The Ravaging Impact of Download Sales 2004-2014

Woman with headphones listening music. Music teenager girl danci

Regular buyers vs Occasional buyers

Now that we understood that hit makers were more impacted by the arrival of iTunes, we must wonder why. I started explaining it with the target audience including a lot of persons that couldn’t afford for big investments and that were still not used to buy records. One more key factor is the regular buyers vs occasional buyers logic.

The period of our life on which we are the most interested into music is by far the 12 to 25 years old period. We listen to a lot of music, on a very regular basis. Logically, those regulars consumers will be the first ones to move into a new format / evolution as they are way more aware of the current environment. People past 30 years old, that used to buy only albums of their favorite artists time by time, weren’t likely at all to buy an iPod, create an iTunes account and start downloading music. Basically, the iTunes target audience was the same one as Top 40 radio stations target audience.

Looking at the contrapositive, it also means that non-regular buyers weren’t using downloads much. So, if we concluded that downloading stand-alone tracks was the killer of album sales from 2005 to 2012, then it must mean that artists targeting an audience of persons not involved much into the music industry should continue to sell as well as before.

It is difficult to identify clearly albums belonging to this category. One specie remains though, the blockbusters. Those albums are those which got so big that labels promoted them on the biggest avenues, including the most expensive ones where it is usually not commercially viable to promote music records. Those albums will happen one time every 2 or 3 years, topping charts for 3 months or more. To point them out, below graph shows the #1 and #10 seller of each year in the UK since 1997 (left axis), along with the curve of the market evolution (right axis).

If you look carefully, you can notice the #10 seller of the year went up and down roughly the same way as the market as a whole. In the other side, the #1 seller doesn’t follow this pre-defined path at all. This is precisely the result of some records appealing to consumers that are not part of the usual buyers, which thus do not impact much the overall market. The market size gives a very good indication of the evolution of regular buyers, but it doesn’t help to define the number of potential buyers around.

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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.

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