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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Is Beatles the best selling musical act in UK?




I hope you would update and make a record and achievement section for the Beatles


Will BTS surpass the Beatles eventually? And is it possible that a current artist at present will surpass them?


Thank you for your response!

Someone shared on Twitter that the Beatles is the second best selling artist of the century. Eminem took the first place. Can you pls confirm this fact? Thanks ahead and more power!

Richard Dakin

You show the US sales for the White Album at around 12 million. It is a double album. The RIAA has its sales at 24 million plus, making allowance for the fact that it is 2 records that were purchased. Ditto for the red and blue albums. The Anthologies were triple albums, as were the BBC albums.
Do your numbers make allowance for this?


Nope. The White Album, Physical Graffiti, The Wall etc are counted as one album, one sale, no multiplication of discs included, times sales.

One of the albums you mention, is probably the best example against multi counting. The double disc, Red Album, which has less tracks and a shorter total running time, than single disc 1.

Richard Dakin

I’m not sure I follow. If one buys and pays for an album that contains 2 records, have 2 records not been sold?
Do you allow for this by using the total number of tracks on the album?

Richard Dakin

MJD:Thank you for expaining that!
I really enjoy and appreciate the work that went into, and still goes into, your website. I look forward to updates as they appear.

tom riise

Update would be nice 🙂


the RIAA certifications on red album and blue album also include download and streaming, seen how much higher are they ?


I’ve just realized that the physical single sales of Beatles For Sale and A Hard Day’s Night are swapped.


I think this should get an update. It’s been 3 years and a lot of things have happened like the anniversary editions of Abbey Road and the White Album. (Also pls do George and Ringo’s CSPC 🙂 )


I’m positive they’ll be well above 420 mill after the update.


Beatles featuring Tony Sheridan is included in the compilation section on page 46

Mark Lupi

Amazing work, congratulations! However you’ve missed one important EP release. The Beatles fifth Ep release, Long Tall Sally, which was released in Britain in June 1964 and is another reported global million seller.


Has this already been included in the analysis? If not, I hope Chartmasters would consider verifying this one and include its sales in computing the Beatles CSPC points

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