The Ravaging Impact of Download Sales 2004-2014

iTunes Card

Analyzing charts of the Hit Makers albums

From the previous page table which lists all those mega-successful eras, let’s add a column with the number of weeks inside the Top 10 managed by the album.

Results are a true shocker. From the 19 pre-iTunes albums, only three lasted less than 6 months inside the Top 10. They still lasted 21-25 weeks on it and were follow ups of Diamond albums – True Blue and New Jersey, following respectively Like A Virgin and Slippery When Wet – or a Soundtrack, explaining why they sold huge numbers in a relatively short time frame. Overall, those albums averaged 42 weeks inside the Top 10. This average drops to less than 15 weeks for post-iTunes monster albums. Those four LPs even combine for a dreadful 14 weeks inside the Top 5 album chart and a disastrous 2 weeks at #1. How is it possible that albums which registered 14 #1s hits that lasted 53 weeks at the top of the Hot 100 averaged the ridiculous tally of 3,5 weeks inside the Top 5 Album Chart? Things get ever worse when we consider that both Good Girl Gone Bad and Teenage Dream got extra-weeks high on charts thanks to heavily successful new editions.

In the other side, those four albums combined amassed 175 weeks inside the Top 20 and 274 weeks inside the Top 40 album chart.

To resume, while during the 80s-90s the norm for an album enjoying Pop Airplay hits was sitting comfortably inside the Top 10, during the downloads era it the norm became to barely hang around the Top 40. This proves hit makers were damaged way more strongly than other artists by the arrival of iTunes. I previously mentioned the target audience of those artists are the regular buyers that are from 12 to 25 years old. From 2005, those over 21 continued to buy albums as they had that habit already and a bit of money to afford those purchases. Fans from 12 to 20 years old though were still not into buying albums and had less money, thus jumping on iTunes and their gift card when they started to pay for music. This is how artists like Rihanna lost 60% of the sales they should have got 20 years earlier when the market overall was similar but iTunes wasn’t here to destroy artists able to register popular hits.

As years passed, by 2014 even 25 years old music enthusiasts were only 15 when iTunes came out, meaning the entire 12 to 25 generation of Pop Airplay stations listeners had never been into buying albums. That’s how some songs went on selling 8 million downloads while related albums were struggling to make a real impact.

If we look at Soundscan annual reports over several years, we can easily identify that popular genres like Pop, R&B or Rap dropped way more during that period than Country, Jazz, Classical or Classic Rock music. As this is quite obvious, I won’t invest time on showing it, instead taking a distinct approach to reveal the deep difference between hit makers albums and blockbusters albums.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

22 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
영배

Such a deep, exciting article. Would definitely like to see more of this on your website. Are we getting the second part anytime soon?

slobro

Good points. Only Britney fans fail to realize that the sales climate has changed drastically and that albums in the digital era cannot be compared to those from the past. There is that delusional mess Eternium that goes on comparing TEAs/SEAs between albums from the late 90s/early 00s as if everyone and their mother wasn’t going multiplatinum back in the day (even J.Lo, Ricky Martin, Shaggy, Ashanti and others) which gives bigger advantage to the artists from the physical era. Even during her ‘peak higher than Mount Everest’ Britney was outsold by Santana, Backstreet Boys, Eminem, The Beatles etc which… Read more »

slobro

Thank you! I am looking forward to that article. Just one more question: Lately, we’ve been seeing unbelievably high album sales for some artists in China. Are they legit? For example: Witness by Katy Perry QQ Music – 565743 (https://y.qq.com/n/yqq/album/0049G4ZJ03LeoA.html) Xiami Music – 64464 (https://h.xiami.com/music_buy.html?id=2102748082&_uxid=DB801E4C2F63BAA5D7DCA84EFEA9F061) Netease Cloud Music – 616708 (http://music.163.com/store/product/detail?id=6383073&from=out&iphoneAlbumOnSale=true&vipTabOrder=0&sendAlbumSwitch=1&client=web&adKey=61_6383073&g_islenovo=false) Kugou Music- 326798 (http://zhuanjistatic.kugou.com/html/pc_commonchargeV3/index_82292.html?is_go=0&hreffrom=37) Anti, Dangerous Woman, 1989, : have big numbers on these music platforms too. Are those track sales, album sales, streaming numbers? Are they legit? For example, GAON chart tracks cost like $0.02 but it looks like IFPI counts them (Crushcrushcrush would have never made IFPIs… Read more »

Tete

—The Fame era as a whole being arguably bigger than BOMT era that wasn’t as strong in the mid/long run.–

The era of the fame were two albums, to be fair, and it had many more singles than baby one more time and more than two years of promotion…

Anyway, Lady Gaga is two albums. The fame represents 70 percent of gaga total sales. Baby one more time also was a monstrous success, but only represents thirty percent of the sales of Britney. And Britney lived the decline of the industry four years later …

Stan

Omg, slobro. That delusional mess and their fellow stans have been trying hard to appropriate the CSPC methodology in spite of MJD clearly explaining what it was really about. To them, an album with a higher CSPC total is always bigger than any other album regardless of their release dates. Of course, when it comes to their favorite artist, Britney Spears, things work differently. Just like how, according to them, Britney’s Femme Fatale is a bigger album than Beyoncé’s 4 despite 4 having a CSPC total almost twice bigger than FF, which isn’t surprising considering it did better in every… Read more »

Tete

Britney vs Lady Gaga vs Beyonce numbers one and tops 10 worldwide Britney Billboard hot 100: 5-13 UK: 6- 25 Germany: 3-19 France: 3-16 Australia: 6- 19 Canada: 9-22 Italy: 4-14 Lady Gaga Billboard hot 100: 3-14 UK: 3- 11 Germany: 4-10 France: 3-14 Australia: 3-11 Canada: 4-13 Italy: 1-14 Beyonce Billboard hot 100: 5- 16 UK: 5-18 Germany: 1- 10 France: 0-8 Australia: 1-12 Canada: 0-12 Italy: 0-12 Katy Perry Billboard hot 100: 9- 14 UK: 4-15 Germany: 2-12 France: 0-13 Australia: 4-15 Canada: 10-17 Italy: 1-12 Total Britney: 33-128 (she has 42 singles). Last number one single: 2011… Read more »

Teenage Dream 12

So Baby One More Time is bigger than any Lady Gaga song and BOMT is a bigger era than any Beyonce one. Thank you for confirming.

Tete 2.0

*So Baby One More Time is bigger than any Lady Gaga song and BOMT is a bigger era than any Beyonce one. Thank you for confirming.*

Ha ha and bigger than katy perry career

Katy
Weeks top 10 in billboard 200:
One the boys: 1
Tenage dream: 10
Prism: 15
Witness (less than 10 years of career): 2 weeks or 1???

Britney
Bomt: 55
Oops: 24
Britney:9
In the zone: 8
Circus (ten years of career): 9
Femme Fatale (13 years of career): 5

Who has more succes and longecity?????

Tete

BOMT and OIDIA spent about 80 weeks in the top 10 of Billboard (the same as Beyonce throughout all her career and more than Lady Gaga and three times more than katy perry ) with a lot of competition (backstreet boys, eminem, santana, Christina …). And billboard did not take into account sales of music clubs! The Fame: about 50 weeks in the top 10 (with a reissue) Born this way: about 10 weeks in the top 10 Art Pop: 3 or 4? Joanne: 3? Baby one more time: 55 weeks Oops i did it again: 24 weeks Britney: 9… Read more »

Gus

Super interesting article. I have 2 comments to make:

1) There are some very successful albums that generated less than 5 Top 10 hits: Purple Rain, Music box, Whitney, Baby one more time, Supernatural, Millennium, Falling into you, No strings attached, Come away with me, Jagged little pill, etc… do you consider them blockbusters?

2) It is very interesting to analyze the opposite: album with inflated sales due to the lack of physical release of their hit singles, that happened in the US from 1996 until 2004. I wonder how much would they have sold if proper singles were released….

Gonzalex

Hi MJD,

You say that Adele sold millions copies because of the cross-generation effect, but blockbusters albums like The Fame (Monster) sold very well and they’re not cross-generational, it targets a very young audience

Trish

Hey MJD, this is a bit off topic but are these P!nk sales accurate? she posted this picture from her label RCA

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWaoGYBFkJ-/

Some people are saying theyre underestimated with TTAL actually selling 6m+

raffi

Hi MJD! This is truly an insightful article. I’m glad you’re doing deep analysis on the music industry and explaining this to us, making us understand more about how the industry evolved and how it affected artists of different time period. This can also help us from jumping to biased conclusions regarding artists’ success. If this was a research for a high school assignment, and I’m the teacher, I would not only give you a bonafide A+, I’d directly send you off to college, because this article and series is the most impressive you’ve done so far! I have some… Read more »

Rell

Thank you ! That’s a very precise and clear insight. Can the streaming platform reverse that trend ? What a difference does it really make for the impact of big hits on overall albums ?

Nathan

Wow, your research is very impressive.
I’m very skeptical about figures and always ask questions.
After seeing the way you research and work out the numbers, I trust your numbers 100% over
any “leading” publication.

22
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x