The Ravaging Impact of Download Sales 2004-2014

BlockBuster

Occasional buyers – the Blockbusters Savior

As always, if a statement is true then it must be possible to prove it with real figures. How can we determine those potential buyers? The first instinctive information is the number of inhabitants a country has. Then, we must think about households, as the average number of persons per house went largely down in recent decades. Continuing the reasoning, not all houses used to have a record player.

This link will give you the number of households in the UK, while this one tells that by 1982, just before Thriller album release, 83% of them was equipped with a record player in that country. As every computer or smartphone is now a worthy record player, let’s assume that number increased regularly up to 100% by 2011. What happens if we compare that number of record players in use (right axis) with the sales of the yearly #1 albums (left axis)?

We saw that the #1 album wasn’t following the market curve at all. Thanks to this graph, we have one new enlightening conclusion – blockbusters of very different era perfectly followed the path of potential buyers as represented by the number of record players in use. Michael Jackson‘s Thriller and BadRobson & Jerome eponymous album in 1995, Shania Twain‘s Come On Over in 1999, Life For Rent by Dido and Back to Bedlam by James Blunt in 2003 / 2005, all those albums validate completely this theory. One potential buyer every 10 bought those albums on their respective big years. A terrific achievement.

From 2006, we see that non-blockbuster albums that were still big enough to top the annual charts were failing to come close to that 1:10 ratio. Year after year, downloads impacted those hit makers albums which lost ground more and more. In 2013, only 1 potential buyer out of 40 bought the #1 album of the year.

Once again, facts prove this situation. When we compare the annual #10 annual to the potential buyers, we can see a striking collapse of regular consumers. From 1998 to 2006 they used to be bought by 1 potential buyer every 18, as shown by below graph now it is 1 every 57.

Both albums by Adele proved the potential buyers argument continues to be 100% true. Divide by Ed Sheeran will also hit the blockbuster line in full this year. The figure of 21 by Adele is intriguing though – how is it possible that it sold so much more than the norm in relation to potential buyers? If there is one thing positive which has been brought by legal downloads, although the British diva is almost the only one that was cross-generational enough to benefit from it, is that they broke the household limit. During the 80s, the standard was to own one record player per house. It continued to be true during the 90s even if cars helped in adding some potential when their cassette format was distinct from the in-house record player, often a CD player. The arrival of iTunes converted every inhabitant into a possible buyer. This is how Adele over-performed so much the norm for record players limited to households as parents got the CD while sons downloaded the record. It enabled the album to be purchased by 1 every 7 potential buyer during 2011.

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