CSPC: David Bowie Popularity Analysis

David Bowie

Original Album Sales – Comments

1967 David Bowie – 200,000
1969 David Bowie – 2,300,000
1970 The Man Who Sold the World – 1,900,000
1971 Hunky Dory – 4,700,000
1972 The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – 8,550,000
1973 Aladdin Sane – 4,900,000
1973 Pin Ups – 2,750,000
1974 Diamond Dogs – 3,650,000
1975 Young Americans – 2,650,000
1976 Station to Station – 2,600,000
1977 Low – 2,600,000
1977 Heroes – 2,900,000
1979 Lodger – 1,650,000
1980 Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – 3,450,000
1983 Let’s Dance – 8,700,000
1984 Tonight – 3,400,000
1987 Never Let Me Down – 2,300,000
1989 Tin Machine – 1,400,000
1991 Tin Machine II – 600,000
1993 Black Tie White Noise – 1,500,000
1995 1. Outside – 1,050,000
1997 Earthling – 1,050,000
1999 Hours – 1,000,000
2002 Heathen – 1,250,000
2003 Reality – 950,000
2013 The Next Day – 1,500,000
2016 ★ (Blackstar) – 2,000,000

With such an extensive discography, the overall total of 71,5 million albums sold doesn’t look really big. Several factors need to be considered yet. One of them is the very low market during his hottest years in the first half of the 70s. Even his big Let’s Dance comeback happened in 1983 when the industry was facing very bad years.

A second key factor is the popularity distribution of the artist in a geographical sense. Absolutely massive in the UK during many years, David Bowie never truly broke the US main audience in spite of doing so in Canada. The fact he never topped the album chart in the US until he did so posthumously is a real evidence of that situation. He was also bigger in Belgium than in France, bigger in Austria than in Germany, bigger in New-Zealand than in Australia. In other words, he really missed a bigger impact on the largest markets. This may be explained by the highly developed style of his records which consequently performed better in cities than in rural areas, more relevant in the music market of very large countries.

A third factor of the relatively low number of studio albums sold is the release of numerous greatest hits type packages which limited catalog sales of the original LPs.

In any case, the number of albums released doesn’t necessarily translate in gigantic totals. During the last few years, we saw artists like Britney Spears or Alicia Keys among many others struggling an awful lot to sell half a million copies of an album, thus keeping numbers well above that mark during 49 years of new music despite no record ever breaking the 10 million milestone is a trademark of an appeal as enduring as solid.

Both Ziggy Stardust and Let’s Dance came close still at over 8,5 million each. It’s interesting to notice how the ground breaking classic Ziggy Stardust almost matched the way bigger album upon release Let’s Dance several decades after they first came out thanks to its catalog sales. It’s now only a matter of time until Ziggy Stardust takes an inevitable lead. Sales of the likes Hunky Dory may not impress at 4,7 million but when one considers it charted absolutely nowhere when issued in 1971 the figure suddenly ends up being pretty incredible.

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A two-three solidly sold albums, and a lot of average ones, is quite surprising to me. Although David’s final CSPC figure is relatively large, it is mostly due to his long career, imo.


You have a point, MJD. Bowie’s career was long and pretty consistent. But still, David’s average CSPC percentage per album is 4.38 milion. 118.5 milion CSPC : 27 albums = 4.38milion (Orphan album excluded).

If we take for example Guns N’ Roses, their average CSPC percentage per album is huge 19.6 milion! 117.7 milion CSPC : 6 albums = 19.6 milion. (Orphan album excluded).

But not to be confused, I like David Bowie. I really do, It’s just, I personally thought his CSPC number was a little higher. : )


Both are impressive. Yet 27 multi-million sellers is more amazing and hard to get than 6 albums where 3 best seller albums on the peak of their fame are responsible for 82% of their sales in a 5 years period of release. In fact their 4 albums from their peak of fame represent 92% of their total CSPC points and 7 years release span. David Bowie 3 best sellers represent just 34% of his sales and are from a period over 13 years span with many other albums in between. His 4 best sellers would increase that span a bit… Read more »


Is there CSPC life on Mars? Yes, 125m in total.


David sales are at 175M records with all formats. Very impressive


He is at number 30 on Eas, 125m Total.


But Let’s dance has not sold over 15 million copies with republication?


I would love to see Jethto Tull popularity analysis

Speed of Life

Hi – thanks for a very comprehensively researched article.One question what about the sales of Under Pressure on Queen albums – Greatest hits and Platinum Collection?? Regards


David’s total is quite good, amazing considering he doesn’t have a hugely successful album but surpassed those who have one (Britney, Guns and Roses etc.) He is definitely up there among the most successful artists in history, despite going against the typical music industry rules and being highly risky and innovative. Anyway, i don’t know if you know this, but January 16 would mark Aaliyah’s 38th Birthday! I hope you would do a CSPC analysis on her as it would be quite fitting. I don’t expect her to have a huge result, but as an R&B artist who only released… Read more »


Bowie did well for the kind of act he was.

I really like this series. Can you do wholr popularity analyses for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Little Mix, Janet Jackson, Radiohead and Queen?

Thanks =)


What about CSPC for Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam?


Great articel! I know the legend because Barbra covered her classic Life on mars. I still waiting for articels abou France Sales and CSPC for Barbra

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