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.