France best selling albums ever:
Cabrel 77-87 by Francis Cabrel (1987)

Years 1989 to 1995 were the golden years of the LP to CD replacement. Francis Cabrel was the golden sellers of years 1989 to 1995. Put both facts together and you get the largest selling French compilation of the period.

When this compilation was first released for Christmas 1987 it had every possible favorable element backing it. The first six albums released by Francis Cabrel from 1977 to 1987 were not that big sellers when first issued, mostly due to bad market context at this time. They all had well known hits that kept being played on radio for decades. Taxes related to record sales dropped in the month this compilation was released, booming the market suddenly – it jumped almost 40% from 1987 to 1988, with an effect starting in December 1987.

His 1986 non-album track caritative single, Il Faudra Leur Dire, was a big #2 hit in June 1987 just a few months prior the street date of the compilation. People were giving up their LP record players meaning even those who bought his early albums were interested into a compilation. Last but not least, his following album, 1989 set Sarbacane, was going to be a gigantic seller, fueling the appeal of his back catalog.

Someway, Cabrel 77-87 is the French equivalent to The Eagles Greatest Hits 71-75. When released in 1976, The Eagles had no big selling albums but various radio stations favorite tunes, plus made it big with their following album Hotel California, making the compilation a gigantic catalog seller.

This is very precisely how Cabrel 77-87 went on to become a million seller rather quickly despite almost no initial sales. In fact, the album charted a couple of weeks at #28 during Christmas 1987 before dropping out. Obviously, this is very far from being enough for a million sales. The album went Gold, 100,000 sales, in 1988.

Although out of charts, mostly due to its Compilation status that excluded them by 1989, the album went 2xGold, 200,000 sales, in this aforementioned 1989 year, boosted by the smash of Sarbacane. Always off the radar, this underdog was building large sales, clinching a Platinum plaque, representing 300,000 sales, in early 1990.

At the beginning of 1993, the album was certified 2xPlatinum, 600,000 units, less than six years after its initial release, representing over 100,000 yearly catalog sales. In September 1993 the set shortly re-entered at #36 in the main chart. This entry is pretty interesting as his monster seller Samedi Soir Sur La Terre wasn’t released until a full six months later.

The 1993 fall was notable for admitting artist compilations to chart, inclusively enabling The Beatles to get a chart double #1-2 with their Red and Blue packages CD releases. This random re-entry as soon as it was technically possible highlights how this Cabrel 77-87 set was constantly selling some 2,000 copies a week.

In 1994, his new album took France by storm topping charts for 30 weeks. This also led the artist to receive the most insane catalog sales ever recorded by an artist alive. All his past albums, seven studio records in total, likely passed the 100,000 mark that year. That is without counting the 3CD set containing his very first three albums which also sold over 100,000 copies. As you may expect, this compilation outperformed all of them.

Indeed, it jumped to Diamond less than two years after hitting 2xPlatinum, meaning 400,000 sales within’ 22 months, almost 5,000 units a week. The Francis Cabrel catalog was closely followed at the time, with a large audit of many of his past albums in April 1994 and Samedi Soir Sur La Terre regular updates until its August Diamond award. Thus, it is rather clear that the Cabrel 77-87 certification was awarded just after the album was eligible.

At the time, promotion of Samedi Soir Sur La Terre wasn’t completed as it remained pretty hot until the end of 1995. By that time, the compilation was on an estimated 1,2 million units, ranking at #17 in February of that year in the Compilation Chart. With the hype slowing down and the market being already strongly cannibalized for the artist, the best of yearly sales dropped from 1996. It still added an estimated 150,000 copies in each eras 1996-1999 and 2000-2007. While it charted only in 1999 and 2004 in the time span thanks to new albums releases, the album was still selling very solid amounts.

With a status in France similar to The Beatles worldwide, just like the British band albums those of Francis Cabrel are priced extremely high. On such cases, sales are much more steady, less relying on hype. This is why The Beatles best of One sold 16,000 copies a year from 2003 to 2008 without charting a single week. Cabrel 77-87 was pretty similar to One except that it was even stronger.

In 2007 this compilation was mostly replaced by the most comprehensive set The Essential 1977-2007. Since that date the oldest compilation only sold a few remaining copies from shelves and some digital units.

Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,520,000 copies.

As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!

Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, IFOP, Platine.

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