Understanding: Japanese Album Sales

G) The Carpenters

During the first half of the 70s, the Carpenters were ridiculously popular in Japan. This resulted into an insane number of Japan-only compilations released by the duet, one of them being Twenty-Two Hits Of The Carpenters, one of the biggest selling albums ever in the country, issued in 1995.

As a Japanese-only release, there is obviously no imports to add. The album was charted inside the Top 50 for its first 36 weeks, moving the absurd total of 2,094,000 units. By the end of 1997, the album was already on 2,3 million units sold.

What’s interesting about this album is the various re-entries it got once charts got expanded to a Top 300.

Week – Ranking – Sales
01/12/2003 – 159 – 1376
08/12/2003 – 221 – 1286
15/12/2003 – 252 – 1061
22/12/2003 – 193 – 1301
29/12/2003 – 203 – 1331
12/01/2004 – 177 – 3436
19/01/2004 – 205 – 1244
26/01/2004 – 236 – 917
09/02/2004 – 269 – 830
16/02/2004 – 270 – 793
23/02/2004 – 268 – 839
01/03/2004 – 293 – 650
15/03/2004 – 255 – 813
22/03/2004 – 266 – 765
29/03/2004 – 234 – 904
26/04/2004 – 271 – 653
21/02/2005 – 206 – 1043
30/04/2007 – 126 – 1116
07/05/2007 – 155 – 1308
14/05/2007 – 245 – 865
21/05/2007 – 182 – 858
27/10/2008 – 280 – 480
04/05/2009 – 171 – 905
11/05/2009 – 179 – 793
18/05/2009 – 136 – 935
25/05/2009 – 282 – 415

As you can notice, the album never re-entered the Top 100 which means if charts hadn’t been expanded, it would have remained off radar during all those years. Fact is, this album was moving an average of more than 500 units a week all along, which is nearly 200,000 copies over seven years.

Gold best of was reissued and promoted in 2003 yet, decreasing Twenty-Two Hits Of The Carpenters appeal. From 1998 to 2002, this latter album was selling a minimum of 50,000 copies a year. By 2016 and although it was replaced by various new hits packages since, this album is clearly close to the 3 million mark, some 700,000 units ahead of its Oricon total despite there is not a single import involved.

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I thought Queen were big in Japan? But nothing mentioned here?


What about the best-selling albums of all-time in Asia?

by western artists:

#1. 6.3M+ | Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard
#2. 5.4M+ | Mariah Carey – #1’s
#3. 5.2M+ | Michael Jackson – Thriller

I know Carpenters and Beatles both have a 3M+ selling album in Japan, but what about Asia overall? You guys didn’t mentioned in their article !!! It would be nice to know


Hi Work!

The top 5 would be:

#1. 6.8M | James Horner – Titanic
#2. 6.3M | Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard
#3. 5.4M | Mariah Carey – #1’s
#4. 5.2M | Michael Jackson – Thriller
#5. 5.1M | Michael Jackson – Dangerous

Then there are several more over 4m like Music Box, Merry Christmas and Daydream by Mariah. And possibly 1 by The Beatles + some Céline Dion albums.


Hi! I wanted to ask something. You said that The Beatles outsold Mariah Carey there, but, doesn’t Mariah actually have more certified sales than The Beatles in Japan? Mariah has like 14.5 – 15 million, Beatles like 4.5 or 5 Mariah has estimations for more than 20 million already. I just wanted to ask that because i don’t see Mariah’s analysis here since she has one of the (if not the) best selling foreign album there as far as we know! #1s 3.6 million in 2001 https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/78521/careys-glitter-sparkles-in-japan And this page from Billboard Japan shows some sales for some of her… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Mariahshistory

According to the website Mariah has sold about 13.3 million+ pure albums in Japan and what compilations are listed sold around 4.625 million, bringing her up to a total of at least 18 million.The Beatles have sold about 23 million albums considering everything according to their article.
Mariah’s article: https://chartmasters.org/2017/04/cspc-mariah-carey-popularity-analysis/
The Beatles article: https://chartmasters.org/2017/03/cspc-the-beatles-popularity-analysis/81/

Last edited 1 year ago by Chika

Probably The Beatles certification hasnt been updated in Japan. Plus back then the certification systems was messy.


Oh ok, got it, i was asking because there’s no site that can confirm those sales for The Beatles, but if you say so, it’s ok!

Thanks for the reply!


Hi MJD! I meant to post this as a reply to your reply to me (thank you by the way!), but I can’t seem to find the comment so I’ll ask here as this pertains to Japanese artists. My apologies for the long comment. One of the striking things about the Oricon charts is that most albums (especially local acts) seem to have extremely front-loaded sales. Even ignoring idol groups like AKB48 which use gimmicks, it seems the norm even for bands and singer-songwriter-type artists to sell 40-60% of their overall sales in their first week, and 90% or more… Read more »


​​Hi MJD! Thanks so much for this response and your explanation which was very enlightening! I appreciate the incredible attention to detail that goes into the analyses on this site. Based on your explanation it seems like the CSPC system would still be an accurate reflection of the popularity of Japanese album eras. I hadn’t considered the number of consumers who hold out to buy just the compilation album but it makes complete sense especially with CDs being more expensive in Japan. As for the matter of “collectors” buying the same songs across multiple albums, since it affects artists from… Read more »

Donald Miller

I appreciate this exchange. Japan’s a fascinating market with their own stars and superstars. But their music rarely crosses over to foreign nations. I’ve seen several documentaries about their Idol system and it reminds me of the old Hollywood studio system. I saw another on Suzuka Nakamoto. Seems like she was a rising star from the beginning. How about an article about the Idol system combined with a streaming masters on Babymetal?

For those acts not on streaming, maybe you can start a series on pure physical sales focused on vinyl and CD sales?


Thanks so much for the insight! I’m very interested to see how various Japanese acts would fare in a CSPC analysis so it’s great to see that you have such detailed information on many of them. I’m also motivated to look into what happened in the 80s to cause that shift in sales!

Christoffer Ekelund

It would be great if you did some analysis of Japanese artists/bands as some domestic acts (like B’z and Mr. Children) are huge and have sold 50-80 millions records in Japan alone.



I have always been curious as to how much Janet Jackson has really sold in Japan. Her numbers are good for an international artist but there could be more missing sales (imports, out of the charts etc). I hope you can do a breakdown for her too soon!



If I’m not mistaken, Janet’s career will be analysed soon so we will be able to know her sales in Japan (as well as several other countries). I’m quite curious about them too haha.


Amazing job! Do you know Avril Lavigne numbers for albums and singles? Thanks!

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