

  9. Great articel, we have waited it so long, no doubt King of pop! Michael Jackson is one of famous name in the earth! I wish you do Barbra’s CSPC next, you had said it may be completed during summer, and few days left(ㄒoㄒ)

  10. speechless. 116 million CSPC album copies of thriller! 3 albums over 40 million!! huge selling machine. this is a masterpiece of an article. His track finally overtakes celine’s as number CSPC track copies. 3 more artists who have a CSPC of over 190 million (Elton John, Queen and Elvis Presley) can’t wait for those. also Barbra and Diana Ross to complete all the big selling female artists.
    Fantastic work you guys, keep em coming!! <3

  11. Amazing article which really helps to realize how massive MJ was / is. The Thriller figure is just so mindblowing that even truly huge figures for Dangerous or HIStory look kind of disappointing next to it.

    Was hoping that he would beat The Beatles’ CSPC total but his’ is huge nonetheless.

    Have just noticed a slight mistake in the Dangerous album breakdown though. You’ve copied / pasted Oceanian figures of Thriller into the Dangerous breakdown.

    1. Under MCs article he has her at
      18,500,000 album sales and 30,500,000 total.
      On pg47 he has MJ at 25,690,000 for total album sales.
      The total in pg47 is about 100 million off on the total CSPC page. So it’s likely that he not only outsold her in Asia total Albums but the Beatles as well. The Beatles have 23 million albums and 33 overall

      1. Paul McCartney is the king of what? Certainly not pop. And he’s never been considered the king of anything. The only thing he’s ever been called, and correct me if I’m wrong, is the most successful composer by The Guinness Book of World Records. However, I’m not surprised seeing someone trying to strip MJ of a title he earned.

  12. So Mj would be at 380 Million if you include Jackson 5/Jacksons?


    You gotta do Paul McCartney at some point.

    What is the pace of sales every year (recently)of MJ vs. Beatles?
    I feel with the artists being so close…….maybe MJ will outsell Beatles one day

    1. The Beatles will continue to sell records in the future, and their streaming
      numbers increase every week > So MJ is not going to surpass The Beatles
      any time soon.

      1. I believe Michael Jackson is doing better in streaming than the Beatles.

        Spotify current numbers

        MJ’s monthly listeners: 14,530,601 (#87)
        Beatles monthly listeners: 10,517,216 (#133)

        Although MJ’s numbers has been boosted a bit these days by the Scream project, but I do look at their numbers from time to time and MJ has always been well ahead of the Beatles, except for a short period when the Beatles enjoyed the initial hype of their catalog getting on Spotify.

        And on YouTube (which is by far the biggest streaming platform) MJ is constantly around Nr. 20-30 (#23 as we speak with 76.6 million weakly views) while the Beatles aren’t even in the Top 100 (https://artists.youtube.com/charts/artists).

        I know there are other streaming platforms too, but if this is an indication for something then I think MJ is ahead of the Beatles in streaming.

  13. Please check page 19…….Invincible album equivalent is off.
    I think 1 million singles is worth more than 24 thousand album sales

  14. With so few studio albums, his results are ridiculous. Madonna which is considered to probably be his biggest contender need to sell more albums and more singles and yet she didnt even come close to beating his results. Its also really crazy to think that Thriller alone is almost as big as the entire discography of Britney Spears. It is just unreal.

  15. Does anyone doubt that if the Chandlers had not thrown him under the bus for the mighty dollar (which also paved the way for the Arvizos’ ridiculous allegations) and if the US and UK media had not waged an all out war against this guy’s character for 30 years he would be by far the biggest selling artist of all time well ahead of the Beatles even without the Jackson 5 and Jacksons records?

    There were quite a few people who didn’t want that and it’s not hard to figure out that they were white.

    1. Yeah and imagine The Beatles never split up and went on to record and sell millions & millions more albums and singles.

      No need for fan boy bullshit. Stick to the facts, not “maybes” and “might ofs”.

      1. Totally different. The Beatles were a very young group and like all groups were going to disband anyway and they were going to g to age out quicker than MJ did. MJ was a singular artist. His sales were going to fall off anyway(that’s inevitable) but had things not happened how they did he would’ve sold more. Maybe not as many as the Beatles but more

      2. Relax, there’s no need for all the hostility. If you’re such a Beatles fan boy, why aren’t you on their page? Hellno was making a very great point, but let’s talk about the facts. MJ was still in his peak, and had those allegations not happened, he would’ve done better. Fact. There’s no secret that desperate people was so mad at his success, because he was a black artist doing what was only known for white artists to do, that they wanted to tear him down. Fact. MJ’s numbers are incredible, even if you don’t want to admit to it, for someone whose solo discography is small compared to his peers and predecessors. Fact. Shall I go on? But I’m confused at what’s upsetting you more: the fact that MJ did fewer releases than The Beatles and still pulled in the numbers that he did? Or the fact that had certain things not occurred he would’ve probably been much closer to them?

  16. I cant believe Billie Jean is bigger than My Heart Will Go On. I would have accepted if it was Thriller. I thought Thriller was MJ”s biggest single.

    1. I thought the same but then again Billie Jean is the song that made MJ a superstar. The video integrated MTV, Motown 25, the moonwalk, etc

  17. Thank you for finally doing MJ! 323M+ CSPC is insane and shows just how far ahead of his peers he really was, with fewer studio releases than most of them.

  18. I just want to make a small correction and let you know that Thriller isnt the best selling international album in Argentina, Luis Miguel has that title

  19. The DVD History on film II sold more than 130k here in Brazil (see the codes in UK mix), and you listed it, with only 200k sold worldwide. It’s a typo?!

    1. Hi Marcus!

      Good spot – figures of Ghosts (200k) and HIStory on Film: Volume II (1650k) were reversed. As Ghosts go to Orphan while HIStory to the biggest albums, this changes the totals of all 79-95 studio albums! Obviously as this is only a translation the overall total of Michael stays the same.

  20. OMG, MJ sales is so gigantic 😮

    While Madonna is undoubtedly the biggest female solo artist of all time, we are still confused who the biggest MALE solo artist of all time. Most people (including Guinness World Record) seem to believe that Elvis is the one, though.

    So now, we need to know the CSPC breakdown of Elvis 😀

      1. Elvis Maybe, but Elton and Queen never the best seller or biggest(male solo&Band, but Barbra is probably the biggest female of all time

        1. Yes Queen and Elton are. IMO Queen, Elvis & Elton are the last three artists that will be in the Top 10, Barbara won’t be, she won’t come near to Madonna or Celine and probably wont top Mariah either, so there is no way she is either the best selling female or in the Top 10 best selling artists ever.

          1. I refer to different group. Elvis is arguably the biggest male solo, and Barbra is the female version, too. But never Queen & Elton, the former is not part of top3 band even, the later may be out of top3. Off course, Bands and males outsold the same rank of female ones, but Madonna is creditd best or biggest not Elton or Queen. They all sold much less than the no1 in the group. They are better or bigger but not best seller, there’s a girl with best grade in your class rather than someone in total top 10

          2. I don’t care about splitting things into male, female or group categories, sex/gender has no bearing on music or musical sales. It is not like athletics, where due to physical difference, there is a need to measure just males against males & females against females. Being the biggest female (or male or band) has no meaning, as there are no specific or different attributes or deficiencies, gained or lost by being a female or male soloist or group.

            I just want to see the best selling artists and Queen & Elton are, they have clearly sold far more than you think. Also (although not that it matters), I believe Barbara will place lower or about the same place amongst females, as Queen & Elton will place amongst groups & male soloists and they will both be above her overall and in the Top 10.

            Barbara I imagine will easily fall behind Madonna, Celine & probably Mariah, Queen will probably fall behind the Beatles but won’t be far away from Pink Floyd & The Rolling Stones and the only male soloists I’d put above Elton is Michael.

          3. Queen and Elton John may not finish that far behind Madonna in the final ranking. It will all depend on their albums sales which, with new formulas, may be affected and probably more than I’m thinking. They will be an interesting case, as will Elvis Presley and Barbra Streisand. All of them will be studied eventually but they will take time as they are all tough.

            In the meantime, new acts have to be covered too as they are necessary to calculate annual charts for recent years and because -let’s be honest- there is probably more interest in them than in old acts.

      2. I’d be interested in Queen too. They have always struggled a bit in the US sales wise and since it is the biggest market it may affect them big time, but were doing well in other Western countries (and especially the UK, of course). They are doing very well in streaming though (esp. Spotify).

  21. It seems obvious that Thriller will never be over taken, either in terms of raw sales or CSPC sales, given the current dynamics of the industry. Even if record sales were still like they were in the 90’s, it doesn’t seem possible that one album or one entertainer could generate this many sales in this many different markets. I think that leaves MJ firmly entrenched as the King of Pop forever.

    That leaves the question, was it the entertainer, Micheal Jackson or the Album, Thriller that put him here? Clearly one plays into the other, but there just seems to be something magical about Thriller, the top 4 songs on it, the way it was promoted, the music videos, Motown 25, and the mystery of MJ during that period that elevated him from a great entertainer to the status of icon. On the other hand, nobody but Micheal Jackson could have made this album. I guess it’s a mobius strip. You can’t have one without the other.

  22. Quoting the RIAA Write up on Michael Jackson’s Thriller February 16, 2017

    Michael Jackson’s Thriller has become the first album in RIAA Gold & Platinum Program history to be certified 33x Diamond as it reaches 33m US sales and streams.

    Thriller is still the only album ever to have surpassed the RIAA’s 30 million mark in US sales.

    Worldwide, its total now tops over 105 million copies. Jackson’s overall worldwide record sales exceed 1 billion.

    His seventh album Bad has also achieved RIAA 10x Diamond Award status in recognition of US sales and streams of 10m units.

    During his career, Jackson released 13 No.1 singles and became one of only a handful of artists to be inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
    How does their estimation of 1 Billion overall Album sales worldwide fear with yours?

    And why are we discussing other artists on here when this break down pertains to Michael Jackson?
    And I fully agree that if these false accusations, that surprisingly started in 1993 literally overnight thanks to the works of Diane Diamond and her sidekick Tom Sneddon who kept quiet about the fact that he had over 100 pedophile priests in his district and blew up as a scandalous story mere weeks before Diane took the worlds eyes off of the Catholic Priests and the Vatican by blowing up the Michael Jackson Accusation without Facts, Evidence, which completely erased the Pedo Priest scandal from the public eyes. Coincidence, I don’t think so. Sneddon couldn’t stand Michael Jackson, his fame, his residency in his constituency and Neverland which is suppose to be a oil gold mine and they wanted MJ off from there using all means they could muster. No Black entertainer, with such a worldwide influence on the public, should have that much power.
    Sometimes people need to think outside the box.

    1. Hi Elke,

      The RIAA does not make “estimations”, let alone about Worldwide sales. They have 0 authority on that point and are barely quoting the nonsense written here and there. Thinking outside the box is also not sticking with the most copy/pasted nonsense around!

      Also, I don’t think you can seriously blame people to be out of the subject speaking of sales of other acts while you go on with Vatican, priests, Sneddon etc garbage. The subject isn’t MJ, it is his charts & sales achievements.

    2. “No Black entertainer, with such a worldwide influence on the public, should have that much power.”

      I remember back in the mid 00s Britney Spears was everywhere in the press, and somehow everybody tried to make her the world biggest jokes and destroyed her career for good. Is it because no “White Entertainer” should have such a worldwide influence and so much power? How about John Lennon when he was shot to death? Is that because no “White Entertainer” should be that powerful? Its stupid how black people would make racism for every single thing.

      1. “Its stupid how black people would make racism for every single thing.”

        First of all, I’m black and I don’t appreciate my race being generalized like this. I don’t see racism for every single thing, but I do call it like I see it and I call out racism when necessary; no matter who it is. Assuming that you’re probably white, I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if I said white people are nothing more than a bunch of racists. So what I’m saying is: in the near future, be careful with generalizing a race of people because that same generalization is why we have so many race problems in our world today. Now onto the ridiculous Britney Spears and John Lennon examples you used. Let’s start with Britney. The reason her career tanked had nothing to do with the press. It had more to do with her mental instability. Shaving her head, attacking paparazzi with an umbrella, and that embarrassing VMA performance is what did it. The same thing happened with Mariah Carey’s career when she had her breakdown, but I think MC bounced back a little bit better with TEOM. Now John Lennon. He certainly wasn’t killed because he was a white man with influence and power; and there’s no correlation between John getting shot by a psychotic man who was obsessed with him, which eventually turned to anger because he started to see John as a walking contradiction, to what the person above said about MJ. And I would explain to you how there was racism toward MJ, but like MJD said, “[t]he subject isn’t MJ, it is his charts & sales achievements.” And I have no problem with keeping the focus on that, but I had to answer to the ignorance.

  23. I completely agree with the excitement of the biggest acts being evaluated…….it’s only natural.
    So although there is an argument here and there about a select few……I’m sure we all can agree on the remaining top 10 to 20 best sellers.
    Let’s make a list of the most likely artists/groups that haven’t been done yet.
    Here’s mine (in no particular order)
    1. Elvis Presley
    2. Elton John
    3. Queen (maybe add Freddie Mercury solo)
    4. Barbara Streisand
    5. Frank Sinatra
    6. Bing Crosby
    7. Garth Brooks
    8. AC/DC
    9. Phil Collins/Genesis
    10. Rod Stewart (add faces and jeff beck)
    11. Cliff Richard/Shadows????
    12. Sting/Police
    13. Paul McCartney
    14. Prince
    15. 2Pac (just a guess on this one)
    16. Eagles (I’d like to see Don Henley solo career added too)
    17. Robbie Williams/Take That
    18. Aerosmith
    19. Journey (19 and 20 are negligible and totally up for debate) (add Steve Perry solo career)
    20. Chicago (add Peter Cetera solo career)

    1. Hi Nathan!

      You should add the likes Neil Diamond, Bob Marley, Claptan, Santana, Simon & Garfunkel and the Beach Boys who definitely outsold the likes Journey, Chicago, Robbie, Sting, Bing Crosby or Robbie.

  24. Hi MJD, just found your site. Congratulations for this incredible job! The amount of details is simply amazing. Hope you make a post about Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra in the future!

  25. Hi dears Hernàn and MJD !!!
    You could give us some hint or anticipation about who will be analyzed after the king of pop (Michael Jackson).

  26. Amazing job! Some albums are actually bigger than I expected!

    I’d love to see Avril Lavigne, Jennifer Lopez and Ariana Grande in the future 🙂

  27. Hi MJD!

    Sorry it took me so long to reply! Anyway, this analysis is perfect! I had never seen such amazing success from an artist before. I even consider MJ’s stats more impressive than the Beatles!

    While MJ has achieved phenomenal success in all sales avenue, I feel like he was proportionally weaker in the physical singles department. His is only slightly ahead of Madonna, and I can’t believe he doesn’t have a single song over 5m units in that format! I thought songs like Billie Jean and Beat It would be past that. Still, he hasn’t released that many albums, and his consistency is amazing here! The Bad album’s biggest seller was only at over 2m units, but all the singles combined add for an extraordinary 13m units!

    Secondly, regarding his album sales, he is obviously huge in this avenue as well, But does MJ belong as the top seller in this format in any country/continent? In the US, he is outsold by Barbara, The Beatles etc while in Asia, he’s outsold by Mariah and the Fab 4. I’m not sure about South America though. Madonna sold more than MJ in the 3 main markets there, but perhaps overall MJ outsold her in that continent? His European sales are fantastic also, with so many albums at 8m/10m+

    Also, on your achievements page, you said that Thriller and Dangerous were the top 2 biggest selling international albums there, Are you referring to studio albums, because Mariah’s #1’s and Whitney’s Bodyguard album outsold those 2 albums there. Also, Dangerous’ sales in Asia are INSANE! Barely 1m in Japan yet over 4m outside of it is phenomenal. Is Dangerous the biggest selling album in Asia outside Japan?

    I didn’t expect Bad to be the 3rd most successful album as well! People often called it an under performance compared to Thriller, but in all honestly, Thriller is simply on another dimension, and if a 60m+ follow up is an under performance, then all albums by other artists are total flops then. Dangerous did absolutely amazing too.

    Lastly, I wanna ask how many units did you think MJ’s death has generated? Do you think he would still be this big in terms of overall success? I’m not devaluing his success, but his death gave his catalog such a huge boost like no other artist before!

    Really looking forward for your next project!

    1. To answer your question about MJ being a top seller in any country/continent. I think some of that is outlined on his achievement pg.
      But… I think MJ sold more than the Beatles and MC and Asia.
      In Asia MCs has 18,500,000 album sales and 30,500,000 total.
      The Beatles have 23mill albums and 33mlion overall
      On pg47 he has MJ at 25,690,000 for total album sales. So MJ has definitely outsold both in Albums but possibly overall as well.
      For South America. Madonna outsold him in Brazil(5,795,000 vs 5,500,000) and Argentina(1,930,000 vs 1,785,000) but MJ outsold Madge in Mexico(4,370,000 vs 4,500,000). So it’s pretty even in SA.

      MJ sold lots of untis since his death, I think something close to 30 million Albums but he was still huge before then. The only reason he sold as much as he did in death was due to the sales he generated in life. His back catalog has always sold really well. So the sales after his death cemented his legacy rather than made it

      1. Thank you for replying, but in the achievements page, it didn’t specify which country MJ was the biggest selling albums artists. Also, regarding Asia, the 25,69m figure is already the total album sales there, while MC has 30,5m+ and the Fab 4 has 33m+, so obviously, those 2 sold more albums than him. I don’t know about overall records though.

        1. Not quite. MC and Beatles gave both album and overall totals. For MJ his total is for just Albums. His total Album number is about 80-100 million off from his overall total in the last page.
          So for Albums
          Mariah 18,500,000 albums (30,500,000 total)
          MJ 25,690,000
          Beatles 23,000,000 albums(33,000,000 total)
          So based on those numbers he more than likely outsold both overall as well.
          MJD shared thosw numbers in the comments under Mariahs article.

          1. I am very well aware of the comment you were talking about, as I was the one who asked that question. I asked whether Mariah was the biggest selling international ALBUM artist in Asia. The 30,5m for her and 33m figure for the Beatles is for album sales ONLY, just like the near 26m of MJ’s. If you don’t believe me, just go to Mariah’s CSPC analysis and add up all her album sales in Asia from her album sales breakdown. You will get a total at around 30m. The same for the Beatles. We don’t know who sold the most overall records, but we do know in terms of album sales, it would be Beatles, Mariah then MJ.

          2. Hi Raffi!

            It really depends on what you count. If it is albums, then the Beatles lead as you mention. If you add music videos, MJ has a real shot since he sold more than 4 million DVDs in Japan alone. Factoring in physical singles, the Beatles are ahead anew with a massive gap, MJ sold over 1m singles in Japan, Mariah close to 2m, but the Beatles are way ahead at 7,5 million. As virtually no singles were sold in other Asian markets, the deal is quickly sealed!

  28. To be honest… The King Michael Joseph Jackson is definitely the best Musician, the best Entertainer of the World of all times!!!

    Michael Jackson is really a Monster… He is a Dinosaur!!!

    Michael Jackson is the best selling albums / copies artist of the World of all times.

    When the subject is Michael Jackson’s sold copies we talk about BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of copies sold all over the World!!!

    Michael Jackson is not a commom artist… He’s so UNIQUE!!!

    OBS: I know that some people do not like Michael Jackson… But it does not mean that you have the right to hide or to cover the biggest truth that Michael Jackson sold and has been sold BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of copies all over the World.

    Unfortunately, some people do not make any idea about Michael Jackson’s influence in the World!!!

    Michael Jackson has got BILLIONS of fans all over the World!!!

    BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of copies sold.

    He has made the best Videos Clips….. ETC…. ETC…







      1. I know you’re super busy but in the future can you do a more comprehensive breakdown for past artist? With the recent artist you have sales by country. It would be nice to see it for other artist as well, if that’s possible.

    1. Hi Erdos!

      The US isn’t like the UK. In the UK, an act can get various super-sellers quickly (Robbie, Coldplay, Oasis, Adele, Ed, Beatles, MJ, etc). In the US, some albums can fly over the moon and the artist will be recognized for it for decades (Journey, Boston, Guns, Elton, Carole King, Tracy, Springsteen, Police, Fleetwood Mac, Prince, etc.). They may get some more good sellers, the huge breakthrough crossover will continue to sell so much over the remaining records that it will only increase the gap. You can get several artists that got 3 massive sellers in a row in the UK, I’m not sure you will get a single one that had 3 consecutive 6-million sellers in the US catalog sales apart.

      Madonna, George Michael, Springsteen, Prince, Bon Jovi or Def Leppard are artists that were getting Diamond albums when MJ was failing it with Bad. Still, they all did about 2 million units only with their first album from the 90s (only Def Leppard reached 3m). The few which did well entering the 90s were still fairly fresh/new acts like the Guns or U2. So it is all about perspectives, most 80s superstars would have dream to get a 7-million seller from 1991!

      1. It highlights the shift to even greater success MJ got commercially outside USA that despite the drop in American sales from Thriller’s era, Bad and Dangerous are 33M+ and 3oM sellers (Dangerous less than 500K from the mark) WW. Per average studio record, MJ must be easily the best seller even with Invincible pulling down the number.

        1. You said it yourself, they were “Top 20 in 1983”, e.g. they were band that was still selling their albums to the Rock fans only. Pre-1987, their highest charting single went barely #33. Both radios and the general public heard about U2 from 1987 onwards.

  29. Great work! Such HUGE numbers! Truly the King of POP!

    One question though.
    On page 33 you suggest that the four albums Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous combined created 100% of the 18.625.000 album sales of History. But is this true? Surely the new songs/disc 2 must hace created some of those sales.


    1. Hi again dear!

      On page 33 it refers to the CD1 of the package! The CD2 is counted too but as a studio album. The CSPC methodology distinguish albums as they were first released, so this LP is regarded as two distinct pieces, one studio album and one compilation, rather than a single double-album. In the same range of idea, box sets that put together distinct albums are re-allocated in full into sales of all studio albums included.

      1. Hi MJD

        Yes, I actually realized that myself after I wrote that. It’s like adding 500,000 to each of the individual albums included in Led Zeppelin’s Complete Recordings Boxsets.

        In this case it rises a few questions.

        a) Would the History compilation have sold more as a stand alone album in 1995 because the casual fan didn’t want to pay for the new songs?
        b) Would the History studio album have sold less without the old hits to fuel sales?
        c) Would the History studio album have sold more as a stand alone album, because some fans wouldn’t pay for the old hits already in their collection?
        d) Would the Hitstory compilation have sold less without the new songs to intrigue fans?

        Ranked as a) the most likely and d) the least likely.
        My guess is the hits collection would have sold more and the studio album a bit less.

        1. Hi Thomas!

          We are lucky enough to have various factual evidences to answer those questions!

          1) Sales of the studio album
          In 1995, 432 million physical singles were sold in the World. This is a solid figure, but this still falls short of the related market in every year from 1970 to 1985. Nevermind, Earth Song became MJ’s first million selling single in the UK. Germany is a market with strong tradition of both singles sales and albums sales which leads very distinct acts to perform well on each side. For example, Queen never got a #1 single there but sold more albums than the Beatles. Their only Top 3 hits (Flash / Radio Ga Ga) were arguably from albums that haven’t performed *that* well. MJ too never got a #1 single from 1979 to 1994, but he easily sold over 2 million units of each Bad and Dangerous. Then Earth Song and They Don’t Care About Us both shot to #1 for a combined 9 weeks, they lasted 29 weeks inside the Top 10.
          Why do I mention those statistics? As you know, older an artist gets, the most established he is. He gains credit and moves from selling singles to selling albums. It’s not normal to see an artist 25 years into his super-successful career get career highs singles-wise. These doped singles results are a clear indication of casual buyers ignoring the album History due to its price (more than $30 at the time), cherry-picking singles instead. While it’s worthier to go by albums when the price is about 2,5 times higher than singles, it isn’t anymore with a 7 to 1 gap.

          Have old hits fueled the interest and as such its sales though? Well, no. The issue is that MJ’s albums had sold insane numbers which means casual buyers already owned pretty much his entire discography. Paying for the CD1 was equal to give money away, hence the huge results of its singles. This is also why Sony packaged it together, to milk an additional $20 from people who already owned all his songs.

          Its music club sales are also a solid indicator. It sold nearly half of its SS total through Clubs, a very high ratio. The demand was much higher once the price difference was offset as it was the case on Clubs, where double albums were counted as two, but it was much less painful to “pay” 2 units in a “12 for 1” offer than $30 from your own money.

          In terms of catalog sales, History has really been lagging behind the previous albums. One may though it isn’t as popular, but the gap is again not natural. It has been selling routinely 10 times less than OTW in the US while its songs are downloaded/streamed “only” 3 times less there. I can compare it with every other album to similar results. Once again it shows that the price has left out not only consumers, but also retailers which often stopped stocking it after its initial promotion.

          2) Sales of the compilation album
          As the first major compilation by an A-League artist, we should compare it with the likes The Immaculate Collection, All The Way, #1s (Mariah), Cross Road, U2’s Best Of 1980-1990, but also Gold, One, GHII (Queen) which were the first major CD compilations of their respective artists. All those albums sold almost as much / more than HIStory. Similar 90s best of albums from the likes Sade, Enya, Phil Collins, Lionel Richie, Lenny Kravitz, Tina Turner, Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Sting, etc, all sold more than 10 million units. Those singers are all popular but not close to MJ. HIStory (CD1) would have most likely sold less than the 2CD package during the first 18 months, but ultimately it would have gone much higher thanks to catalog sales.

          This is the big flaw of this release. The studio album clearly suffered from its price while the compilation failed to become a perrenial seller because of the weird package. HIStory went quickly down to 10,000 annual sales in the US which shows it wasn’t regarded as a compilation at all by the general public / retailers.

          3) Sales of remaining albums
          Something which needs to be said is that History truncated MJ’s catalog sales but also sales of subsequent compilations. As you should know, the likes OTW, Thriller, Bad sold way more in 92/94 than after 1995 because of this release. On its side, Number Ones was received with little fanfare because of History too.

          All in all, had the studio album been released alone, MJ would have gained from 5 to 10 million units 3 times, from History (I would guess a good 25m units on that scenario), from his catalog studio albums (1m to 2m units more each from 1995 to 2002) and from Number Ones (likely close to 20m by now rather than over 12m). With the CSPC, this exploitation specificity is erased as both CDs count distinctively!

  30. The Way You Make Me Feel has just passed 100m plays on Spotify. This means Bad joins the elite field of pre- 2000 albums with 3 x 100m songs!

    The other 7 albums being:
    GnR Appetite, Dr. Dre 2001, RHCP Californication, Nirvana Nevermind, Fleetwood Mac Rumours, Bob Marley Exodus and of course MJ’s own Thriller.

    With the song Bad at 64m there’s also a chance Bad is gonna be one of the first albums with 4 x 100m songs. Thriller is likely to be the very first (P.Y.T is now at 93,5m)

    In the future the two albums could race each other for 5 x 100m songs 🙂 Dirty Diana is only 0,75m plays behind Wanna Be Starting Something, both at around 51m.
    Dr. Dre is leading this race though with his 2001 album. Xxplosive is at 57m.

  31. I follow your articles and evaluations now for a long time. Truly an incredible job you are doing here.
    I have a question. Surely you heard from the Quincy Jones interview where he claims MJ stole Billie Jean. It really annoys me how the media takes everything negative so unchecked when it comes to Michael. It has been a strategy of Quincy Jones for years now to tarnish him as a artist and portray himself as the true maker(architect of Michael Jackson. In fact, the media are only too happy to portray it as if MJ was made by others and he has the lowest of all shares in its own success. I think it is not a surprise he took his signature song because it gives the most damage. Do you think this Jones attack to portray Michael as the thief of Billie Jean harms him in the long run.
    I think more interviews from him will come around his 85 birthday (Oprah is obviously one of the next).
    I’m always amazed how MJ after all these attacks not only his personal life but also the attacks to him as a artist he continues to have this success.

    1. Hi Marlene!

      To be honest, I don’t think many people care about Quincy’s rants for many years. The ones giving him credit are the same ones outside of the black culture, mostly rock fans on their 60s+, which anyway never liked MJ since it broke various Beatles’ records and never played instruments live. Basically, Quincy comments will only convinced people who already convinced themselves!

  32. Hi MJD,

    thank you for your prompt reply. It’s just that main stream media (not limited to tabloids) spreads it, so you think people who hear it casually just take it as a real news and it will be cemented in their head.
    But yes, in the end I think and hope that you are right.

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