Understanding: RIAA / Label audits – The case of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson Poster - Michael Jackson

III) Years 1991-1993

A lead single topping the Hot 100, a new album from Michael Jackson, the Christmas season and the explosion of the CD format were all reasons that combined to generate massive shipments when Dangerous was released in November 1991. The result was a 4xP award after only 8 weeks.

JACKSON, MICHAEL DANGEROUS 01/21/92 EPIC G
JACKSON, MICHAEL DANGEROUS 01/21/92 EPIC P
JACKSON, MICHAEL DANGEROUS 01/21/92 EPIC M (4)
JACKSON, MICHAEL DANGEROUS 03/02/93 EPIC M (5)

The big difference with the previous albums is that Soundscan had been introduced that same year of 1991. Music Clubs weren’t scanned, but the panel was still fairly accurate as a whole. By the end of 1991, Dangerous had sold only 1,8 million units. A huge result for anyone else, it was not so good for Jackson as seen with the gap with the anticipation around the album that led it to a 4xP certification.

Those sales explain why it took until March 1993 before reaching 5xP. During the year 1992, the album added 2,2 million sales to break 4 million sales to consumers, plus some Club sales as well (more on that later). On January 31, 1993, the King of Pop performed at the Superbowl and then appeared on an Oprah TV special, sending Dangerous all the way up from #131 to #10. Those elements helped it to sell 1,3 million copies in 1993 to bring its Soundscan tally up to 5,3 million.

This heavy promotion from early 1993 also boosted his back catalog. Thriller catapulted to #2 inside the Catalog Chart, Bad to #10 and Off The Wall to #29. A couple of years earlier, in 1991, sales from the US Military camps were also at last allowed for certification purpose. Both facts together opened the door for an audit of the back catalog, leading to two new awards:

JACKSON, MICHAEL THRILLER 08/25/93 EPIC M (22)
JACKSON, MICHAEL BAD 08/25/93 EPIC M (7)

As both albums were certified the same day, at least one of them was likely over the mark for some months. Epic was keeping a close eye on their sales though so for sure they weren’t much higher. Meanwhile Off The Wall failed to hit 7xP,

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Heretis

RIAA makes record labels pay for audits and membership having no set rate. Most labels have reportedly said less than 10% of their releases have been profitable. Same kind of goes for soundscan. How much are these figures subject to manipulation and/or estimation? I’ve also read where Soundscan doesn’t contact every retailer, just the ones they believe are enough to get a good sample for weighted averages, even among its members. For instance, instead of calling all the WalMart stores, they’d call 1 or 2 and calculate the rest based on how many were sold but give less weight to… Read more »

John

A time for an update MJD? Some of these albums were re-certfied last year.

chris

double CDS count twice i wondered as a child that so many people bought MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE .. by smashing pumpkins it was certified 10xPLATINUM =DIAMOND but albums that sold half were higher in the year end charts in the US than that album but as a teen i found out that sales were just 4,4 million and that it was counted twice in every article it is said that it was their breakthrough. but one moment. SIAMESE DREAM was released in 1993 and was certified 4xPLATINUM and sales stand at 4,6 million ridicolous On the other hand… Read more »

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