CSPC: David Bowie Popularity Analysis


Physical Singles Sales

Cult songs doesn’t mean huge selling physical single. Heroes has featured the Top 100 best songs ever rankings of all relevant music magazines at the turn of the millennium. Still, when first released the single only made it to #24 in the UK while completely missing the Top 100 in the US.

The road displayed below has been difficult for David Bowie with various stand-alone singles issued from 1964 to 1968, all of them failing to chart, even in the UK. Then his 10th single came out in 1969, Space Oddity, at last starting his career as a popular singer. Incredibly enough, the artist remained a one-hit wonder until Starman shot him to fame in the summer of 1972.

Various of his pre-1973 hits have been reissue countless of times, some of them very successfully. This is how in the UK 1969 single Space Oddity peaked at #1 in 1975 after originally making it to #5. 1967 song Laughing Gnome went #6 in 1973. Rock & Roll Suicide from the already successful Ziggy Stardust album made it to #22 in 1974 after 3 subsequent David Bowie albums got released. The list goes on and on. Thus, without really crushing the Singles chart, the artist total physical singles for his material up to Aladdin Sane album stands at more than 7 million units sold.

As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 3 ratio between one album and one physical single.

David Bowie (1967) – 135,000 equivalent albums

The Laughing Gnome – 350,000
Remaining Singles – 100,000

David Bowie (1969) – 675,000 equivalent albums

Space Oddity – 2,200,000
Remaining Singles – 50,000

The Man Who Sold the World (1970) – 15,000 equivalent albums

All Singles – 50,000

Hunky Dory (1971) – 435,000 equivalent albums

Changes – 600,000
Life On Mars? – 850,000

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) – 405,000 equivalent albums

John, I’m Only Dancing – 300,000
Starman – 650,000
Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide – 200,000
Remaining Singles – 200,000

Aladdin Sane (1973) – 472,500 equivalent albums

Drive-In Saturday – 350,000
Let’s Spend The Night Together – 175,000
The Jean Genie – 950,000
Remaining Singles – 100,000

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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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