Understanding: Music Clubs #1 – Janet Jackson, Celine Dion

The End

V) Concluding

I decided to focus mostly on two artists for only for examples as they cover most specificities of Club sales and as it gives you room for requests. In fact, during upcoming days I’ll be posting an other article about US Music Club sales covering main albums of various artists.

I hope you have now a better idea of Columbia House and BMG Record Club sales. The most important thing to keep in mind is how different both Clubs were in terms of best sellers. One started way before, had steadier sales spread over various decades and targeted mostly an audience liking adult contemporary music and soft and huge cross over acts. The second one was ridiculously hyped, with a high number of regular consumers pushing a group of 80-ish albums to high sales in no time. If you want to know if a specific artist or album was available at Columbia House, you can check both lists here and there, both from about 1997 with the second coming a few months later. If you are looking for more recent albums, or older ones that could have been available before and then removed, I suggest you to use the string “Terre Haute, Indiana 47811-1129” on Google plus the name of the artist / album you are looking for. This was the Columbia House PO Box, so this string was written on every possible ad of the Club that you can find.

Ultimately, do not forget there is still RIAA certifications. They may have their limits, comparing Soundscan sales with jumps in certifications is still the best way to gauge how many units of an album were sold on non traditional avenues. As I’m going to post a second part article, feel free to ask for additional clarifications, I’ll add paragraphs to answer them.

Oh, just one last word. I focused on the US as due to Soundscan availability it creates a lot of confusion when figures aren’t on par with certifications. For most other countries as only certifications are available there is no ambiguity, but be aware such clubs existed pretty much everywhere. In the UK (Britannia Music Club), in France (Club Dial), BMG / Columbia subsidiaries in Mexico and Canada and even Classical and Latino Clubs, the phenomenon wasn’t restricted to the US and to popular music.

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


Sources: RIAA, Soundscan, Billboard, NYTimes, Popular Science, Ski, Spin, Weekly World News, Audio.

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I don’t understand how you estimate US sales for FIY.
First,it was not available on Columbia House. When it certified 10xP, SoundScan plus BMG club sales was 10 million, this is perfect. Then, when it certified 11xP, SoundScan plus BMG club sales was 11.5 million, so the certification was late. But it didn’t justify anything, how did you calculate the 700k copies from other clubs or whatever? “This creates a little gap which suggests a few sales achieved outside those two avenues, other music clubs, slightly incorrect Soundscan sales or whatever.”I don’t really understand this.


I cannot answer you conclusively, as I did not create the article but I can offer you a reasonable answer. The last known Soundscan/Pure sales figure is 10,850,00 from October 2018 https://twitter.com/chartdata/status/1048269090886844417?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1048269090886844417&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ukmix.org%2Fshowthread.php%3F33386-Celine-Dion-Charts-amp-Sales-History%2Fpage338, the previous was was from February 2013 of 10,812,000, so not much at all in 5.5 years. The last known BMG figure was from early 2003 of 987,000. BMG closed sometime around June 2009, so there will also be additional sales between early 2003 and it’s closure. I’m guessing they wont be great, as music clubs in general, had been dying a death for many years by time… Read more »


Hi, Martin
I know that there were lots of other clubs (except BMG club and Columbia House) and grocery and drug stores or whatever can sell a lot of albums in the 90s. Those sales were not included into SoundScan. I just kind of wonder how the 700k figure was calculated. Based on your calculations, it seems like the real figure for the stores or whatever was way more than the calculated 700k. Maybe way more than 1 million or something?…


Yes, but my answer was not based on an exact science or figures, it was just a loose explanation, to show where those extra shipments could have come from.

We have no real way of knowing how many copies went to onestops, she could have shipped say only 7% of shipped copies to them. As stated it was just to highlight where the extra/missing shipments most likely came from.


Mjd all madonna’s album was in columbia house club sales?
How come to know what album was bmg, or columbia, or both?


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Marcus André

You really are a master in this. Thank for this wonderful article!


Hi MJD! I would like to ask how do you come to the conclusion of Janet Jackson’s Control and Rhythm Nation 1814 selling 7m and 8,1m copies in the US respectively?

The only information we have are SoundScan figures for sales after 1991, their out-of-date certification (5 and 6 times platinum) and their BMG club sales, which are probably already included within their certifications. As a result, can you explain to me how you managed to conclude that they both sold 2m above their certifications?

Thank You!


Question MJD,

What if their labels are late with their certifications? What if Janet’s albums are certified 6 times platinum with 6.7 million shipped? How can certs determine sales?


Hello! And Happy New Year! I do not want to bore you, but you have an idea of what could have sold Harvest summing Music Club and Military bases?


I wonder if Janet’s catalog will ever be recertified… she is more than 10 platinum behind of what should be… such a shame.


This is a very good article, thank you! As music clubs mainly targeted a 30+ year-old audience, I wouldn’t be surprised if many easy-listening/jazz/classical music/country singers got to sell high amounts of records with those clubs whereas they were not big sellers in traditional record stores (especially at a time when Billboard record charts only ranked the music sold in big cities). Do you have any information about those over-looked artists ?


Of course everybody is waiting for a detailed article on Mariah Carey as her album sales via music clubs remain one of the huge mysteries of the chart debate in several music forums. It would be both helpful and a great contribution to the debate if you granted the world an insightful view in Mariah’s history concerning music clubs, especially since she has often been accused of having “fake diamond” albums as both Music Box and Daydream are quite a bit off the 10 million mark on SoundScan. I hope you dedicate her a good bit of your time. I… Read more »


Hi MJD, great article. Thanks for explaining this to us. Music club sales have always been so confusing to me but I’m glad you cleared it up.

Do you have music club figures for Britney Spears and Madonna?

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