CSPC: Bob Marley Popularity Analysis


Physical Singles Sales – Part 2
Rastaman Vibration (1976) – 93,000 equivalent albums

Johnny Was – 30,000
Roots, Rock, Reggae – 250,000
Positive Vibration – 30,000

Exodus (1977) – 741,000 equivalent albums

Exodus – 420,000
Waiting In Vain – 270,000
Jamming – 430,000
One Love / People Get Ready – 510,000
Three Little Birds – 320,000
Natural Mystic – 30,000
Why Should I/Exodus – 60,000
Turn Your Light Down Slow – 430,000

Kaya (1978) – 381,000 equivalent albums

Is This Love – 500,000
Satisfy My Soul – 160,000
Sun Is Shining – 610,000

Roots, Rock, Reggae remains the only song from the singer that ever made the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US. It peaked at a modest #51 position, although that was enough to push the Rastaman Vibration album to #8.

Songs from the album Exodus are the striking example of the incremental exploitation of Marley‘s catalog. In the UK, which was by far his main market for singles, three of its tracks were released as singles to solid success. The title track went to #14, Waiting In Vain to #27 and Jamming to #9 over a span of 7 months, a fairly standard promotional campaign for a hit album. It wasn’t over yet though.

The continuous increase of his popularity, culminated by Could You Be Loved in 1980, led Island Records to release Three Little Birds as a single in late 1980. The song did well by peaking at #17. Failing to chart in 1982 was the release of Natural Mystic. The medley One Love / People Get Ready dropped in 1984 to promote the best of Legend, hitting #5. Quickly, Waiting In Vain got a new run with a #31 peak. Three Little Birds was then re-run too going to #76 in 1985. Many years later, in 1992, Why Should I / Exodus was out to promote the Songs of Freedom box set, the single went to #42. Turn Your Lights Down Low charted at #15 when it was sampled featuring Lauryn Hill in 1999 to support the remix album Chant Down Babylon while Jammin’ followed in its footsteps in 2000 to less success as the song stopped at #42.

In total, the album Exodus has been home to 11 singles-eras over the course of 4 distinct decades thanks to which 6 of its songs are now over a quarter of a million physical singles sales.

On a lower scale the album Kaya also enjoyed the various re-runs of old songs. While both Is This Love? and Satisfy My Soul did well upon release, Sun Is Shining was a #3 hit in 1999. A new remix of Is This Love? also managed to go to #16 as recently as in 2016, but we will see that inside the section related to digital sales…

30 thoughts on “CSPC: Bob Marley Popularity Analysis”

  1. Is he the 2nd most successful international male act in France behind MJ? Because his albums sales are truly impressive here. His French streams must be quite big too given how hugely popular he is among young people.

    1. Wow thank you for this. I didn’t realize how massive “Legend” would be. A total classic compilation, listening to it right now haha.

    1. Hi Rell!

      I suppose you refer to male artists only. He is clearly among the leading pack but most likely not second. MJ is at 1 but then Bruce Springsteen is slightly over him (5,2m vs 5m) and Elton John is in the same ballpark as well. Surprisingly, Bob Dylan is close too around 4,5 million.

    1. Hi Chrysalynne!

      Sadly Jamaica lacks both market numbers and official charts. From what I know, albums have never been really big there, it was mostly a single market. During the 60s, big hits used to sell up to 50,000 units. From the 70s, 100,000 units was a realistic target for top singles. I have various calculations that put Marley’s physical singles sales there at nearly 2 million units.

      This is very specific of Marley’s results – the weakest a market is, the strongest he appears to be. I’m currently living in Africa and while no legal album is sold in my country, I do not spend a week without seeing his face on a t-shirt or hearing his songs coming off a car or a shop. He is absolutely everywhere. Once streaming gives back some justice to poor areas with many inhabitants, his figures are going to be insane!

  2. He didnt really have a competitor especially in reggae

    But i admit some of his songs are really good and i can imagine that some of his songs will still be played in year 3000.

    Just not really into reggae.

    1. Hi Ingrid!

      Yes, he has. He is far and away ahead of anyone else on this category as the number #2, Madonna’s TIC, is more than 7 million lower and selling much less by now.

  3. I would never guess Bob Marley would have a higher CSPC numbers than David Bowie! Thanks for another one great CSPC analys.

  4. @MJD

    Now, I know that this isn’t a board for social and/or socio-political/economic/religious discussions etc. per say however, as a West-Indian (Jamaican and Trinidadian) man and one of whom grew up listening to Marley extensively as many people across the Caribbean do where he remains somewhat of a perennial Godfather amongst us, I was very disappointed to read recently that he was a deeply homophobic man also.

    [Marley’s manager, Don Taylor, tried to arrange a collaboration between the two legends in 1979 – Prince had just released his second album, while Marley died just a year and a half later – but was unsuccessful in his efforts, largely because of Prince’s wardrobe, or lack of it. After a Prince show in Los Angeles, the reggae legend visited him backstage. Taylor said, “When we called on Prince, he met us in this skimpy leopard g-string undergarment, which immediately aroused Bob’s Jamaican macho feelings, and so our stay was as brief as Prince’s g-string and Bob’s discomfort was shown all over his face.”]

    It’s easy to assume that Bob, being homophobic, saw Prince’s outfit and assumed he was gay, and it made him extremely uncomfortable.

    Ziggy Marley has also spoken before of a close friend of his father’s that he vividly remembers as a teeanger but when it soon came out that he was Gay, Bob completely rejected him. (I believe this man was an ex-member of the Wailers).

    Nonetheless, this doesn’t surprise me in any way, shape or form given his background or religious beliefs. (We all know of the unhealthy state of LGBT relations throughout the Caribbean and Africa). I’ve had conversations like these with family and friends and was always curious to know what Marley’s opinion on non-heterosexuality would be. For someone who preached “love and peace for all” in context of race, class, status etc. why would that perspective suddenly combust and be non-applicable when the topic is on sexuality?

  5. Mindblowing! Of course we all knew “Legend” was massive, but I had no idea Marley’s catalog was this HUGE!

    “this is only the 5th pre-2000 album which registers 3 songs over 100 million on Spotify. The remaining four albums are Michael Jackson‘s Thriller, Fleetwood Mac‘s Rumours, Guns N’ Roses‘ Appetite For Destruction and Nirvana‘s Nevermind.”

    I suspect Metallica’s Black Album and AC/DC’s Back in Black are getting close too. In fact both would most likely be there had they not been held back from streaming for years.

    Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” will probably join the club pretty soon too.


    1. Hi Thomas!

      At least 2 other albums have achieved this incredible performance, “Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and “2001” by Dr. Dre, both released in 1999.
      Concerning the albums you mentionned, the 3rd biggest song for each is:
      – Black Album: The Unforgiven => approx. 90m streams
      – Back in Black: Hells Bells / Shoot To Thrill => approx. 50m streams
      – Slippery When Wet: Wanted Dead Or Alive => approx. 75m streams

      “Exodus” is still the second oldest album to reach this performance, only exceeded by “Rumours” which was released only 4 months before!

    2. Hi Thomas!

      Adding some more details to the ones posted by Anthony 🙂

      About Back to Black, its 3rd and 4th biggest songs are both on 52m so while they will take time to reach 100m, but it may be one of the fisrt albums with 4 songs reaching this milestone!

      The delayed arrival @Spotify isn’t hurting rock bands much actually because of the insane increase of the platform’s traffic. Metallica is there since 2012, streams were still irrelevant then. AC/DC arrived in June 2015. I collected the top 80s tracks in April 2015, below the top songs:
      1 Journey Don’t Stop Believin’ – 113mm (1981)
      2 Michael Jackson Billie Jean – 82,7m (1982)
      3 Survivor Eye Of The Tiger – 62,9m (1982)
      4 U2 With Or Without You – 61,3m (1987)
      5 Toto Africa – 57,4m (1982)

      By now Don’t Stop believin’ is on 362m, Billie Jean is on 295m, Eye On The Tiger on 235m, With Or Without You 184m, Africa on 247m. As you can see songs with a decreasing popularity (Journey/U2 were way more hyped roughly 5 years ago) still multiplied their number by 3, stable songs by about 4. It means that AC/DC’s songs on 50m would have been on about 70m, with 20m ‘lost’ at the beginning. In the case of the Beatles, the loss is even lower since their arrival at Spotify was heavily promoted so they have quickly caught up a good part of the streams lost due to the late availability.

      This really gives back a lot of credit to ‘Exodus’ when we see the albums that are comparable to it!

      1. “About Back to Black, its 3rd and 4th biggest songs are both on 52m so while they will take time to reach 100m, but it may be one of the fisrt albums with 4 songs reaching this milestone!”

        I bet “Thriller” is gonna be the first to do it. I noticed in your MJ CSPC that “P.Y.T.” is about to join the big three from “Thriller” in the 100m club.
        Also, “Bad” is close to having 3 songs top the 100m mark (Mirror, Criminal, Feel) and a 4th song (Bad) will get their eventually too.

        So Michael Jackson is likely to be the first to have an album in the 4 x 100m club AND the first to have TWO albums in the 3 x 100m club AND the 4 x 100m club. Mindblowing!

        So we have

        Pre-2000 Albums in the 3 x 100m club:

        Thriller (267+167+116)
        Nevermind (278+180+104)
        Exodus (188+117+103)
        Appetite ??? (141+92+88) Jun 2016
        Rumours ??? (99+72+47) Oct 2016
        Californication ???
        2001 ???

        (Bad (3rd 90m))
        (Metallica (3rd 90m))
        (Slippery (3rd 75m))
        (Back in Black (3rd 52m))

        Pre-2000 Albums in the 4 x 100m club:

        (Thriller (267+167+116+83))
        (Bad (119+93+90+57))
        (Nevermind (278+180+104+51))
        (Back in Black (?+?+52+52)

        I’m sure you could fill in the blanks and make this list more comprehensive 🙂

        1. A few more to keep an eye on:

          Born in the USA (3rd 64m) Jul 2017
          The Wall (3rd 47m) Jun 2017
          DSOTM (3rd 40m) Jun 2017
          Led Zep IV (3rd 23m) Aug 2016

          1. Some of those are are very outdated numbers, of the top of my head 3rd on LZIV is Rock & Roll on around 42m now. Although it only has one, Stairway, on around 160m that’s over 100m, Black Dog is 2nd on around 49m.

          2. Hi Thomas!

            Well spotted! Ten has four songs over 60m. The main version only:
            – Even Flow 92,8m
            – Alive 101,5m
            – Black 73,4m
            – Jeremy 63,1m

            I always prefered Daughter though 😉

            As for Oasis there is a surprise coming 🙂

          3. Martin, yes these numbers are from August 2016, so I figuered they were getting higher by now

          4. Thanks MJD!
            Saw your great work on Oasis!
            So Morning Glory is 369(!)+118+78 👍
            I think I know what you meant by “Main version only” concerning Ten. Your numbers dont included live versions? Or how about remaster/compilations.
            A search for Stones Satisfaction will bring like 20 results!!!

            I can only find Spotify figures for the top 5 most popular tracks by each artist…🤔

        2. You are right about MJ’s upcoming records! Bad’s 3rd song is already on 97 million now so it is only a matter of days before it joins Thriller. The fourth song from that one is up to 90m now, it has only been a few weeks!

          Californication Top 3 is immense, they are on 268/183/149 million! Same for Dre at 233/227/150 but also tracks at 79m and 55m! An absolute classic record.

          BIB top two is the title track at 181m and YSMANL at 119m.

          btw, you can get all figures for free from Spotify software. I think you need to create an account but it requires you an email address only!

  6. Hi Anthony and MJD

    Thank you both! Excellent stuff!
    A bit disappointed in Hells Bells streams actually, but I guess it will get there eventually. 😁

    Regards Thomas

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