Korean music behemoth BTS continue to make history. The boy band from Seoul sold over 5 million units with their new effort Map of the Soul: 7. This is the second fastest selling album of all-time.
Sky is the limit for J-Hope, Jimin, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Suga, and V. Since their 2013 debut, their sales figures keep booming album after album.
They went from smashing South Korean charts to smashing global charts, climbing so high that they are now challenging all-time records. So, where do they really rank?
Internet fuels NSYNC & More
For many years, US teen pop boy band NSYNC was synonym of the fastest selling album of all-time in the mind of the general public.
In fact, in March 2000 release No Strings Attached instantly shot to the top in the US thanks to a monster 2,416,000 sales figure, the national record since Soundscan started tracking sales in 1991.
It was indeed the all-time record. Before internet raised awareness on release dates, sales were much less frontloaded.
As an illustration of this situation, the most anticipated album ever, Michael Jackson‘s Bad, shipped only 2.25 million units in the US upon release, selling obviously less to consumers.
No Strings Attached also debuted with nearly 105,000 copies in Canada.
Elsewhere numbers weren’t as impressive. The album opened with over 17,000 units in Japan, plus similar numbers in both the UK and Germany.
In the world, the record shifted 2,710,000 units. In reality, NSYNC never held the record at a global scale yet.
Mass media tend to be excessively US-centric, for this reason only they claimed the Justin Timberlake-led group held the record until Adele, but it wasn’t true.
They were missing the fact that Japanese legends B’z recorded 2,709,530 sales in their homeland with their 1998 set The Best “Pleasure”.
While the duet has never been massive elsewhere, the album sold a few copies in countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong, edging over No Strings Attached in pure sales.
Two decades later we know that we can’t elude some formats to portray accurately the success of an album. NSYNC‘s Bye Bye Bye sold just over 100,000 copies the week of the LP’s release, whyle B’z‘ Samayoeru Aoi Dangan did 9,000 units.
In 2001, an insane week blew Japan away. Both Hikaru Utada and Ayumi Hamasaki shattered the biggest first week of all time in the same chart.
The former’s Distance registered exactly 3 million sales in Japan on its debut, a score which climbs to over 3.3 million once added sales abroad.
The latter’s A Best enjoyed 2,875,000 Japanese sales and 400,000 units more elsewhere.
Adele destroys the glass ceiling
During 14 years, nobody ever broke the 2.7 million mark anymore. The likes Eminem, Coldplay and Hikaru Utada managed to sell in excess 2 million units or close, but the 1998-2001 madness was never repeated.
Many artists came close with many million sellers, well into the 2010s in spite of the decreasing market.
It was due to sales getting more and more frontloaded. At first, the main responsible of that was iTunes which enabled fans to get an album at midnight without moving from home.
Then preorders on sites like Amazon gave even more importance to first weeks as they concentrate months of online purchases.
Labels also adapted to this situation, issuing more and more singles before the album release, a model in place for many years in Japan.
Big global debuts from Coldplay, Eminem or One Direction shifted past 1 million copies, but the market fall was heavier than the rise of frontloaded sales, which made 7 digits units more and more difficult in one week only.
In November 2015, Adele defied gravity with her album 25. It wasn’t only a ridiculously huge seller in the US, scoring 3,378,000 sales in a week, but everywhere.
The set sold 800,000 in the UK, 306,000 units in Canada, 263,000 in Germany, 170,000 in France, 126,000 in Australia, etc.
These mindblowing results concluded on 5,775,000 sales across the world in 7 days, over 2 million more than the previous record holder.
Even more impressively, the album also recorded strong sales in remaining avenues with 1.15 million track sales plus 63,000 equivalent album sales from streaming. This adds for 6,011,000 CSPC units.
BTS steal the show
In May 2016, the BTS compilation Young Forever shipped over 300,000 physical units in its first month. This is already amazing by itself.
By October, they were shipping nearly 700,000 copies of Wings and a few months latter they topped this plateau with a reissue of it, You Never Walk Alone.
The band was already super hot but that was still nothing in comparison with what came next.
Their trio of Love Answer albums released in late 2017 and 2018 shipped 1.20 million, 1.66 million and 1.93 million.
Most of the copies were preordered by fans before the release, which means the majority of these units found buyers instantly.
It was reasonable to expect them to have peaked with this run of albums, but one can’t be more wrong.
Their 2019 comeback Map of the Soul: Persona broke sales records in various locations.
The album sold over 1.55 million units at retail in South Korea during its first week. In China, physical preorders cracked 450,000 units, with a large chunk of these copies getting purchased immediately here too.
The album also sold nearly 200,000 units in the US, 271,000 in Japan, 20,000 in Canada and 22,000 in the UK out of 70,000 in Europe.
In total, it moved 2.71 million pure sales in its first week. Of course, times changed and now albums are ever stronger in additional avenues.
Persona cracked 300,000 Chinese downloads in its first week while recording over 150,000 track downloads globally and 210,000 album units from streams.
The overall total is an healthy 3,103,000 units, the 4th largest first week ever behind Adele, Hikaru Utada and Ayumi Hamasaki.
This last week, with their new album Map of the Soul: 7, they made everyone realize that Adele’s record is seriously under threat.
Sales in South Korea have been unbelievable, topping at 3.1 million units at retail. In Japan, the rolling 7 days add for 300,000 units while half a million copies were sold elsewhere in Asia.
This last number would have been possibly higher if it wasn’t for the coronavirus.
This difference is especially weak this week at 280,000 units while Chinese fan clubs alone ordered 770,000 copies of the album.
Sales of the 4-covers CD are healthy all over the world. In Europe, arguably their weakest area, they are still huge enough to debut at #1 in most markets, securing over 130,000 pure sales.
In the US, as they bank in their 4th #1 album in less than 2 years, their outstanding success isn’t even news anymore. The 347,000 pure sales of 7 remain unreal in this day and age with no concert bundle.
Pure sales stand exactly at 4.5 million units for the world. This doesn’t even include the 398,000 downloads of the album in China. Due to their low price, they are weighted on par with 0.5 album sales in our CSPC system.
Track sales stand at 410,000 units, worth 62,000 album units, while streaming points amount for 308,000.
The grand total? A whopping 5,069,000 equivalent album sales.