It takes a lot of hard work and successful songs to break the barriers of the music industry. You need to get a widespread appeal in your country, to cross over all radio stations, then to cross over different countries too. Without smartphones, internet and globalization as a whole, the task was even harder.
The Eagles knew it perfectly well, taking four albums to slowly increase their status although they still had to make it big worldwide. Only one song completely changed the map yet as Hotel California ended up being bigger than earth. As of today, rarely has many records have been sold on the back of one unique track.
The album Hotel California and its lead single New Kid In Town were issued in late 1976 in the US. Both were instant smash as predicted giving how hot the band already was there with each of their last two albums containing one #1 hit. In France yet the band was still totally unknown. The gigantic impact made by the title track was released as the second single in February in the US convinced Elektra label to push the band stronger elsewhere. Thus, both Hotel California album and New Kid In Town arrived in France in April. The song was a Top 30 hit while the album wasn’t successful enough to chart.
The song Hotel California was quickly released after that. It wasn’t an out of the blue success, peaking at #12. It supported the album during several months inside the Top 20 yet, peaking itself at #6. By the end of 1978, sales of the LP were up to a calculated 488,000 units. The fact the band is someway considered a one-hit wonder in France ironically helped sales of Hotel California album. In the US, Greatest Hits II decreased the studio album catalog sales from 1982, while in the UK The Best Of was released in 1985.
In France, The Legend Of The Eagles was released in 1988, taking over in 1989. It means Hotel California had one full decade of strong catalog sales considering the incredible amount of airplay the title track continued to receive on radios. To promote the 1988 compilation, Hotel California was re-issued, peaking at an impressive #2 position during 1989 summer. Although the original studio album hasn’t chart at that point giving the short sized ranking, it was accumulating from 30,000 to 40,000 sales a year all along.
When their label fully audited most of their bestsellers in 1993, Hotel California album even shot to Diamond status, representing over 1 million sales, a figure it likely reached soon before. From 1993 to 2002, it kept selling some 20,000 units a year, jumping to 1,2 million. With the market decreasing, the album sold an additional 82,000 units as per GFK, some 13,500 a year, from 2003 to 2008.
Some 34 years after dropping out of charts, the record finally re-entered the main album chart for one week at #186 in 2012. Catalog albums got allowed to be part of the ranking from 2011, and size of charts were short while they were first eligible before 2003. This 2012 ranking, along with the single week the album charted in both 2013 and 2015 are the perfect reflection of the very steady catalog sales this album has been gaining. It is the trademark of an album selling on the back of catalog airplay from a single, airplay being very consistent over the time. It is the opposite case of an album a la Grease which will be off the radar most of the time and then enjoy massive revivals when aired on TV. As an illustration of this situation, the single also charted an incredible 81 weeks inside the Top 200 Singles chart since 2012, most of them under the Top 150. The Eagles classic album sold over 70,000 more copies from 2009 to 2015.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,355,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Platine, IFOP, GFK.