CSPC: ABBA Popularity Analysis

ABBA

There is so many things to say about ABBA that it is hard to know where to start. Pretty much every single article about the cult Swedish band contains at least one myth about the band and its success. Even when a reunion tour is announced as it happened a few days ago, we need to get into the details before learning it refers to a virtual 3D show without the band itself.

I’ll temper all fanciful legends right from the start – no, ABBA hasn’t sold 360 million records. No, their album Arrival hasn’t sold 20 million units, nor Fernando single did 21 million. All those myths are very, very wrong. When working on their record sales, we quickly met many such claims, including from usually valid sources like Billboard. Their management team at the time was very busy promoting the group by using such claims, not hesitating in communicating huge exaggerations, misleading people with sales of illegal copies and many more marketing tricks. It surely worked well as nearly 35 years after the group disbanded the general public still views their success as bigger than it is, putting them with the likes the Beatles, Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson while they do not belong to that league.

Ironically, if people with no detailed knowledge about the music industry inflate their achievements, most chart followers deflate their success, often considering the band is only able to sell their classic 1992 compilation Gold and all the rest can be thrown away. A key element often not understood well by those specialized watchers is how much availability is an issue. They tend to believe the general public purchase voluntarily specific albums. In reality, persons from the general public don’t really care about the album, they only aim to pick one with the few tracks they are looking for.

In the case of ABBA, their label decided to go extensively by compilations, barely keeping their original studio albums available. As an example, their debut album Ring Ring was first issued in the US in 1995 only, some 22 years after its initial release. Speaking of that country, ABBA success was decent but not that big there, limiting their sales in comparison to all-time top sellers. Thus, with promotion focusing on compilations, an average global market at their time and relatively low US sales, sales of their original albums aren’t record breaking. The doesn’t mean their popularity is weak yet, it just means that popularity got translated into their compilations. It is a good day for your as our CSPC approach serves very precisely to define the real popularity of an album independently of how it got exploited initially and as a catalog item.

As a reminder for users who are not yet familiar with the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept you do not need to worry, it is quite simple as it only consists in merging every format sales an artist has been getting and attributing them to respective studio albums. We will start by focusing on raw data, setting how much each ABBA album sold. Then, we will check sales of each track from those albums on each format – physical, digital and streaming – and weight them to value those figures on a par with album sales. To complete the study, we will study sales of the all compilations, live albums and music videos they dropped. Once all the raw data is set, we will only need to apply appropriate weighting to get the overall picture of the pop band career results.

Let’s go!

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Nik Engelv

Looking forward in seeing the “ABBAtars” tour and hearing theirtwo new studio songs recorded in Stockholm summer 2018.

Colin

Nik — ABBA’s Spokesperson & Friend – Gorel Hanser – has now, (August 21st 2019), said that the New ABBA Songs are not being released this Year. She says that we may get them at some time in 2020. We may get The ABBAtars Tour in 2021, but Benny has recently indicated that it may not happen at all. ABBA are having problems in getting them to work right. Benny also says that the New Songs are still not even ‘Mixed’ properly. ABBA did not initially record them in 2018. ABBA recorded them in June 2017 – over 2 Years… Read more »

Emiliano

How much copies sold their compilation albums in the US?

Colin

‘ABBA Gold’ has sold nearly 6 Million USA copies, via SoundScan. However, it also sold 884,000 via the BMG Record Club, between 1993 and early 2003. SoundScan did not include those Sales. Some believe that ‘Gold’ has really sold over 8 Million in the USA, by now…

djdj

ABBA Gold actually sold 8.8 million pure copies in US by November 2016.
https://chartmasters.org/2016/11/cspc-abba-popularity-analysis/20/

Lorrane

i would love to see the breakdown of ABBA sales per country

Wayne

Thanks for responding. Of course “People Need Love” was an obvious mistake – hard to remember an article 30 years later. The physical sales figures listed – where are they derived from? Much of the (physical) sales data is not much different (some a little too low) to what was estimated 70’s/ 80’s – hence my comment this seems to be vinyl sales only. Singles data however is quite different in a few examples. For example – Chiquitita was a UNICEF single, and sales was estimated as 4m back then (by UNICEF). Same as you record here. Fernando you have… Read more »

Marek

The English + Spanish versions of Chuquitita are different. Different vocals, different lyrics, different language. Count them separately.

Chiquitita – 2.4m English, 1.6m Spnanish

Gus

I agree about CHIQUITITA. I can tell in my country, Argentina, it was a mega hit, known by everybody from all generations (similar to Adele’s 21 this decade). It sold extremely well in the Latin markets. When I grew up and started to investigate more, I was surprised learning it wasn’t that big in other markets… for us “Chiquitita” is in the same level of popularity as “Staying alive”, “You’re the one that I want” or “Bohemian Rapsody”.

Lorrane

How many copies does abba gold sell per year? I always see this album on several charts around the world.
I wonder which of the 5 is most successful in terms of catolog: Abba Gold, Bob Marley Legend, Beatles One, Thriller, Dark Side of the Moon.

Wayne

Very interesting breakdown. The physical album sales would however be based on sales at the time (vinyl), excluding the multiple releases on CD and to a less extent cassettes – but CD sales over 35+ years would contribute a lot more I guess? Tobler/Magnus Palm state sales are around 1m – 2m per annum. Also, Japanese sales? Discomate stated 13m album sales in 1980 (also pre-CD), but that isn’t reflected here. “People Need Love” the single sold 285,000 units in Japan on Philips label. There is also the unknowns, like 100s of complication albums, the box sets (28 singles each),… Read more »

RLAAMJR.

When we do karaoke , my sisters always sing Abba and The Carpenters songs. And theyre quite popular in the Philppines too.

Erick

First or All : WOW ! impressive work ! Bravo !
A gold mine !

About the iron curtain, you can add :
Poland :
Arrival : 800 000 certified sales
The Album : 1 000 000 certified sales << All the Polish foreign curencies allowance were spend on this album

Unverifiabled but I have read somewhere that a bulgarian vinyles factory with a 5 000 000 units production capacity per year print only ABBA singles/albums for 5 years for the Eastern countries market

IOUI

Hi, While you obviously did a tremendous job, it might be of interest to you to know certain sales figures, for example in the Soviet Union (USSR). ABBA was featured in a best-selling multi-flexi disk magazine Krugozor with 0.5 million circulation FOUR times with a flexi disk of 2 songs from 4 of their albums (Arrival, The Album, Voulez Vous and Super Trouper) – it is 2 million confirmed sales. It can be easily corroborated by checking the circulation figure printed in the magazine. http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/blogirina/62655776/922071/922071_900.jpg These flexi disks were also released separately: Additionally, there are their 4 albums released by… Read more »

Robert Turner

Hello Anthony. Can you offer any sales numbers for the US rock band HEART please?

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