CSPC: Usher Popularity Analysis

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Usher Video for "Trading Places"

Full Length related record Sales

It sounds fairly logical to add together weighted sales of one era – studio album, physical singles, downloads, streams – to get the full picture of an album’s popularity. For older releases though, they also generate sales of various live, music videos and compilation albums.

All those packaging-only records do not create value, they exploit the value originating from the parent studio album of each of its tracks instead. Inevitably, when such compilations are issued, this downgrades catalog sales of the original LP. Thus, to perfectly gauge the worth of these releases, we need to re-assign sales proportionally to its contribution of all the compilations which feature its songs. The following table explains this method.

How to understand this table? If you check for example the OMG Tour Live From London music video line, those figures mean it sold 125,000 units worldwide. The second statistics column means all versions of all the songs included on this package add for 872,000 equivalent album sales from streams of all types.

The second part on the right of the table shows how many equivalent streams are coming from each original album, plus the share it represents on the overall package. Thus, streaming figures tell us songs from Confessions are responsible for 39% of the OMG Tour Live From London track list attractiveness. This means it generated 49,000 of its 125,000 album sales and so forth for the other records.

The first 3 live products issued from 1999 to 2002 are logically dominated by tracks from My Way, 8701 and then Confessions songs take over part of the attractiveness of those packages in later years. The Versus EP is a great addition to Raymond v Raymond.

23 thoughts on “CSPC: Usher Popularity Analysis”

  1. His sales remind me of Janet’s: impressive in the USA in his heydays but extremely local to the USA. I can’t believe none of his 90s releases sold over 10 million copies. At least, unlike Janet, he managed to sell over 15 million with one album.

    1. Hi babyshowers!

      Demographics are very important in records sales. Usher and Janet Jackson are part of the black culture. Black music doesn’t sell a thing in Latin America, Latin Europe or in Eastern Europe to name a few, quite simply because their culture is very distant from that one. In the same way that we can’t expect a Latin singer to sell a high number of records in the US or the UK, we can’t expect R&B stars to move a significant number of discs in countries were there is no real black community. Both Janet and Usher already did very fine elsewhere in comparison to acts like Luther Vandross, Common or DMX.

      1. Hi MJD, what an amazing site.
        I manage the official Mel & Kim website and I have been trying to track down official worldwide sales statistics on the girls’ releases for our website and an upcoming book we have planned. Could you advise on where I can seek this information or help in any way? I have included my email address. Thank you so much. Iain.

      2. Speaking of demographics, how about Asia? Do they embrace black culture and R&B music? From Usher and Janet, they performed quite well in Japan, as well as other R&B artists like Beyonce. Mariah and Michael, however, are huge stars there, though some would classify them as pop artists than R&B.

        1. Hi Raffi!

          Japan as well as South Korea have been quite opened to black artists. Acts like Stevie Wonder always sold well there. It isn’t true in all regions through, China was closed for long, countries like India and Indonesia are more oriented around Latin music, not kind on urban songs. The Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore are strong places for pure pop music. As you can see, they aren’t all in the same line!

          1. That’s interesting to know MJD! However, I saw that Alicia Keys was an exception to that rule. In fact, she sold relatively low amount of albums in Southeast Asia, with modest sales in Japan. Yet, her success was very impressive in Europe, with her album sales surpassing her R&B peers there. Is there any explanation to this?

            Also, does Alicia, Usher and Beyonce own the Top 5 biggest selling R&B albums of the 2000s? According to your estimations:
            1. Songs In A Minor 3,390,000
            2. Confessions 2,770,000
            3. Dangerously in Love 2,730,000
            4. I Am Sasha Fierce 2,710,000
            5. Diary of Alicia Keys 2,200,000

            Are there any other R&B albums that sold more than those in Europe? Those 3 were truly the biggest R&B acts of the 2000s, yet each of them are more dominant than the other in certain markets. In the US, it’s Usher>Beyonce>Alicia. In Europe, it’s Alicia>Beyonce>Usher. In Asia, it’s Beyonce>Usher>Alicia.

            Anyway, MJD, are you currently working on the CSPC analysis on Michael Jackson, since you’ve been working on his US sales now? If so, can’t wait for it!

          2. Hi Raffi!

            DC’s Survivor sold 2,88 million in Europe. MJ’s Invincible did 2+ million, as an album produced by Jerkins I suppose it may be considered, although it would be out of the Top 5 when including Survivor. I don’t think you missed albums – except if you count the Black Eyed Peas, but I guess not, same for compilations.

  2. You included More into the Raymond V Raymond era for digital sales but not for streaming (it is mentionned in the orphan category).

    Is it a mistake or done on purpose?

    Interesting article.

    1. A couple of points which seem wrong. “With 191 million streams on Spotify, Yeah! is among the Top 20 most streamed tracks released before the creation of the platform in 2006”

      Spotify started in October 2008 not 2006 and I can see at least around 30 tracks (there are probably more), that were released prior to Spotifys creation, that have more streams than Yeah!, the majority of them were actually released even prior to 2006.

      Bo Rhap, Californication, Wonderwall, Under The Bridge, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Mr Brightside, Sweet Child of Mine, All I Want For Xmas, Billie Jean, The Scientist, Yellow, Fix You, Seven Nation Army, Sweet Home Alabama, Hotel California, Hey Ya, Crazy In Love, Hips Don’t Lie, Golddigger, You’re Beautiful, Numb/Encore, Iris, Lose Yourself, Mockingbird, Till I Collapse, Without Me, Stronger (Kayne) & Snow (Hey Ho) are all higher than 191m and The Real Slim Shady & In Da Club are also on 191m but may (may not) be higher, if there are additional versions to the main ones.

      1. Hi Martin!

        Spotify was created in April 2006. The date of October 2008 is its launch to public access, but as songs from 2006-2007 were still very young then, I prefer focusing on pre-2006 tunes when mentioning ‘catalog’ songs on Spotify spectrum.

        You are right about Yeah! failing the top 20 though! I had streams from distinct dates for most of the songs you mention and I haven’t realized a bunch of them climbed that much lately. I can add a couple of them like How To Save A Life, Chasing Cars, Is This Love, Still DRE and The Next Episode. I’ll change it to top 50 😉

  3. Great article! Usher has had a great career, even if the past few years haven’t been good at all for him. To be honest I was expecting Confessions to be a bit closer to 20 million, but 15.5 million is still an amazing number! His last album was a massive bomb. I can’t believe he went from 15.5 million to 160k. His streaming numbers are actually pretty good! Confessions having nearly half a billion streams on Spotify and nearly 600k album equivalents is pretty amazing.

    I’d suggest doing P!nk at some point, as she’s definitely one of the biggest acts of the past 20 years, plus she’s releasing her new album next month and her new single is doing great in Europe and Oceania! P!nk + Justin Timberlake/NSYNC + Avril Lavigne would complete the biggest solo acts from the 2000s decade since we already have Britney, Beyonce/Destiny’s Child, Usher, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, etc. Again, great job as usual!

  4. Whe we will have another “Next CSPC Artists ” to vote?! I think its time to Michael Jackson and Barbra Streisand fans fight to get that!

    1. Hi Marcus!

      There is 2 solo male artists, 2 solo females and 2 groups already scheduled after High School Musical, so I’ll wait a bit before doing a new poll. I can only say that some of you will be pleased with the ones to come 😉

      1. Don’t leave us hanging………..who’s coming up?
        Can’t wait for some huge acts from the 70’s like Elton,Rod,Phil Collins/Genesis, Eagles, ………….seeing some more with 100+ million in sales!

  5. Hi MJD!

    Sorry for the late response😅 This analysis is one of my most anticipated ones, and again you did an amazing job!

    Some comments to make:
    -Regarding My Way’s sales in the US, is it true it moved around 2m sales in the US through club sales? Because I remember its last Soundscan sales was reported at 4,4m.
    -My Way’s singles did amazingly well in the US. You had U Make Me Wanna at 2,3m in the US alone, but 1997 Soundscan YEC stated its sales at 2m. Is it due to the Soundscan-Shipment gap we discussed before?
    -I did not expect 8701 single sales to be so low, or how Confessions would be so high! For the former album, are you sure that U Don’t Have To Call sold 100K? That’s a lot for a single only popular in the US. I’m also quite ambivalent towards U Got It Bad’s sales being so low. It was, after all, a bigger success outside the States than U Remind Me. As for Confessions, Yeah is such a great seller! Where did the majority of its sales come from? And how does it rank among songs from 2004-now?
    -Confessions at 10,75m in the US was totally out of my expectations! I thought it’s Soundscan sales were at 10,3m as of now. Where does the additional 450K come from, considering clubs were non-existen during that time.
    -I’m also quite shocked by how well Confessions did in Asia. While nothing groundbreaking, it’s truly great for a R&B album. However, I wanna ask why you lowered its European sales? You had it before at 2,8m+, with 1,45m coming from the UK alone. I thought by now its sales should be above 3m by now.
    -It’s such a shame Usher didn’t release any supporting records to capitalize on Confessions’ success aside from 1 music video. Had he release something like an EP or a remix album, Confessions would be the biggest album released in 2004. But according to your analysis, that distinction goes to American Idiot by Green Day. I suppose because the latter has the edge of a wider international appeal.
    -I did not expect his Orpan album to do so well. He truly contributed to several hits of other artists!
    -How successful were Love In This Club, DJ and OMG were in ringtones and Asian sales, because those totals are outstanding, especially for the former as it sold only over 3m downloads in the US?
    -Out of his outstanding 93,6m digital downloads and rigtones, how many originate from the US? I remember Soundscan reporting him to have sold around 40m downloads a few years back.
    -If we were to calculate CSPC sales in the States alone, how much would Usher’s be? And how high he would rank among most successful acts in the US of his generation? I expect only Eminem, Britney, Linkin Park and perhaps Beyonce to be higher than him. He was truly a force in the States, particularly from 1997-2004.
    -I also am very astonished by how well he performed in the streaming world. How high he would rank among his generation in terms of streaming.
    -Speaking of streaming, I’m aware that Confessions (album) has 2 versions on Spotify. Some tracks have different streams for each version. Did you include streams from both versions? If not, then Confessions can get a slight boost.

    Anyway, thank you for this analysis MJD! Looking forward for the next one!

    1. Another thing i wanna ask: how does Usher rank among the most successful R&B male artists of all time? Top 10 undoubtedly ! The only male R&B artist I can think of above him are Michael Jackson (if you don’t classify him as pop), Prince, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and perhaps (though unsure) Luther Vandross and Little Richard.

      1. Hi Raffi!

        It depends who you wanna put on that folder! Does James Brown enter on it, or Ray Charles? One omission from your list is Barry White. He sold some relevant number of records! The first 4 you mention are out of touch but then Usher comes in the second group of R&B stars ranking 5-10, him, Luther, Barry, Ray, James etc should all be fairly close. Someone like Al Green shouldn’t be that much lower although I admit that I never studied him in details!

        1. By the way MJD, I forgot one successful R&B legend, R.Kelly! Is he more successful than Usher? I also hope you do an analysis on him as well!

    2. Hi Raffi!

      1) My Way was a great seller on Clubs, it was released at the best moment for it plus enjoyed a few more sales from the success of 8701. It went 6xP already in 2000! 1997/1998 is the last period of albums to have sold great amounts in both Columbia & BMG, after that most LPs were exclusives to one or the other. My Way did 796k on BMG and was heavily present on Columbia from very early with the catalog number 224246.
      2) You Make Me Wanna scanned 2m during the calendar year 1997 but it was still going strong in early 1998! The number of 2,3 million refers to its Soundscan sales only, check the last message of this page.
      3) U Don’t Have to Call is on 20k only! It’s U-Turn that is on 100k 🙂
      Yeah should rank rather low among post-2004 singles quite simply due to the heavy number of Japanese singles that sold 1,5m or more! Then there is tons of one hit wonders. For example, Un Monde Parfait by Ilona Mitrecey sold more in France alone in 2005 than Yeah! globally!
      4) Clubs were very low but not non-existent! While a few %s do not change much for most albums in recent years, for a 10-million seller that’s a notable difference. In most, the blockbusters are those on which Clubs relied during the last 15 years. An album like All The Right Reasons sold huge numbers on Clubs. They were up to 4,4% of the business in 2004, which is 450k for a 10,3m seller. It isn’t how the 10,75m figure was set though. Confessions went Diamond in November 2008, a full 4 years before reaching 10m at Soundscan. At that point, it was crossing 9,6m SS sales. As a catalog album on a digital-axed market, there is virtually no retail sales to shipment gap. By now, it is on 10,35m SS sales, e.g. 10,35m + 0,4m = 10,75m!
      5) The formula for Europe has been adjusted after all the details coming out during the Coldplay study. The main markets missing in Europe are Northen markets (Norway, Denmark) and eastern countries (Poland, Czech Republic etc), countries were R&B artists sell mostly poorly. Same for Portugal. Also a few countries were adjusted with more information (France, Switzerland, Sweden), with the usage of Year end charts, which resulted in slightly lower numbers.
      6) He did amazing on both ringtones and in Asian downloads. Love In This Club sold barely more than 2m at Soundscan during its year of release while it appeared at 5,6m inside the IFPI Global Top 10 for the same period. It was Platinum for ringtones with about 1,1m sales for that year (IFPI year, e.g. dec to nov) and sold relatively low numbers in known markets, which imply more than 1 million downloads in Asia, most likely in South Korea!
      7) He has indeed over 40m sales from the US – I have a total 40,8m for the 38 songs with a fixed estimate to date for the US – plus likely close to 10m ringtones as I have set estimates of 21 songs up to 7,25m. In total that’s nearly 60% of sales coming from the US alone!
      8) Doing a quick check, there is about 41m of EAS from the US. That puts him a few millions ahead of Beyonce (solo only) and Nickelback, indeed under the big 3 you mention. Of course, later acts topped him, I’m thinking especially to Taylor Swift. Drake is on about 38m as impressive as it seems.
      9) For streams, Anthony does an amazing job collecting streams for each and every version of songs existing on Spotify. He always combines all YouTube views with relevant numbers, at times several dozens of videos are merged together for a unique song!

      1. Speaking of club sales, why are 8701 club sales so low? I thought it was around 4,8-4,9m on Soundscan sales alone. Its club sales are even lower than Confessions, but wasn’t 8701 released when Club Sales were much healthier. Is it because 8701 wasn’t a blockbuster like Confessions?

        1. Hi again Raffi!

          2001 is the year that saw most clubs crash in the US. If you look at BMG list, both first albums by Eminem and Britney all moved 1m+ there, yet there respective third albums from 2001 failed to reach 300k. Madonna’s Music failed to reach 100k. Janet’s All For You had a special offer limited to 100k units. The market went from 7,6% in 2000 to 4,0% in 2002. In 2004, it was on 4,4%, so as you can see from 8701 era to Confessions era, Clubs were stable, so considering the latter one sold more than two times more, it is kind of logical to see it ahead on Clubs as well!

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