Extreme CSPC: Introducing the ASR, Artist Success Rating


Have you ever thought that album sales of your favorite artist weren’t reflective of his real success or that a release from his label was unnecessary? All of us already wondered What if…? and felt bothered because there was no way to know what would have happened if things had been done differently. Here comes some serious food for thought that may help you find answers!

For two years now we have been studying carefully records’ sales of various major artists. I reassure you: we won’t stop doing it. Nor we will change the methodology. This article will present you a sharp concept that may turn you off, but give it a chance as it is mind-blowing. It will come as a complement of the CSPC approach rather than as a replacement. For the first time, we will tell you that 1 isn’t always worth 1. You don’t have to be afraid, I’ll not introduce you the Quantum mechanics of the music industry! Well, now that I think about it, maybe I will, but at least I’ll try to make it as easy to understand as possible!

While we applied calculations to weight on par all formats and to balance appropriately equivalent album sales of an artist into his original recordings, the final results were nothing else than real sales. The Beatles did sell 406 million equivalent albums, Michael Jackson did sell 324 million and so on. Basically, a CSPC approach of an artist consists in 3 steps:

  1. to define raw sales of all records
  2. to weight all raw sales as per the format concerned
  3. to re-assign sales of all secondary packages into the original recording
Why the success of an artist differs from the worth of his catalog

What does it mean when 2 artists end on the same CSPC total? Technically, it means their respective catalog sold the same number of equivalent album units. Functionally, it means the worth of their catalogs is the same. Obviously, careers of these artists may differ in many ways. One may have released more albums, at different times with different market sizes and their recordings may have been exploited differently. If two artists sold 50 million CSPC units each, but the first one issued 10 albums and the second one issued only 2, it is rather clear that the former has been the most successful.

Should we calculate an average per album then? It would be a very bad idea. If we did that in 2005, we would have found out that Norah Jones and Dido were as successful as the biggest artists of all-time. It is something to get a pair of successful albums, it is something else to build a catalog as valuable as the one of the Beatles. Plus, an average wouldn’t help in sorting the impact of the exploitation.

The Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept defines the worth of an artist’s catalog as it stands. While it seems natural to believe that the success of an artist is defined by how much he sold, it’s only true if his full sales potential has been achieved. In real life, the exploitation of an entire catalog can’t have been perfectly optimized all along the artist’s career, there have been lost value along the road. In other words, all artists could have sold better.

What if I tell you that I found a way to identify which artists have lost the most value? A way to prove that even if an artist sold less than some other one, he is been the most successful still? I should warn you – not all of you will like the results! That’s the way it is though and as previously mentioned, our CSPC lists will stick to purely verified sales so there is no need to worry.

Now that I have set the overall idea, let’s introduce the Artist Success Rating which rates the absolute success of an artist independently of how his records were exploited by his record company. This rating uses in part CSPC results but pushes the reasoning into higher level of thoughts to make up from the lost value. Our goal today is to found a way to resolve this formula:


ASR:     Artist Success Rating
CSPC:   Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept
LV:        Lost Value

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Hello MJD, for me a compilation can also help the audience to discover a group, not to mention that many albums sell a lot in the first years and then it’s enough. The people tend to keep buying “myth” records, I do not think the Queen without collections would sell so much by diluting sales in the old 33. I’ve always bought so many collections, but if they had not gone out, I would not have bought the discs from which they were made. Honestly, 84 million more copies seem to me a figure out of all logic, often the… Read more »


Hello, MJD. All this information is kinda confusing. But Eminem has sold 382, 598, 000. Can you please break down this number?


Oh I see, thanks for the reply. Is there any way to know how much the number increased as of 2018 November?


Alright, thank you. I’ll bookmark this website.


Interesting. So it’s not wrong to say Eminem is the most successful artist to emerge on the last two decades?


I think miley’s sales are outdated. Bangerz is x3 platinum and although it didn’t sell much Younger Now isnt listed. Malibu has to add a couple of millions to her catalogue


Hi! Does someone knows how many copies did Tini Stoessel (argentinian pop singer) sold?


hi i was just confused and wondering if you can explain the difference between records sold and cspc here…

also can you dismember 124M records sold that you have for Ariana Grande


i see some artists are outdated


MJD, just discovered your site/methodology. Absolutely fantastic work and very thought provoking!

A quick question on the Artist Success Rating. Are your results effectively stating that Micheal Jackson was/is’bigger’ than the Beatles in terms of overall popularity or have I misunderstood?


Hi MJD, I absolutely love your work! It’s so pleasant to finally have someone who doesn’t try to compare artists with hate for some or blind love for some others. And particularly someone who compares it with real material and a very well explained methodology. Your work could be accepted as a thesis in college. I was so tired of reading Elvis fan writing that he sold 2 billions albums or whatsoever, plus based on a simple statement made by who knows who… I’ve been reading your posts for a few months now (yeah sometimes at work) and I have… Read more »


Thank you for your quick answer ! I really get that you’re lacking of time. I cannot imagine what massive amount of work this must be. And I get the tricky part in judging the artist / band debate. I had thought a little bit already of what your answer might be 🙂 But as of the first idea, if you ever have the time to come up with something it would be great. Plus, when we think about the “popularity” concept in itself, it is hard to set aside the live acts. But I’m sure you’ll be there for… Read more »


Nice work! I think the one missing factor in all this great work is live touring success. A measure of an artists’ commercial success and popularity seems incomplete without it.

Take U2… #13 on this list but arguably they have been the most successful live act … probably a toss up with the Rolling Stones. Would Madonna or MJ come close on their global ability to sell out stadiums vs U2 or the Rolling Stones ? If we count stream, digital and physical sales … about about concert ticket sales?


Good points. I would add that an artists’ longevity around touring and number of tickets sold lifetime (aside from gross $s) should be weighed in. U2 sold over 7m tickets for the 360 tour … I don’t believe anyone else has ever done that on one tour, I would bet the average attendance per show is greater than any other major tour in history.


That’s a fair point because some tickets just weren’t as expensive even when you look at the adjustments for inflation. But looking at the History/PopMart comparison since that was a time when they were both touring, Michael had 10 less shows but 500k more people attended the tour. He also sold out the O2 Arena 50 times before he died. That was 750k tickets in around 4 hours.


Live performances are so different that it becomes hard to include them. Not only ages are different but also shows may be very different and are not always greatest hits concerts to call everyone in. Some legacy acts may do it (like The Rolling Stones) but others rather do shows focused on their latest work that may attract less people (or are design like that). There are Stadium, Arenas and even Theater shows. Ticket price also vary depending on the type of venue. Last month on Billboard box-office Madonna had the highest ticket price average (over $700 per ticket) but… Read more »

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