The race to 100 million CSPC is on

Album sales of Ed Sheeran Justin Bieber Drake Beyoncé Taylor Swift Adele Coldplay Rihanna

Selling a million album is something, no matter if we talk about pure album sales or converted singles formats. It takes a lot of success to get there. Climbing all the way to 10 million is all the more difficult while hitting 100 million is some kind of a legendary achievement. The last artist to do so? Britney Spears who debuted way back in 1998. Thanks to strong ongoing sales, several 00s artists are now on their way to get there too. Rihanna, Coldplay, Adele, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, they are all contenders to reach 9 digits sales. Who will do it first though? Also, can younger artists like Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, and Drake be dark horses and top them all?

So far, we have studied 37 artists who can claim over 100 million equivalent album sales (EAS from now on). As our audit process is not over, there is still some more to add. I won’t spoil too much if I say that the likes Frank Sinatra and Rod Stewart will hit this mark too once added. Nevertheless, only about a dozen missing artists sold that much, meaning there is only 50-ish acts who ever managed this total. What do they have in common? Well, decades of ongoing sales. It’s what it takes to get so high. In an industry where 10 million has always been a very high target for an album, you can only hit 100 million thanks to both consistent success upon release and significant catalog sales through the years, either through original records or newly packaged compilations.

Downloads then destroyed the music industry, highly limiting the impact of new hit makers. With them, a strong appeal towards a consumer was only worth 0.15 EAS as per our CSPC approach, the weighting of a digital download. The market collapsed year after year and it became impossible to exploit the catalog of a popstar with a compilation, now people had iTunes gift cards and would download a pair of tracks instead.

This context added to their relatively short discography prevented 00s acts to climb through all-time lists, with career sales often limited to 40-50 million EAS. Their catalog is now getting larger and streaming made possible anew to gain traction on the back of valuable old songs. Thus, counts of the likes mentioned in the introduction can’t stop increasing and are now getting closer and closer from the magical threshold of 100 million.

To tell who’s going to get there first, let’s review their career sales as of our last update and watch their ongoing catalog strength. In order to make it all the more fun, I’ll check them in reverse order of their last CSPC tally.

Ed Sheeran – 54,305,000 (as of Oct 2018)


27-years old Ed Sheeran has been on a roll lately. From his UK success with his debut 2011 album + to his global domination with 3rd effort Divide from 2017, he climbed all the way to the top of the game.

His tally of 54 million may seem way off the 100 million target, but the pace of his sales since late 2014 has been insane. In barely 15 weeks since our last update, he already gained 1.4 million EAS from streams, plus about 10% of that number from remaining avenues, putting him close to 56 million. With a weekly rate of 100,000 EAS, it would take Sheeran over 8 years to hit 100 million. Obviously, the back catalog may slow down a bit, making it longer, but then, we would have to add in his new releases and accompanying catalog boosts.

The conclusion for the singer is that he won’t get there unless he releases 1, or better 2, new albums. He already told he isn’t dropping a new LP in 2019, so time to get a pair of releases and sales to get in, at the very, very best, he will move into 9 digits by 2022. This assumes his next albums smash nearly as hard as Divide, which kind of rule him out for our contest.

Drake – 56,880,000 (as of Aug 2017)


Impressive records sales is about the only thing Drake and Sheeran have in common. They both approach their career in a completely different way. If we can be safe the British pop singer won’t release a new album, let alone two, in a near future, Drake can put something out virtually anytime.

This way of handling his career led him to have about 3 times more albums out than Sheeran on top of countless of side projects. For him too though, the figure of 56.7 million may seem a bit short. The point is, from August 2017 to October 2018 his streaming tally shot from 21.5 million EAS to 35.6 million EAS. In a little over 15 weeks since then, he already added 3 million more EAS from streams. Drake‘s target audience uses mostly streaming services, but since the last CSPC review the artist also sold over 500,000 albums and 6 million downloads. His current career total is thus effectively 75 million right now rather than 57 million.

In recent weeks he has been increasing at more than 200,000 units every 7 days, a pace that would send him to 100 million by 2021. In this case too the ongoing sales may slow down a bit since various singles from Scorpion are still recent, but if he continues to be busy releasing new material don’t rule Drake out to reach 100 million during the year 2020.

Justin Bieber – 60,877,000 (as of Apr 2018)


Unlike the previous artists, Bieber hasn’t been very active lately. In 2015, his Purpose album showed the Canadian superstar was a dominant figure in streaming platforms. His appeal was milked through heavily popular collaborations like Let Me Love You and Despacito afterwards, but no new album came out in more than 3 years.

With his updated streams as of October 2018, added to 1.2 million EAS he amassed since then, plus subsequent formats, Bieber is now over 65 million. With the potential of moving 15 million EAS with one only album plus 10 million from back catalog in a year, a heavily successful album would send him very close to 100 million. Good news, a new record must be around the corner for him. How successful will it be? Time will tell. Realistically though, he will need to wait for at least 2022 to hit 100 million.

Beyoncé – 74,052,000 (as of May 2018)


At the moment, the future of Beyoncé is quite unsure. For many years, she seemed unstoppable. New hits, streaming force, strong back catalog, she had everything on her side. When numbers were slightly down from her previous works like it happened with her Lemonade album, which did well but not as extremely well as her previous records, the fault was set on the lack of availability on Spotify.

The release of her duet album Everything Is Love along with her husband Jay-Z under the name The Carters flopped badly yet. It hasn’t even come close from moving a million EAS globally. Her back catalog actually moved more units since May 2018’s update than new releases, although she is still below 77 million EAS with the duet album and her recent collaborations included.

With her career total climbing by around 50,000 per week, she needs a huge turnaround to be a contender in the next 5 years. Her former hits and iconic status ain’t enough anymore. In concrete words, for her next album, she needs a real big hit. Even if it happens, 100 million will take time, she is unlikely to be reach it before 2022.

Taylor Swift – 76,863,000 (as of Oct 2018)


Taylor Swift is another interesting case study. Up to 78 million EAS up to date, she comes from a 6.1 million selling effort, her 2017 reputation. Her release history suggests a new album isn’t coming soon, but rumors suggest otherwise. A 7th album for 2019 holiday season is possible. What’s sure is that up to date, 6 million EAS is a low for the artist, so she is very capable of outperforming that mark when she returns.

It must be noted that her catalog is now available in Spotify, which fueled her ongoing sales in recent months. Just like Bieber, a strong year for her would be close to 15 million with a new album and 10 million for her back catalog. The difference is that for her, that would be enough to jump over 100 million. So, if she really comes back later this year, she will have a shot of getting there by the end of 2020.

Adele – 84,148,000 (as of Mar 2018)


When we talk about Adele, the first thing we want to say is that everything is possible. She makes legendary results look incredibly easy. Nearly a year ago, she was already up to 84 million EAS with a mere 3 albums and virtually no featuring whatsoever. Right now, she is closing in 86 million.

Based on her sales so far, expectations for her fourth album are set on over 18 million EAS. The last one, 25, is already well over 26 million. Her current monthly increase is over 125,000, a figure that doesn’t look so good. In a streaming world, her tiny catalog of 39 songs available at Spotify is hurting her sales strength. Still, with a new era expected for this year, most likely for Q4 considering she appeals to traditional buyers too, she can basically reach 100 million anytime, let’s say by A4 release date plus 3 months. Even if the era goes wrong, it will always sell its share of millions while boosting her previous LPs, which must secure her 100 million sales by 2021 at the latest.

Coldplay – 84,997,000 (as of Jun 2017)


Among big selling current acts, Coldplay is the one that got the oldest update in our site. We did review their streams more recently though, and their up to date numbers show an increase of nearly 6 million EAS from this format alone. With album sales and downloads, they are now on top of a 93 million total.

Their catalog is insanely powerful, shifting close to 100,000 EAS per week day in and day out. Even with no release, they are a lock for 100 million sales during 2020. The band is supposedly in a hiatus at the moment, but with them we can’t rule out a new release sooner than expected. If that happens before the end of the year, they will undoubtedly reach 100 million this year alone.

Rihanna – 86,846,000 (as of Nov 2017)


As you can guess the total of Rihanna displayed here is also fairly outdated. Since then, she moved roughly half a million EAS from sales formats (over 100,000 albums and over 3 million downloads). Of course, the lion share comes from streams which increased by nearly 6 million EAS since November 2017. Her current total is then over 93 million up to date.

The thing is, these ongoing sales have been achieved with 0 new release. She dropped absolutely nothing during the year 2018, but still gained a stunning 440,000 EAS per month. At this rate, she will be up to 100 million by June 2020. Her last album, ANTI, recently turned 3 years old, so we can expect new music from the Barbadian icon soon, especially since she confirmed her 9th album for 2019. ANTI stands on an impressive 6.3 million EAS to date, which shows she still has plenty of potential with fresh recordings too, not only with her back catalog of hits.

Of course, there is always talks about how features must be treated once we talk about Rihanna. Fact is, her sales aren’t high thanks to her features, instead she gets features because she sells high numbers. Getting her on a song has been the shortest path to success you can get for 13 years.

With the same cumulative tally than Coldplay and similar continuous catalog sales, our bet is that Rihanna will become the first 00s artist to make it to 100 million EAS thanks to her upcoming new album. She is very likely to do it before 2019 ends.

Below table resumes the content of this article. We are putting our money on Rihanna to win the race, but what about you?

Ed Sheeran Justin Bieber Drake Beyoncé Taylor Swift Adele Coldplay Rihanna 100 million sales

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G.G.

Interesting to see none of these confirmed the prediction so far. Adele might do it this year as her “Worst case scenario” with her upcoming album, but the others seem far from it.

Calvin

Taylor is 3m away. She’ll probably get there sometime this year

Jake

Rihanna will get there sooner

Calvin

If she releases an album first. Otherwise Coldplay/Taylor will beat her to it. Although her page hasn’t even been updated for quite some time so she might have already passed the mark

RLAAMJR.

I’m pretty sure Rihanna is on the lead and she will be releasing a new album before Adele would so definitely, Rihanna will be the first to reach 100 million EAS. Drake still has a chance if he releases a new album first. And my feelings for Adele’s next album might be the least-selling (my basis is that a.) her first 3 albums has been very successful so there’s a chance that her 4th will be the least-selling, b.) she’s 31 now so her loyal fans might not be so loyal anymore and less young music fans will partronize her… Read more »

Iris

Are we forgetting that most Beyoncé fans did not want her to tour or release music with Jay-z. That is why that album flopped. it had nothing to do with her star power at all. Her next studio album will determine if she is old news!

RLAAMJR.

Her new album is not doing well unfortunately. She has to stick with Pop music or else she’ll be forgotten.

Willem

The gift also flopped and as a beyhive i’m telling you this fandom is lazy

Tre

Hell MJD another quick question, from your Measurement is seems as if Adele’s 21 is The best selling album in the UK of all time with 5,225,000 Sold. I checked Wikipedia and it said Queen and ABBA’s Greatest hits album’s are. But I don’t trust Wikipedia as a reliable source. And from your records it show Wikipedia is false. So Is 21 by Adele the best selling album in the UK or did you count another album and I missed it? Cause I only searched those 3 albums based on Wiki
Thanks for your time.

orange

Hi MJD! I hope you enjoyed your vacation! I think it’s interesting that none of the top 2000s acts were able to reach 100 million EAS within 10 years of their debut – the closest are Adele and Drake who might manage it within 11 years, but for the rest it will be closer to 15 or even 20. I remember you saying there were a few acts from the physical era who probably reached it in around 8 years though I don’t recall which. That’s not a knock against these artists, it just proves your point about how downloads… Read more »

Jasmine

Mjd why is it that very few of the acts that debut from 97-2003 managed to break through the 100 million mark? Considering the market was so huge at that time why arent there at least 4,5 or 6 artists that managed to pass through that milestones. Instead only 2 did, and one of them barely pass the 100 million mark. I also noticed that there were plenty of acts that managed to breakthrough the 50-60 million marks from that era but then their popularity quickly slow down. Is it because the market was too competitive back then and its… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Jasmine
Martin

Probably because the sales market died a death in the mid 2000s, not giving them the length of time or market conditions that say Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd or The Beatles had to accumulate huge catalogue sales.

Last edited 1 month ago by Martin
ABJ

Beyonce is the only one is see not reaching 100 million anytime soon. She isnt a huge force like any of them commercially and isnt as close as Coldplay

Sambuu

Happy to see Coldplay on 93M. Waiting for Coldplay CSPC update.

Timber

Beyonce really needs to embrace streaming more. She’s such a strong streaming artist when her most recent music is unavailable for streaming, imagine if it is available.

Lola

For this reason she sold all these physical and digital copies of lemonade, her only album outside streaming platforms.

Timber

She sold them, now she isn’t selling. They stopped selling within a year.

Look at how BEYONCE was handled. It sold physical and digital copies well, then a year later it dropped out of the BB200, then was released to streaming and is now approaching 2B streams on Spotify, like 180 weeks on the BB200 , and it even managed to chart in the Apple Music Global top 100 in the 2018 YE chart.

Michael

But if it was released on streaminh earlier during its debut. Lemonade wouldnt sell nearly as much in terms of physical and downloads. She will be massive in Streaming though. It is just like taking a format out and replace it with another format. It ends out having the same result anyway.

Timber

It’s not that simple. It may be so for some artists, but it clearly isn’t for everyone, especially with artists such as Drake with high piracy rates. Hence why he blew up when the streaming era started.

Anyway, Bey released Lemonade to Spotify finally. Hit the top 10 on BB200 because of that.

It has added about 130,000 CSPC from Spotify/AM in a month. So much better than practically nothing from pure sales alone. Ya’ll look like Boo Boo the fool now.

Michael

Timber,

And its physical sales are just dying. The catalogue appeal of its album is replaced by its streaming numbers.

Rey

Interesting topic! I’m betting money on either Taylor or Coldplay. Taylor still has the best career momentum among top 5 (loyal fanbase, streaming audience interested) Reputation was frontloaded at first (proving her fans’ loyalty) but subsequent singles flop, making the era lose heat for a while. However the last single Delicate performing very well (on all streaming, radio, sales) suggest the audience still love Taylor with the right track. With her switching label (Republic) – the label will put more money in promotion + streaming, and I think an increase from Reputation’s 6M is very likely. Coldplay for their consistent… Read more »

Lou Pole

Instead of “next” to 100M, who has reached already reached 100M but have not had a Chartmastsers CSPC compiled yet?…most likely Rod Stewart, Van Halen, Sinatra, Clapton, Twisted Sister, Neil Diamond, Sting/Police…who am I missing?

plan9fan

Maybe Cliff Richard MJD? I’m not sure about his total worldwide sales but he must be close (ish)? A huge amount of physical singles sales, quite a bit of success overseas but very limited in the US of course. Also a large amount of albums, EPs, video sales (yes I know none were huge on their own but a 60 year career must be getting up there?)

Also Santana should be around that ballpark?

Then not forgetting the sales and charts behemoth that is Nana Mouskouri! 🙂

plan9fan

Also forgot a few other acts that I’m not too sure of :

Electric Light Orchestra, Supertramp, Journey and Duran Duran

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