CSPC: The Beatles Popularity Analysis

Week 4/52:Collection

Controversy #5: One Billion Records Sold!

Checking reliable old press, we can identify various articles publishing a sales total for the Beatles. They had sold 150 million discs by August 1965, 225 million by January 1968, 545 million by October 1972, by 1984 the total was crossing 1 billion units.

Hm… not exactly in line with what is presented today. All those claims were correct, but we need to put them in their context to not be misled about their meaning. By the 60s, albums just ended to arrive. It took until mid-50s to see artists, famously Frank Sinatra, record an album as one unique piece of art, rather than simply packaging singles together. Sales of albums were also fairly weak in comparison to singles, while their price was much higher. Giving this background, the music industry standard was to speak about discs sold, a disc being a weighted unit depending on the format – yes, mathematical weighting hasn’t come in with Streaming.

What was one unit then? The barometer was the single, the most widely known and purchased format. One single was worth one single, one EP was worth two singles while one album was weighted at five units. This is how the 545 million tally was arrived at by 1972 in spite of the previously mentioned 100 million-only singles sold – the remaining 445 million units were made of slightly over 86 million albums, weighting for more than 430 million units, the rest being completed with EP sales.

Of course, those global claims involved also the two tricks previously met – sales of solo material was included, while proper Beatles records sales were excluded when achieved through a leasing with an other label. As you can see, this article was more than needed to sort all those misleading information!

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I’m curious why their digital singles sales are so low compared to the likes of Queen and MJ?


I guess that one important reason is that they wait many years until put the catalogue there (2009), and 5 years later that market started to collapse, so they had few years to make sales. I mean, even Elvis have a little more digital sales, when the Beatles outstream him x2.


It’s explained on page 31 of this article.


I would love to see the sales of George Harrison. Both John Lennon and Paul Mccartney are updated while George and Ringo are missing. I assume Ringo hasn’t sold that well but George had string of succesful albums starting with All Things Must Pass. Maybe in the future when The Beatles sales are going to be updated you could also do George and Ringo, same as it was done with Neil Young, when both Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were done at the same time. I’m sure a lot of people would love to see that. Thank… Read more »

Tom Riise

An update on The Beatles would be great.

Eric Williams

BFD on amount of records sold. Theres more people in the world. All these groups/people are playing because of the BEATLES. I bought my first guitar from a guys living room. I traded my flute in for an electric guitar, at Jacks Drum Shop, after Feb. 1964 when they were on Ed Sullivan. There was no Guitar Center, or anything like that. Since the BEATLES, everyone and their brother play guitar.

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