Valuation of an artist’s popularity per market
Millions of supposed sales unaccounted for
For decades, various sales myths have been entertained for one simple reason: we were lacking data about many markets. If detailed information about sales in the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, etc., doesn’t sustain a suspicious claim, the answer is easy: “there is many more countries in the world”. These days are over.
Among the wildest claims were the ones related to Meat Loaf‘s 1977 monster album Bat Out Of Hell. During the last decades, the album’s reported sales went from 25 to 37 to 43 million. This last figure is still the one claimed on Wikipedia. The information about this LP is quite special. On one side, we have detailed and official data proving gigantic sales in various countries while there is absolutely nothing known for remaining markets. It is a blockbuster in the US (15 million as of now), the UK (3,3 million), Australia (near 1,8 million, highest selling album ever), Canada (2,25 million), Netherlands (over 1,1 million added to the volume 2) and New-Zealand (17xP, 255,000).
Then there is various countries were the album sold a lot without reaching all-time highs levels. While there is no recent data from Germany confirmed, it is 100% safe that the album shifted well over a million to date. It shipped 500,000 units up to 1983, added over 300,000 copies in 1993-1994 plus more than 30 years of solid catalog sales. The record did nearly as well in Austria and in Switzerland. Similarly, charts tell Meat Loaf is a solid seller in Scandinavia.
This set of mind-blowing figures can lead anyone to assume monster sales in remaining markets too. After all, there was limited to no information in 1977 from countries like Brazil, Mexico, Japan, France, Italy and Spain. Why couldn’t it be there too a sales beast which accumulated tons of sales through the years?
Views by market: Meat Loaf vs Michael Jackson
To know where an artist like Meat Loaf sold well, we need to set a point of reference. I’ll go with Michael Jackson for 3 main reasons. The first is that he is one of the most global artists of all-time, registering solid views from everywhere. Thus, he is representative of a widespread appeal, his views aren’t weighted towards a few markets only which would distort comparisons. The second reason is that we have album sales information for him from a lot of markets, so we can set up various conversions. The third reason is that his main singles came out from 1979 to 1995, in line with Meat Loaf‘s 1977-1994 big years, so their big hits are equally old.
We will compare the relevance of each country for both acts. Below table lists results for the American continent. They include views of both acts for the last 4 weeks.
Views in America
How to read these figures? If you check the line of Canada, data means Jackson registered 1,813,000 views there during the last rolling month, 1,5% of his global views of near 125 million. On its side, Meat Loaf stands on 240,000 in Canada, 4,2% of his global views of under 6 million. It means that Canada is a market 2,92 times more important for Meat Loaf.
Bat Out Of Hell went 2xDiamond in Canada in 1995 when it was 12xPlatinum in the US. Bat Out Of Hell II went 9xPlatinum in the former country against 5xPlatinum in the latter. This factual situation is verified with YouTube Insights data which confirms his higher popularity in Canada than in the US.
It gets very interesting in the lower part of the table. We notice that everywhere else in the American continent, Meat Loaf is nowhere near as popular as in Canada and the US. There is a string of Central American and Caribbean countries where he isn’t even that bad. In South America though, that’s a disaster. Brazil is a market 15 times less important for him than for Jackson. That’s despite the fact we are speaking in relative terms, ignoring that in absolute terms he is already much lower.
Views in Europe
The UK and Ireland represent 25,4% of Meat Loaf‘s global streams against only 4,1% for Jackson. While we don’t know sales of Bat Out Of Hell in Ireland, we can safely assume they are just as good as in the UK. Then there is 7 countries which are from 2,5 to 3,5 times more relevant for Meat Loaf. They are exactly the countries where we already knew he was big: Scandinavia, Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Czech Republic.
It’s kinda incredible to see all figures fitting so well: in both Belgium (2,17) and Switzerland (1,37) the relevance of Meat Loaf is almost equal to the weighted average of Netherlands / France and Germany / France / Italy, respectively.
Interestingly, we notice that he is less popular than expected in Finland. Bat Out Of Hell 1 & 2 are uncertified there. Since the Finnish database is far from complete, we could have assumed huge sales, on par with the rest of Scandinavia still. The 3rd chapter of the album issued in 2006 completely missed the Top 40 there when it reached the Top 10 in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. These YouTube Insights’ data now confirm that: he simply sold less in Finland than elsewhere.
In Spain, the relevance of 0,69 is already very low. We must understand that since Meat Loaf failed to do well in huge YouTube markets like Brazil and Mexico, the norm for him would be to over-perform in the rest of countries the share of someone equally big everywhere like Jackson. Consequently, being more than 30% sub-par is quite bad.
In fact, when we see France at 0,25 we shouldn’t suppose Meat Loaf is 25% as successful as Jackson there. The latter sold over 14 million albums in this country, the former only charted inside the Top 50 one time, with Bat Out Of Hell 2 which peaked at #19 on a short run and failed to go Gold. When we know that the gap in sales is about 30 to 1 for a ratio of 0,25, we understand how poorly Meat Loaf sold in Latin America where his ratio is even lower.
Views in Asia
If you wondered if Bat Out Of Hell sold tons of copies off the radar in Asia, here is the answer: no, it didn’t. Figures are very clear, Meat Loaf is barely known there. Please note that orange cells at 800 refer to countries outside of his personal top 100, so I have set 800 as it is the cut of that top 100, the truth is even lower.
Logically, countries were he isn’t that awful in terms of performance are the ones where there is many English-language expatriates. When we check the various releases of some of his albums like Bad Attitude, we can highlight it got released in Japan, Philippines and Indonesia from Asia. That’s precisely the biggest Asian markets when we factor his organic popularity to the market size. It confirms he was at least selling a bit there, but elsewhere his records weren’t even issued.
Views in the rest of World
Once again no surprise. We knew Meat Loaf did well in Australia and New-Zealand, this is confirmed by his YouTube numbers. We can now also safely say he sold a lot in South Africa. It doesn’t come as a surprise either since we already pointed out that African markets are almost entirely driven by expatriates, which in the case of South Africa come from English-speaking countries where he is big.
As for the remaining Middle East and African countries, while these markets are already fairly low, he also performed poorly. Basically, his records never came out and the local population clearly never heard about him and his albums.
The conversion rate
Thanks to previous tables, we saw that we can have a very clear view of markets where an artist did well or not. How does it translate into sales though?
Below are markets were we have enough information to commit into a career to date tally for both Jackson and Meat Loaf. Figures exclude some minor releases, but it doesn’t alter the conclusions nor the meaning of it. The important point is how sales translate into views.
What does relative conversion rate means? For each markets, it’s how many more sales Meat Loaf recorded from the same number of views. In the US for example, for every view Jackson got during the last month, he sold 2,69 albums during his career. Meat Loaf sold 13,66 albums for each of his views. It’s all the more natural since Jackson has a larger part of his audience which uses YouTube than Meat Loaf.
In Canada, Australia and New-Zealand, the conversion rate is almost identical. In the US it is much higher, in the UK much lower. Why so? In the US, Meat Loaf has been a one-franchise-wonder. The first two volumes of Bat Out Of Hell represent 85,6% of his sales there. It means that even if they liked only 3/4 songs from him, they still bought up to 2 albums, which are studio ones so they don’t cannibalize each other.
In the UK, he was much more successful, hitting the Top 10 with 12 albums against only 2 in the US. That raised the interest in compilations. He sold nearly 4 million of them in the UK. Basically, Meat Loaf suffered the cannibalization effect mentioned inside the Artist Success Rating article, which is the result of a poor exploitation of the catalog of an artist. Ultimately, while his catalog was way more popular in the UK / Ireland than anywhere else, that popularity wasn’t converted so well into sales.
The question is, which conversion rate is the most representative of sales elsewhere? The average of all 5 rates is 3,25. Both the US and the UK are outliers data, the remaining ones are all around 3,2 too. Let’s simply go with the average of these three markets at 3,19. Now, we will see how Jackson‘s views from each country translated into sales and assume Meat Loaf converted his own views 3,19 times better. Once again, be aware sales by country of Jackson may be slightly incomplete. The aim isn’t to build a receipt list but instead to understand the meaning of figures and how to interpret the mechanics of sales.
Sales in American continent
As you can see, applying our conversion rate results on a mere 262,000 sales for Meat Loaf in all American countries outside of the US and Canada. We aren’t talking about sales of 1977’s Bat Out Of Hell, but instead his career to date total.
For sure, these figures aren’t official sales nor real data. In the absence of known information though, they are a realistic set of facts-based figures. They involve no opinion and no assumption that isn’t based on accurate information. Maybe even more importantly, results doesn’t depend on market sizes only, they also take into account the relative popularity of the artist in each country. Let’s continue to display results of Meat Loaf.
Sales in European continent
What’s good with European countries is that we have data to verify how accurate this method is. In Germany, a quick overview tells us Meat Loaf must have sold close to 5 million albums with both Bat Out Of Hell 1 and 2 well over a million a piece. In the Netherlands, these albums sold nearly 1,1 million up to 2006. While the rest of his discography sold nowhere near as well, the calculation of 1,9 million is too high but in the correct ballpark.
Data we have about his album sales in Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Italy and Finland are all consistent with the figure suggested by YouTube Insights’ conversion, although for most of them just like in Germany and the Netherlands numbers are a bit too high. That’s most likely down to the huge conversion rate of Michael Jackson in Europe which inflates slightly numbers in favor to Meat Loaf.
Please note that for Ireland the conversion rate from the UK was used since the market follow the same trends.
Sales in Asian continent
I previously mentioned that taking into account the market size and Meat Loaf‘s relative popularity, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines are his 3 biggest markets from Asia. Results confirm it in full. It’s no coincidence if they are the markets that got the most releases from him as shown on discogs.
We do have one unique sales information about Meat Loaf in Asia: Bat Out Of Hell 2 sold 3,250 in its only week charted in Japan. How would I process without YouTube Insights? It would be all about the pace of sales. In all markets for which we have information we can notice the album during its peak in late 1993 sold around 1/20th of its release to date total. That would set its sales over 60,000 units in Japan. This market is more frontloaded than remaining ones though so one would expect less than that mark. Bat Out Of Hell 2 made a much larger impact than Bat Out Of Hell in Japan since that one failed to chart despite much lower numbers required, although YouTube views suggest a great lasting appeal of the first. In countries where that situation has been true, that would suggest 100,000-ish sales for the first album, 50,000-ish for the second and about the same for remaining albums and compilations. That would put him on 200,000 units. The same result as the one we obtain with YouTube Insights.
It’s kind of fascinating to see that two completely different methods, one based on the pace of sales from release to date and the other on YouTube views, result on exactly the same number. Once again, it doesn’t mean Meat Loaf necessarily sold 200,000 albums in Japan, but it does mean that is an accurate gauge of the truth and that he sold nowhere near as well as in some other markets.
In total, all markets add for close to 700,000 units. In reality, that would be a bit less because of release issue. These calculations suppose all his albums were released in all countries, just like Jackson‘s albums were. It isn’t true. When we see under 10,000 sales for India, across a catalog as large as his and over a country as massive as India, we can seriously doubt his records were ever released there. It wouldn’t have been profitable for his label. Instead, the few views obtained would be due to expatriates and people on vacations.
Sales in remaining countries
Please note that for South Africa the conversion rate from the UK was used since the market follow the same trends.
Global sales of Bat Out Of Hell
Bat Out Of Hell sold 22,65 million units in the 5 known English-speaking countries, the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New-Zealand. To be at 43 million globally, that would require more than 20 million sales from remaining countries; Thanks to YouTube Insights, we can gauge Meat Loaf‘s sales elsewhere on 14 million, give or take possibly up to 20%. But that figure refers to his entire discography, not only his debut album. Even if we assume the 1977 record sold half of these sales from elsewhere, it still means only about 7 million, which puts it under 30 million to date.
This result isn’t surprising. In fact, careless media from all over the world repeat 37 or 43 million without looking what it is about. In truth, these figures always refered to combined sales of Bat Out Of Hell I and II.
That brings a new question, how do we know which album did well? Guess what, YouTube Insights give us the answer once again!