Understanding: Japanese Album Sales

As the snow falls... / Kinkaku( The Golden Pavilion) - Rokuonji-Temple

There’s still plenty of work to be done on France Album Sales and CSPC Analysis categories. This being said, it is now time to introduce a new Master Series, the Understanding one.

The aim of this new category will consist in explaining both technical and functional subjects usually misunderstood by the average music follower and chart watcher. The first piece of this new series will treat a technical issue, the album sales of a very atypical country, Japan.

Not many foreigners made it big there, but some still achieved it. The most obvious examples are the Beatles and Mariah Carey, along with others a la CarpentersMichael Jackson, ABBA, Billy Joel, Celine Dion, Aerosmith and more. As a chart watcher for very long, what strikes me the most yet isn’t who’s big and who’s weak in Japan, but the huge lack of understanding of the raw data we have been getting for this country.

To fix this issue, during the next few pages I’ll be first presenting the known sources of Japanese sales figures and then on a second time detail every limitation – and they are utterly strong – of them. By the end of this article, you should be able to much better gauge how much your favorite artist shifted there once you know the raw data. As concrete examples are always much better than too much literature, on a third part we will be highlighting all limitations by checking cases of some artists and albums, let’s start!

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Are you planning on doing a CSPC analysis on Japanese artists like B’z and Hikaru Utada? It would be really interesting to see how they hold up against international acts.


Thank you for your answer! I’m looking forward to it! By the way, how are you going estimate streaming sales for artists such as B’z?


Hi MJD, I really like you site and chart info for Japan. Back in the 70’s I believe Lynsey De Paul was very popular in Japan. She won awards and her albums have all been re-released at least once on CD. So I wondered how her singles and albums did on the Japanese charts. Thanks for any info.

Robert Turner

It seems like the japanese record market was, and continues to be, a virtually closed market for western acts. Abba were one of the very few who bucked the trend.

Robert Turner

I have just discovered your invaluable website.
Do you have any sales data for the band HEART please, particularly from the 80s? Something, anything would be most welcome.
Thanks and best wishes.


If it’s of any use Heart stand at 22.5 x Platinum with the RIAA. 1976: Dreamboat Annie 1xp 1977: Little Queen 3xp 1978: Magazine 1xp 1978: Dog & Butterfly 2xp 1980: Bebe Le Strange Gold 1980: Greatest Hits/Live 2xp 1985: Heart 5xp 1987: Bad Animals 3xp 1990: Brigade 2xp 1993: Desire Walks On Gold 1995: The Road Home Gold 1997: Greatest Hits 1985-1995 Gold 2002: Essential Heart Gold 2008: The Essential Heart 1xp In Canada, as of February 2012: Canada Sales (CRIA) 1976 Dreamboat Annie: 200,000 1977 Little Queen: 200,000 1978 Magazine: 100,000 1978 Dog and Butterfly: 100,000 1980 Bebe… Read more »

Robert Turner

Thanks, but I was aware of those stats, which are way out of date now. I was thinking about sales in Japan?
Best regards.

Robert Turner

Dear mjd. Thanks so much for this. I know Heart had a gold disc from Japan for the album ‘Bad Animals’, but it just said “for excellent sales”.
Very kind of you to take the trouble.


Hey Guillaume,

I’m collaborating with Chartmasters, but I’m still entitled to ask like anyone else, right? lol.

I would like to know if you can help me with Queen’s main compilations in Japan: what is your take on Greatest Hits II, Greatest Hits I & II, Queen Rocks, Greatest Hits III, In Vision, etc.? Thanks!

I don’t ask about studio albums because they would be much too hard to estimate, I guess.


Hey MJD! Really looking forward to this new project. I didn’t realize Mariah wasn’t the biggest selling foreign artist in Japan. Still, she is the biggest selling SOLO foreign artist, is she? Anyway, this might me off topic, but if Mariah isn’t the biggest selling foreign artist in Asia, is she the biggest selling foreign artist in the Asian continent? Or does The Beatles hold that title as well? Also, can you tell me how many copies All I Want For Christmas Is You sold in all formats? I know it sold 1m+ physical copies, and I’ve heard it received… Read more »


Maybe this link concerning French Pop in Japan will help : http://www.sylvissima.com/chanson-francaise-au-japon It’s in French but it will be translated in the weeks to come, maybe the week to come. We put all the Oricon charts positions we found and before Oricon, ranking from Music-Life. Also various hit-parade ranking. I choose not to put the figures but with after this article by MJD, it’s would not be a problem. In the future, we’ll try to find the dates of more french artists like Juliette Greco (more than 10) and Barbara. Barbara was the headline of the 1970 Yamaha Music festival,… Read more »


Hi MJD, Thank you very much for you acute answer about Nana Mouskouri’s charts in Japan. I’m currently reading a book about French chanteuse Barbara in which I read she toured several times in Japan (from the early 70s to 1990), performed in venues of 1,000+ seats and was quietly but constantly reviewed by Japanese music journalists. A couple of years ago, I read just about the same thing about Juliette Gréco. I’m not asking you precise chart facts about these two iconic French singers but did they ever really find chart success over there or is it exaggerated to… Read more »


J’ai rassemblé les singles certifiés sur le site du RIAJ et leurs ventes oricon. Ben E king : Stand by me – Platine (100 000) / 12 000 oricon Madonna : Vogue – gold (50 000) / 46 960 oricon Bryan Ferry : Tokyo Joe – platine (100 000) / 25 000 oricon Rolling Stone: Angie nc – Gold (50 000) Wham : club tropicana nc – Gold (50 000) Lennon : Love – gold (50 000) / 19 200 oricon Elton : Can you feel -gold (50 000) / 14 900 oricon Guns and roses : Sympathie devil -Gold… Read more »


Merci d toutes ces réponses. Piqué par la curiosité, j’ai cherché d’autres exemples d’écarts entre ventes “chartées” et certifications. Il y a beaucoup d’albums qui s’affichent à 30 000 et qui seront certifiés, parfois longtemps après leur sorties.

J’ai Carol King et Janis Joplin certifiées or sans avoir été classées.
Mais j’ai surtout trouvé un récidiviste puisque le single de Billy Joel “honesty” en re-print du 21.12.90 est single OR en 09-93. Il n’a jamais été classé à ma connaissance.

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