Most of you probably never heard about Boston. If you do researches on them yet, you will quickly find claims stating that their eponymous album from 1976 is the greatest selling debut album of all-time. Where is the truth then?
Things indeed starting very well for the American rock band. They broke through the main audience with their very first single, More Than A Feeling. It went to #5 in Billboard’s Hot 100 chart during the holiday season of 1978.
The album debuted at #124 and catapulted into the Top 10 a mere 6 weeks later. Ultimately, it peaked at #3 for 6 weeks, blocked by LPs like Stevie Wonder‘s Songs In The Key Of Life and the Eagles‘ Hotel California.
In 1986, when the Boston album was first certified under the multi-Platinum rule of the RIAA, it went 9xPlatinum for 9 million sales, effectively making it the highest certified debut album in the US.
The “best selling debut album of all-time” promotion tag was on and we can still read it day in day out 33 years later. In truth, the statement was true in the US rather than in the world, and even there Guns N’ Roses‘ Appetite For Destruction dethroned it since 2008.
Still, Boston was one hell of a success and both 1978 and 1986 follow up albums shot to the top of charts in their homeland. This has to account for a healthy number of sales.
As usual, I’ll be using the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept in order to relevantly gauge their results. This concept will not only bring you sales information for all Boston‘s 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!
Boston Album Sales
Original Album Sales – Comments
Even for the very top selling acts of all-time to get a 22 million selling album is no small feat. Boston is an absolute beast and continues to sell very well.
It did wonders in North America when it is slowly but surely getting close to 20 million sales, which puts it among the very top albums ever. Elsewhere the success was nowhere near as big even if the LP did fairly well in Japan.
Both Don’t Look Back and Third Stage are lower sellers but with still huge numbers. They moved 17 million units combined, with once again the majority of them coming from North America. The former is the only album which managed to knock off the top Grease during its hype in 1978.
To retain 6.6 million sales after a break of 8 years was amazing. Boston may have got too confident at getting new hits 8 more years later.
In fact, when Walk On came out, the hype around the band was very long gone. After decent first week sales it quickly vanished, closing at less than 1.5 million.
Hardly prolific songwriters, Boston returned after another 8 years break, this time selling a disastrous 260,000 units of their Corporate America album.
Their 6th album came out 37 years after their debut selling only 150,000 copies. The band is now undoubtedly living on the back of their early hits.
Boston songs sales
As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 3 ratio between one album and one physical single.
Physical singles were incredibly popular in 1976/1978. We had got into the albums’ blockbusters era yet. The likes Eagles, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, etc, were selling tons of LPs even doing as well in singles.
The same happened to Boston. Their target audience was more of buying albums. Thus, even if their singles often charted well, their sales weren’t always that big.
More Than A Feeling adds for a healthy 1.6 million thanks to various reissues. The US chart topper Amanda also passes the million mark.
Their last Top 5 hit, Don’t Look Back, was also close to this milestone. The rest of their singles hasn’t done that well. Everything is below 500,000, including Foreplay/Long Time and Peace Of Mind.
Cumulatively, these singles add for a relatively modest 5.6 million units.
As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 1,5 ratio between one album and one digital single.
Unsurprisingly, the debut hit More Than A Feeling tops all songs in digital sales.
Present in every list of classic rock anthems, the song racks up well over 2 million downloads in the US, hitting 3 million in this market once ringtones are added.
It is also fairly huge elsewhere, it’s most notably up to 270,000 downloads in the UK.
The remaining songs from Boston are all widely popular in the US, with all of them enjoying strong recurrent airplay.
Peace Of Mind and Foreplay/Long Time are the strongest by far, even if they have nowhere near as much appeal abroad than More Than A Feeling.
Interestingly, while all tracks from their debut remaining popular, their later hits are half forgotten. Don’t Look Back and Amanda are around half a million a piece, very low numbers for former #4 and #1 hits, respectively.
Streaming is made up of audio and video streams. Our CSPC methodology includes both to better reflect the real popularity of each track. The main source of data for each avenue is respectively Spotify and YouTube. To factor in the growing impact of multiple Asian countries where these platforms aren’t always the go-to site for music streaming, more sources have been added.
In order to account for their real popularity in each relevant country, the below sources have been used along with the mentioned ratios that reflect the market share of each area.
– South Korea : Genie streams * 3.05 (consistent with Gaon streaming numbers)
– Japan : AWA streams * 100/5.5 (AWA has 5.5% of the Japanese streaming market)
– Elsewhere : Spotify streams * (370 – 8.5 – 9.5 – 33 – 9) / 207 (370 million global subscribers minus 8.5 million from South Korea minus 9.5 million from Japan minus 33 million from China divided by the number of Spotify only users minus 9 million more Asian users) + Genie streams * 3.05 (uses Genie rather than Spotify to extrapolate markets like Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam)
– China* : Xiami streams * 125/6.5 (Xiami has just over 5% of the Chinese streaming market)
– Elsewhere : Youtube views
*since 96.4% of Chinese streaming platforms are free users, that paid-for users pay less than $2 a month and that they are also used as video streaming platforms, their streams are weighted in par with YouTube streams.
Audio Stream value – 1500 plays equal 1 album unit
Video Stream value – 11,750 views equal 1 album unit
Equivalent Albums Sales (EAS) = ( Spotify * 310/207 + Genie * 3.05*2 + AWA * 100/5.5 ) / 1500 + ( Xiami * 125/6.5 + YouTube ) / 11750
The lead of More Than A Feeling over everything else the band ever released is quite wild. The track has over 250 million streams on Spotify and 160 million on YouTube. Its total in equivalent album sales is 270,000 units.
It’s quite simply more than half of the band’s career total. There is several more songs from their debut which do well, most notably Peace Of Mind, but they are a pair of levels lower.
We can notice that in Asian platforms the domination of More Than A Feeling isn’t as obvious. In fact, Amanda is the current leader in both Japan and South Korea.
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.
Boston 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, these figures mean it sold 4,430,000 units worldwide. The second statistics column means all versions of all the songs included on this package add for 471,195 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 Boston album are responsible for 89% of the Greatest Hits track list attractiveness. This means it generated 3,935,000 of its 4,430,000 album sales and so forth for the other records. We then apply this process to all compilations present on below table.
Compilations sales figures listing
In the US, Boston performed just as well as Steve Miller Band‘s Fly Like An Eagle. Both are 1976 releases. Both peaked at #3 during the last quarter of that year. Both remained top 10 for 30 weeks. Both closed the 70s with similar number of weeks charted (97 and 101). Both have multiple songs recording well over 100 million audience per year thanks to huge recurrent airplay.
Then, why Boston is certified for 17 million sales while Fly Like An Eagle is barely at 4 million? It’s quite simple. While the latter was cannibalized by a Greatest Hits as early as in 1978, a compilation that is up to 14 million and counting, the former had a free way to sell up to 1997, when Boston‘s Greatest Hits came out.
That’s why this compilation section is quite empty for the band. The very slow pace of release from them made the release of best of packages impossible for many years, which ironically fueled catalog sales of the original sets.
As a bonus, please find below the breakdown of the super seller Greatest Hits.
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.
These numbers are obtained by applying the method from the section The distribution process to all packages listed under Compilation sales figures listing category.
Expectedly, Boston is far and away the main responsible of sales of their compilations. It generated more than 4 million of them.
Total Album (all types) Sales per Country
Please note country-specific numbers may miss sales of a few minor releases, although totals are complete.
Boston Career CSPC Results
So, after checking all the figures, how many overall equivalent album sales has each album by Boston 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 Boston released in digital format sold the equivalent of 2,400,000 albums – 16,000,000 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)
It is clear that the first thing we notice when checking these final numbers is how much the popularity of Boston went downhill through the years. Their performance was divided by almost 200 over 6 albums only.
Still, one can’t overlook how much it takes to record nearly 29 million equivalent album sales from one album only. Boston is an absolute blockbuster, especially if we focus in North America.
Thanks to the ongoing appeal of More Than A Feeling, the LP will also move past 30 million in the mid-future.
Then both Don’t Look Back and Third Stage are very solid performers. They close counts on 11.3 million and 7.5 million, respectively.
These 3 albums add for well over 47 million sales with barely 26 songs.
Walk On, Corporate America and Life, Love & Hope add next to nothing to the group’s legacy with less than 2 million sales combined.
It’s safe to say that the band could have sold more if they had been more concerned by releasing more material. In any case, their total of 49.8 million equivalent album sales is noteworthy.
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. 1976 – Boston – More Than a Feeling [Boston] – 17,890,000
2. 1978 – Boston – Don’t Look Back [Don’t Look Back] – 5,380,000
3. 1986 – Boston – Amanda [Third Stage] – 5,250,000
4. 1976 – Boston – Peace of Mind [Boston] – 4,350,000
5. 1976 – Boston – Foreplay/Long Time [Boston] – 2,910,000
6. 1976 – Boston – Smokin’ [Boston] – 1,670,000
7. 1978 – Boston – A Man I’ll Never Be [Don’t Look Back] – 1,580,000
8. 1978 – Boston – Feelin’ Satisfied [Don’t Look Back] – 1,390,000
If you feel inspired by this list, we just created this CSPC Boston playlist on Spotify!
Thanks to our new ASR (Artist Success Rating) concept, we know that their sales represent 26.10 million times the purchase of their entire discography. Coupled with their total sales, it translates into an ASR score of 204.
Records & Achievements
- At 28,976,000 EAS, Boston is the 10th most successful debut album of all-time.
- At 28,976,000 EAS, Boston is the 3rd most successful album from 1976.
- From 1986 to 2008, Boston was the highest certified album of all-time in the US.
- At 11,283,000 EAS, Don’t Look Back is among the 20 most successful albums from 1978.
- At 17,890,000 EAS, More Than A Feeling is among the 50 most successful songs of all-time.
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!