Understanding: why Ed Sheeran did better than Adele in the UK

Autumn Leaves

Streaming smoothness

Ok, after sorting the Oasis 1997 album sales controversy let’s go back to Adele vs Ed Sheeran case.

I can already see many of you screaming – how the hell is 671,542 units with streaming better than 800,307 without streaming? Quite simple – 25 sold that much thanks to the streaming unavailability.

Nobody can deny today the overwhelming place streaming is taking in the industry and how profitable it is for everyone – whatever what some artists who always want more money try to claim. By the end of its chart run, no doubt Divide will have Worldwide various millions of equivalent album sales thanks to streaming alone. While speaking about first week results though, one can never forget that streaming music is a smooth consumption over time unlike purchase which is fully registered from day one.

I’m aware this concept may seem a bit obscure so we will highlight it with figures. Below are UK sales per format of Divide on its first week:

  • 405,351 CDs
  • 13,546 LPs
  • 78,944 streaming units

As we speak, streaming is more than 2,5 times bigger than download sales in the UK, so it is rather surprising to notice that download sales top streaming ones with a 2.2:1 ratio, especially considering Ed Sheeran unreal domination on streaming, isn’t it? How is that possible?

As mentioned, streaming units, unlike download ones, are built over time. In fact, current formula converting streams into albums in the UK suggests you need to play as many as 1,000 times a song from an album top 12 tracks before accounting for 1 album sale. In other words, if you stream Divide in full one time every day, you will have contributed for one sale after 84 days only. Yeah, it takes you 12 full weeks before equaling to one immediate purchase. If you stream, say, four times per day the album, you will still need 21 days / 3 weeks before recording one full streaming album sale.

The question now becomes – in terms of consumers, how does 78,944 streaming units translate?

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Ed’s sales are cute tho, real cute.


MJD… This is a little bit off-topic but I need to know your opinion on something. What do you think of Ed Sheeran placing all songs from the same album in the UK official singles Top 20 on the week of release, while the streams of those songs were also counted within the albums chart? Do you think that’s normal/acceptable? Of course, Ed Sheeran is just the best example illustrating that problem… This is happening again with Drake this week and will happen again every time a big acts releases their album from now on, unless the OCC establishes new… Read more »


Sorry for taking so long to reply. It is a tricky issue to address I thought I’d take my time before replying. First I would like to know… What were/are those formulas that you created to factor in streaming? Are these very different from the ones currently used by (for instance) the OCC? I’m very curious to know! You’re right. I didn’t really realize double counting existed, and I didn’t really realize how big of an issue that was until the Ed Sheeran case happened. But now it’s just so obvious that something is wrong… I mean, 3 weeks ago… Read more »

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