France was one of the countries where Nirvana explosion in 1992 was the most impressive. Even if their third album In Utero failed to sustain the newly gained status of the band with Nevermind, Unplugged In New York was a great come back in top form. Obviously, the passing of Kurt Cobain a few months prior this release surely helped, but it wasn’t only about the sad event.
Debuting at #1 in early November 1994, it wasn’t a unique case for a Live album. If it is a rare feat in UK or in the US, in average about two live albums debut at the top every year in France. It doesn’t decrease the great results of Nirvana set yet that secured a Top 10 placing during last two months of the year corresponding to the hot Christmas season. The album sold 220,000 units during 1994.
The single About A Girl slowly gained traction. Peaking at #23 only, the song remained an impressive 28 weeks inside the Top 50, something very unusual in physical singles era. The album followed the same path. In fact, while debuting at #1 isn’t that rare for a live album, charting inside the Top 10 for its first 32 weeks was quite an achievement yet, so was completing one full year in the Top 20. This amazing run during 1995 was the result of 550,000 copies sold, making it the 7th top seller of the year.
Leaving the Top 50 in early 1996, the album was up to 850,000 copies sold when finally behind updated to 2xPlatinum status (600,000) in November 1997. As shown on the link to the official certification database, the complete Nirvana catalog was updated at that date, which confirms the award wasn’t requested as soon as it was overdue.
During several years, the album never charted. It wasn’t due to low sales yet but rather to a chart too short. In fact, when the mid-price / catalog chart was introduced, Unplugged In New York was often featured. It peaked in the Top 15 of this ranking in 2005, 2006, 2007.
GFK figures from 2003 to 2008 are known for this release by us – it sold 81,000 units in the period, an average of 13,500 copies per year. Estimates are on 20,000 from 1998 to 2002. Since 2009, the set still sells about 200 copies per week, some 10,000 per year.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,100,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, IFOP, GFK.