Britney Spears is the best-selling female artist who debuted in the past 25 years. She shaped an entire generation with her debut album, however, did the pop icon ever manage to replicate that success? We’ll find out shortly!
Mariah Carey was enjoying her seventh consecutive 3 million selling album in the US with Rainbow. Celine Dion was killing it with My Heart Will Go On and related albums. Even Cher made a surprise comeback thanks to Believe song, while Janet Jackson broke the last resisting markets thanks to Together Again.
If this period looked like the golden age of those divas, it was actually a pivotal era, some kind of swan song of 80s-90s superstars.
Time told us all of them were going to face hard flops within’ a few years. By 2003, female stars were named Dido, Avril Lavigne, Norah Jones, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Shakira, Beyonce or P!nk.
The singer leading this new army of female superstars yet was no other than Britney Spears, arguably the first of them to explode and the one who did it in the biggest way.
This was just the beginning of such a trend as through the following years many more divas would come out like Kelly Clarkson, Rihanna, Duffy, Leona Lewis, Nelly Furtado, Amy Winehouse, Taylor Swift Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus and, of course, Adele.
As usual, I’ll be using the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept in order to relevantly gauge her results. This concept will not only bring you sales information for all Britney Spears‘ albums, physical and download singles, as well as audio and video streaming. In fact, it will also determine their true popularity.
If you are not yet familiar with the CSPC method, below is a nice and short video of explanations. I fully recommend watching it before getting into the sales figures. Of course, if you are a regular visitor feel free to skip the video and get into the numbers directly.
The Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept (CSPC)
There are two ways to understand this revolutionary concept. In the first place, there is this Scribe video posted below. If you are unaware of the CSPC method, you will get the full idea within just a pair of minutes.
If you are a mathematical person, and want to know the full method as well as formulas, you can read the full introduction article.
Now let’s get into the artist’s sales figures in detail in order to apply this concept and define the act’s true popularity!
Britney Spears Album Sales
Original Album Sales – Comments
As we can see above, Britney Spears‘ first two albums were clearly massive. Her debut album, …Baby One More Time, pulled a massive 24.18 million while her sophomore album, Oops!…I Did It Again, came fairly close with a whopping 19.3 million.
That success is often hard to replicate, which is why her sales declined by 47% by her third album, Britney.
Spears‘ fourth studio album, In the Zone, was also a decline, although to a lesser extent. This record would later benefit from the transition to downloads and streaming, putting it pretty much on par with Britney.
After dominating the tabloids during her difficult years, her comeback to the music industry, Blackout, was deemed a failure. The album was a massive decline for Spears, selling just below 2.5 million.
The singer managed to bounce back with her sixth studio album, Circus, which was released a year later and has since shifted 3.78 million to date, marking a increase of 53% from her previous album.
Recent years haven’t been too kind for her, at least as far as pure album sales go. Her seventh studio album, Femme Fatale, was a sharp decline from Circus.
Britney Jean and Glory mark new career lows for Britney Spears.
Britney Spears songs sales
As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 3 ratio between one album and one physical single.
Britney Spears enjoyed a bunch of complete eras during the physical period to sell some records through this format.
Of course, the US had mostly given up them already by 2000, just like Canada, Latin America, Asian countries minus Japan and Taiwan, among other markets.
The rest of Europe and Australia still made it possible to shift a million units of a successful single.
Her debut single, …Baby One More Time, was a gigantic hit, and became one of the few songs in history that sold over 5 million proper singles in one shot.
Half of that tally was achieved in the US and the UK combined.
Later singles from her debut album didn’t benefit from a physical release in the US, and would chart solely on strong airplay alone.
Sometimes, (You Drive Me) Crazy and Born to Make You Happy were all big enough in Europe and Australia to help them shift at least 1 million units.
From the Bottom of My Broken Heart was released physically in the US, where it was certified platinum for shipping 1 million units, although it fails short from reaching that mark.
In 2000, Spears scored another massive global hit with Oops!…I Did It Again, although it suffered from having no physical release in the US, much like its follow up, Lucky.
Stronger was the only song from Spears‘ second album to be released physically released in the US.
By 2001, physical single sales were on a step decline everywhere, and none of the singles from Spears’ third album, Britney, were released in the US. The songs were big enough in Europe and Australia to shift nearly 2 million units combined.
During 2003, 233 million physical singles were sold, 47% less than in 1999. In many countries the market was holding well, but it had disappeared completely in the US in-between. Thus, it is quite normal to see all songs routinely shifting around half a million units instead of over 1 million.
Interestingly, singles from In the Zone outsold singles from Britney in spite of fewer songs being issued and a market going down 27% between both periods, which highlights the success of songs like Toxic and Everytime.
With physical singles markets in all countries quickly vanishing, albums from 2004 onwards had very little impact in this format. In spite of the release of more than 10 singles, they failed to even reach a million sales combined!
Due to this dreadful market context. The success itself of those songs was also obviously lower than their predecessors from the early years.
In total, Britney Spears moved 18,6 million physical singles, which is a very good figure given her time frame and lack of physical singles issued in the US.
As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 1,5 ratio between one album and one digital single.
If in one side she benefitted from the last whisper of the physical single market, in the other side Britney Spears was unable to enjoy a digital market during her best years.
In spite of this situation, she always managed to achieve strong digital sales. Many of her catalog songs aren’t doing that well, but everything she releases always manages to debut big.
Toxic was her first such digital hit, but the market was only starting at that point.
From 2007 to 2011, Spears managed to get several digital hits to her name, despite the fact her album sales were a far cry from what they used to be.
Blackout, Circus and Femme Fatale were home of singles that sold upwards 10 million units combined. During this period, every single she released sold at least 1 million downloads, with the exception of Radar and Criminal, both which came fairly close.
Overall, Britney Spears has moved 83 million digital singles, a total including both downloads and ringtones, quite an incredible total considering the supposedly bad period the artist was facing when the context was favorable.
Streaming is made up of audio and video streams. Our CSPC methodology now includes both to better reflect the real popularity of each track. The main source of data for each avenue is respectively Spotify and YouTube.
As detailed in the Fixing Log article, Spotify represents 157 million of the 272 million users of streaming platforms, while YouTube is pretty much the only video platform generating some revenue for the industry. Below is the equivalence set on the aforementioned article:
Audio Stream – 1500 plays equal 1 album unit
Video Stream – 11,750 views equal 1 album unit
Equivalent Albums Sales (EAS) = 272/157 * Spotify streams / 1500 + YouTube views / 11750
When it comes to streaming, Britney Spears is definitely in a tricky situation. She’s not old to be compared to the likes of Madonna, Mariah Carey or Celine Dion, whose audience refuses to stream, but at the same time, she’s not young enough to be placed next to streaming monsters like Ariana Grande, Rihanna or Taylor Swift.
Her streaming numbers are both good and bad in the sense that her classic hits are doing well enough for someone who debuted 21 years ago, but her overall streams aren’t that good in comparison to some of her peers, like Beyonce or Eminem.
This is understandable as hip hop, rap and R&B are dominating streaming these days, leaving little room for pure pop records.
Britney Spears‘ first two albums are doing quite well on streaming. Reaching 200 million streams on Spotify with 20-year old hits that have been widely flagged as teen pop, such as …Baby One More Time and Oops!…I Did It Again, is rather outstanding.
Both albums have reached 1 billion streams across all audio and video platforms, which is quite impressive given their teen pop nature.
On a negative note though, considering how well both albums and their singles sold upon release, one would expect better streaming figures overall. Sometimes and (You Drive Me) Crazy perform well with over 100 million views on YouTube each.
In spite of selling over 10 million copies in physical format, the pop icon’s third studio album, Britney, displays disappointing streaming results.
Unlike her first two albums, this one registers no song above 100 million streams, let alone 200 million.
That’s not to say, however, figures are atrocious, as I’m a Slave 4 U performs well with 56 million streams on Spotify and no less than 140 million views on YouTube.
Other songs perform well, too. I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman has 100 million views on YouTube while Overprotected is extremely close. Surprisingly enough, the album tracks perform much better than those from her first two albums.
If there’s one album from Spears‘ early career that truly benefits from streaming is her fourth studio album, In the Zone.
With only three global singles, this album is the diva’s most streamed on Spotify, at over 400 million streams. Toxic has an impressive showing at nearly 300 million streams on Spotify and nearly 500 million views on YouTube, while Everytime also does well with 57 million streams on Spotify and 124 million streams on YouTube.
Deemed a failure at the time of its release, Blackout performs just okay on streaming. Gimme More is the top track, with 72 million streams on Spotify and 173 million views on YouTube. Piece of Me performs similarly with 53 million streams on Spotify and 143 million views on YouTube. Overall, the album has 200 million streams on Spotify.
The American superstar’s comeback album, Circus, also performs just okay on streaming. Womanizer performs quite well with 137 million streams on Spotify and 301 million views on YouTube, proving to be more than just a quick little hit.
The title track, Circus, also performs well at 77 million streams on Spotify and 205 million streams on YouTube. Despite not being a big hit, If U Seek Amy has more streams than one of Spears‘ number one hits, 3, which was released later that year. Overall, the album has more than 1 billion streams across all audio and video platforms.
At 900 million YouTube views, Femme Fatale remains Britney Spears‘s best performing album on the platform for now. All of its four singles have no less than 100 million views, which is definitely a nice result.
On Spotify, although no tracks have reached 100 million streams yet, this will change soon as Till the World Ends is getting fairly close at 93 million.
It’s hard to comment on this album’s streaming figures, as albums released in 2011 are naturally much more connected to the streaming era, so one may expect results of those records to be much higher than previous albums, but Femme Fatale is only Spears’ 5th most streamed album on Spotify.
The 8th studio album of her discography, Britney Jean, proves to be a massive bomb in every aspect, and streaming is no exception.
About 66% of this album’s 215 million Spotify streams are coming from Work Bitch alone, which does decently on its own at 143 million streams on Spotify and 331 million views on YouTube.
Given the year it was released in, Glory‘s streaming figures are rather disappointing, to say the least. Make Me does decently enough with 105 million streams on Spotify and 116 million YouTube views.
Compared to other Britney Spears cuts, the album tracks reach high figures, with the least streamed track having no less than 4 million streams.
The paradox is that this album sold so few copies in pure album format at 390,000 units, that its 339,000 equivalent album sales from streaming represent a solid addition.
When it comes to orphan songs, the will.i.am collaboration, Scream & Shout, is her second most streamed track on Spotify, only behind Toxic. The song’s video remains Spears‘ most viewed on YouTube.
Another song that shows impressive results is My Only Wish (This Year), which will surely reach 100 million streams on Spotify later this year.
Full catalog breakdown
If you are familiar with the artist’s catalog and want to check details of each and every song, you can access to all of them right here.
Britney Spears compilations sales
It sounds fairly logical to add together weighted sales of one era – studio album, physical singles, downloads, streams – to get the full picture of an album’s popularity. For older releases though, they also generate sales of various live, music videos and compilation albums.
All those packaging-only records do not create value, they exploit the value originating from the parent studio album of each of its tracks instead. Inevitably, when such compilations are issued, this downgrades catalog sales of the original LP.
Thus, to perfectly gauge the worth of these releases, we need to re-assign sales proportionally to its contribution of all the compilations which feature its songs. The following table explains this method.
The distribution process
How to understand this table? In the example of Greatest Hits: My Prerogative, these figures mean it sold 6,145,000 units worldwide. The second statistics column means all versions of all the songs included on this package add for 1,574,459 equivalent album sales from streams of all types.
The second part on the right of the table shows how many equivalent streams are coming from each original album, plus the share it represents on the overall package. Thus, streaming figures tell us songs from the …Baby One More Time album are responsible for 28% of the Greatest Hits: My Prerogative track list attractiveness.
This means it generated 441,166 of its 6,100,000 album sales and so forth for the other records. We then apply this process to all compilations present on the table.
As a bonus, please find below the sales breakdown of Britney Spears‘ top compilation albums.
Full Length related records Sales – Summary
Here is the most underestimated indicator of an album’s success – the amount of compilation sales of all kinds it generated. Due to the dependency of sales of the original studio albums on these releases, they are a key piece of the jigsaw.
Total Album (all types) Sales per Country
Please note country-specific numbers may miss sales of a few minor releases, although totals are complete.
Britney Spears Career CSPC Results
So, after checking all the figures, how many overall equivalent album sales has each album by Britney Spears achieved? Well, at this point we hardly need to add up all of the figures defined in this article!
Albums CSPC results
In the following table, all categories display figures that way, e.g. in equivalent album sales. For example, singles from Circus released in digital format sold the equivalent of 2,672,000 albums – 17,810,000 downloads with a 10 to 1,5 weighting.
As a reminder:
- Studio Album: sales of the original album
- Other Releases: sales of compilations generated thanks to the album
- Physical Singles: sales of physical singles from the album (ratio 3/10)
- Download Singles: sales of digital singles from the album (ratio 1,5/10)
- Streaming: equivalent album sales of all the album tracks (ratio 1/1500 for Audio stream and 1/11750 for Video stream)
And there we have it! Hardly anyone would be surprised by the fact …Baby One More Time remains Britney Spears‘ biggest album to date.
The question was on the album being over 30 million or not, a figure it indeed reaches at 31 million. Low digital and streaming figures, plus low catalog album sales, imply that this tally won’t be climbing all that much in the upcoming months or years.
Among her earlier albums, the one impressing the most is likely In the Zone. As pointed out earlier, this album greatly benefits from streaming and digital sales.
Incredibly, its CSPC total nearly matches the one of Britney, and no doubt it will surpass it at some point thanks to the huge success of Toxic.
This is one of the reason we can appreciate CSPC so much as it gives back justice to various albums that had their success spread over many formats, making their popularity look lower due to album sales not fully covering it.
Upcoming years will be good for In the Zone as it is her album with the highest strength and streams, thus with streaming and digital sales pushing the bar faster but also compilations being sold thanks to its songs.
A similar situation happens with albums Blackout and Femme Fatale. They benefit from downloads more than anything else, as they both heavily underperformed in physical format and have been deemed as failures more often than not.
The results of Spears‘ last two efforts mark new career lows for the artist, with Glory being a small blow of fate at 874,000 equivalent album sales.
While the difficulties of Britney Spears to break the streaming market can be worrying for her future albums, the highlight of today is the eye catching total of 103,3 million equivalent album sales she managed since her debut.
Singles CSPC results
The list is compiled in album equivalent sales generated by each song. Therefore, these figures are not merged units of singles formats. Instead, it includes weighted sales of the song’s physical single, download, ringtone and streaming as well as its share among sales of all albums on which it is featured.
1. 1998 – Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time […Baby One More Time] – 18,640,000
2. 2000 – Britney Spears – Oops!… I Did It Again [Oops!… I Did It Again] – 14,310,000
3. 2003 – Britney Spears – Toxic [In The Zone] – 8,560,000
4. 2001 – Britney Spears – I’m A Slave 4 U [Britney] – 4,560,000
5. 1999 – Britney Spears – (You Drive Me) Crazy […Baby One More Time] – 4,470,000
6. 1999 – Britney Spears – Sometimes […Baby One More Time] – 4,080,000
7. 2000 – Britney Spears – Stronger [Oops!… I Did It Again] – 3,850,000
8. 2000 – Britney Spears – Lucky [Oops!… I Did It Again] – 3,560,000
9. 2008 – Britney Spears – Womanizer [Circus] – 3,220,000
10. 2008 – Britney Spears – Circus [Circus] – 2,180,000
11. 2001 – Britney Spears – Overprotected [Britney] – 2,160,000
12. 1999 – Britney Spears – Born To Make You Happy […Baby One More Time] – 2,010,000
12. 2001 – Britney Spears – I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman [Britney] – 2,010,000
14. 2003 – Britney Spears – Everytime [In The Zone] – 1,940,000
15. 2012 – Will.i.am & Britney Spears – Scream & Shout [Orphan] – 1,690,000
If you feel inspired by this list, we just created this CSPC Britney Spears playlist on Spotify!
Thanks to our new ASR (Artist Success Rating) concept, we know that her sales represent 30.3 million times the purchase of her entire discography. Coupled with their total sales, it translates into an ASR score of 317. This puts her below Adele, and just above Backstreet Boys. The ranking of all artists studied so far is available too at this link.
Records & Achievements
- At 103,351,000 EAS, Britney Spears is the most successful female artist who debuted in the last 25 years. She is second overall.
- At 31,662,000 EAS, …Baby One More Time is the second most successful album from 1999.
- At 31,662,000 EAS, …Baby One More Time is the most successful album of all-time by a minor (under 18).
- At 23,807,000 EAS, Oops!… I Did It Again is the third most successful album from 2000.
- At 18,640,000 EAS, …Baby One More Time is the most successful song from 1998.
- At 14,310,000 EAS, Oops!… I Did It Again is among the Top 3 most successful songs from 2000.
- At 8,560,000 EAS, Toxic is among the Top 5 most successful songs from 2003.
- At 14,2 million pure sales, …Baby One More Time is the second highest selling album of the last 20 years in the US.
- Britney Spears broke several records of fastest selling albums in the US including highest debut ever by a female with Oops!… I Did It Again at 1,319,000, the first female with 4 albums debuting with over 500,000 units as well as the youngest to register 3, 4, 5 and then 6 #1 albums. All these records have been broken since except the very last one.
- Both …Baby One More Time and Oops!… I Did It Again sold 100,000 copies or more in 21 different countries.
NB: EAS means Equivalent Album Sales.
You may be interested in…
… best-selling artists, albums, and singles
To improve your navigation we created several amazing cross-artists lists posted inside the CSPC: Data Collector article. Click on it to see the full listing of all CSPC results compiled so far!
… similar artists
To put figures from this article into perspective, click on the images below to reach career breakdowns of similar artists:
As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!