Original Album Sales – Comments
1973 Catch A Fire – 3,175,000
1973 Burnin’ – 3,200,000
1974 Natty Dread – 3,650,000
1976 Rastaman Vibration – 4,525,000
1977 Exodus– 8,025,000
1978 Kaya – 5,925,000
1979 Survival – 4,600,000
1980 Uprising – 7,025,000
1983 Confrontation – 2,950,000
The discography of Marley has two parts to it. The first one is made up of his recordings from the early 60s to 1972, while the second covers the period of 1973 to 1980 which is listed here.
Those time frames are fundamentally different in several ways. In terms of format, the 1963-1972 period is made up exclusively of singles released at fast pace. From 1973, Bob Marley and his teammates from the Wailers issued complete albums starting with Catch A Fire. In terms of music style Marley was fully involved into Jamaica’s music evolution, going from Ska tunes to Rocksteady songs to Reggae music during the first half of his career, while merging elements from Rock to his Reggae sound starting in 1973. In terms of business he went from independent records / local label contracts to international releases thanks to his signing at Island Records, again in 1973.
This lack of proper studio albums pre-1973 explains why only later albums are listed here. The early songs shouldn’t be overlooked though. Various of them were newly recorded for those later albums like Stir It Up, Duppy Conqueror and Lively Up Yourself. As the early recordings are free of rights, they have been issued under hundreds and hundreds of compilations after the global breakthrough of Marley. We will get there during the upcoming section related to compilation albums.
Back to original album sales, we can notice that each of his 8 international studio albums plus the posthumous release Confrontation sold from 3 to 8 million units a piece. Those figures are incredible if we consider the non-existence of reggae when he started, the relatively low peaks of his albums and the mere 14,000 units sold by Catch A Fire during its promotional campaign. Those figures are rather low if we put them in front of Marley‘s aura.
No matter how we look at it, more than 43 million album sales on the back of his studio albums alone is truly merit-worthy.