Less than six years after their debut, cult band Pink Floyd was up to its eight album in March 1973 when they issued Dark Side Of The Moon. While their popularity was definitely growing, they were no Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys or Led Zeppelin at that point.
The lead single Money and the album as a whole changed in full this situation. In charts largely favorizing their kind of music, Pink Floyd already topped French album front the previous year thanks to Obscured By Clouds. With such a massive new single it was no surprise to see Dark Side Of The Moon enter at the top as well. The record was #1 for 20 of its 24 first weeks.
Those results may led us to guess gigantic sales for the album. They certainly were, for the time. But at that time, sales had yet to explode. If you have been following this study, you likely noted no album issued in 1974 reached the million mark. From 1975 to 2008, in each and every year at least one million seller was released. Some albums from 2009 will end up as million sellers as well once enough catalog sales get accumulated. If there is no such seller from 1974 in spite of more than 40 years of catalog sales it really means the market was weak at the time. In fact, while 94 million albums were sold in 1978, a mere 50 million were sold in 1974… and only 40 million in 1973, when Dark Side Of The Moon was released. This latter album was also dominating charts during the weak summer months while it was much lower during the Christmas rush. Also, as already mentioned, old unofficial charts always favorized specialized music sold at proper music retailers rather than popular music in rural areas.
All those reasons explain why despite a terrific run of 24 weeks at #1 and over 18 months inside the Top 10, the album sales were only up to 300,000 units by June 1974 just before its climb back to #1 following a short summer tour in France. Those additional sales plus a couple of years of strong catalog sales moved it to over 500,000 by the release of Animals in January 1977, likely closer to 600,000 units. With the booming market and the huge popularity of the band until 1980, the figure climbed to an estimated 800,000 copies sold by that time.
From 1981 to 1991, their later album The Wall sold 300,000 copies as a catalog album. This one charted in late 1982 as well as in 1990 while Dark Side Of The Moon did not. In 1994, the buzz around The Division Bell and the related tour sent both albums on Top 50 Album Chart. Below are their chart performance at the time:
45-xx-37-23-39-45-44-13*xx-50 – The Wall
xx-xx-39-34-xx-xx-xx-13*xx-xx – Dark Side Of The Moon
All those periods of activity revealed one key point, e.g. 1979 blockbuster The Wall was a slightly bigger catalog album than 1973 set. Up to 1995, Dark Side Of The Moon was selling about 90% of The Wall figures, knowing this latter album sold 300,000 units in 1981-1991 and 320,000 units in 1992-2001. As we got deeper in the 90s, the oldest album of both took the lead. The 1997 vinyl reissues were much more favorable for it, its 25th anniversary in 1998 too as well as all all-time lists that started to be published. All in all, a total of 590,000 copies have been sold from 1981 to 2001. In terms of release to date sales, the album was on 1,07 million by 1991 and 1,39 million by 2001.
A technicality must then be explained. In fact, during 1989 their label EMI audited their biggest historical albums, certifying Yves Duteil album La Tarentelle Diamond as well as Pink Floyd own albums Wish You Were Here (Diamond, 1,000,000) and The Wall (3xPlatinum, 900,000). They did a similar audit two years later, updating various albums including The Wall that was officialized as a million seller. The obvious question coming out is why Dark Side Of The Moon was never certified Diamond? The main reason seems to be that the album was originaly released by Pathé-Marconi that got absorbed by EMI very exactly in late 1973. For some reason, later audits of albums released during those old days never happened. Indeed, both Beatles compilation albums Red and Blue, both issued in 1973 and both million sellers as well never went Diamond with their sales count as per certifications going back to 0 several times over years as new releases in CD format got certified on their own.
As highlighted in The Wall detailed article, this album was more single-driven thanks to the gigantic Another Brick In The Wall and as such got strongly impacted by the release of the band first compilation issued in 2001, Echoes. In its side, Dark Side Of The Moon retained its impressive catalog sales all along. Thus, since the availability of their compilation, our album studied today has been the best seller by far among their studio albums. It sold about 20,000 copies in 2002 and then from 2003 to 2008 as per GFK it added 134,000 units. Since, the album sold roughly the same amount including a #7 peak position in the main chart achieved by the Experience edition released in 2011.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,715,000 copies.
As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!
Sources: SNEP, CIDD, Platine, IFOP, GFK, L’Express, Le Nouvel Observateur.