Aaliyah albums and songs sales

Various singers have many myths floating around them. One such typical case is R&B Princess Aaliyah. Already owner of a very loyal fan base, her dramatic passing in 2001, at just 22 years of age, made her the icon of many.


Artistically, she had been widely acclaimed way before her death. In spite of issuing her debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number at barely 15, critics praised her efforts right from the start. The public was soon to follow with the star in the making’s first single Back & Forth climbing the US Hot 100 all the way to #5.

A meteoric rise to fame, media on her side, and an iconic status… surely Aaliyah must have sold bucket loads. Well, everything is not always as it may seem, especially for her. Out of all the myths largely repeated over the internet about her sales, we will clean things up a bit today to restore some accuracy.

ChartMasters’ method: the CSPC

As usual, I’ll be using the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept (CSPC) in order to relevantly gauge the act’s results. It will not only bring you sales information for all albums, physical and download singles, as well as audio and video streaming. In fact, it will really determine the act’s popularity.

If you are not yet familiar with the CSPC method, below is a nice and short video of explaining the concept. I recommend watching it before reading on and to the sales figures. You’ll get the idea in just two minutes.

And if you 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 detailed sales figures!

Original Albums Sales

Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number (1994)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "age ain't nothing but a number"
  • America
    • US – 2,200,000
    • Canada – 90,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia
    • Japan – 150,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 20,000
    • New Zealand – N/A
  • Europe – 260,000
    • UK – 140,000
    • France – N/A
    • Germany – N/A
    • Italy – N/A
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – N/A
    • Netherland – 30,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 2,850,000

One in a Million (1996)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "aaliyah one in a million"
  • America
    • US – 3,400,000
    • Canada – 125,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia
    • Japan – 180,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 30,000
    • New Zealand – N/A
  • Europe – 340,000
    • UK – 180,000
    • France – N/A
    • Germany – N/A
    • Italy – N/A
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – 15,000
    • Netherland – 20,000
    • Switzerland – N/A
    • Austria – N/A
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 4,250,000

Aaliyah (2001)

  • America
    • US – 3,100,000
    • Canada – 140,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia
    • Japan – 200,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 45,000
    • New Zealand – 15,000
  • Europe – 1,200,000
    • UK – 400,000
    • France – 210,000
    • Germany – 250,000
    • Italy – 10,000
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – 15,000
    • Netherland – 75,000
    • Switzerland – 30,000
    • Austria – 10,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 5,100,000

Original Album Sales – Comments

1994 Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number – 2,850,000
1996 One in a Million – 4,250,000
2001 Aaliyah – 5,100,000

Obviously passing away at only 22 doesn’t allow one to have an extensive discography. Releasing 3 albums within that time frame, Aaliyah was growing.

Her first two records failed to break the non-Urban audience in the US. Thus, logically, they were not promoted on a Worldwide scale, except in markets cherishing R&B like the Netherlands and Japan.

In-between, being also a successful actress, she was busy participating in as many as 9 Soundtracks. Most notably 2000 album Romeo Must Die. From it, she extracted the global hit Try Again. This raised her profile a lot with positive results very visible in her self-titled third album that released one year later.

All in all, those three albums sold 12,2 million units. Definitely a decent total, nevertheless it is nothing record breaking, especially during an era of heavy album sales. It must be said that her last two albums have been out of print for a decade now due to label issues, which clearly doesn’t help. In any case, as iconic as she may be, Aaliyah never managed to be an A-League star. Album sales are only one format though, and we are going to check her physical singles right now.

Physical Singles Sales

The market of physical singles was still quite healthy during the mid-90s in the US. Aaliyah hits from that period perfectly benefited from that background with 2 songs each selling upwards of half a million units there, although sales abroad were fairly low.

Getting into the 00s at the top of the game, her independent label Blackground wasn’t releasing all her songs as physical singles to improve album sales. Thus, the artist’s biggest hit Try Again wasn’t available on CD in the US, even becoming the first Hot 100 #1 ever on the back of radio airplay only. The song still sold past 1 million units thanks to solid success across Europe.

The discography total is up to 6,35 million units sold in this format.

Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number (1994) – 480,000 equivalent albums

Back & Forth – 850,000
Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number – 100,000
Down with the Clique – 50,000
At Your Best (You Are Love) – 550,000
The Thing I Like – 50,000

One in a Million (1996) – 630,000 equivalent albums

If Your Girl Only Knew – 800,000
Got to Give It Up – 25,000
4 Page Letter – 50,000
The One I Gave My Heart To – 1,200,000
Come Over – 25,000

Aaliyah (2001) – 188,000 equivalent albums

We Need a Resolution – 125,000
Rock the Boat – 100,000
More Than a Woman – 400,000

Orphan – 608,000 equivalent albums

Try Again – 1,100,000
Don’t Know What to Tell Ya – 100,000
Miss You – 250,000
Are You That Somebody? – 350,000
Journey at the Past – 50,000
I Need You Tonight – 75,000
Remaining Singles – 100,000

Digital Singles Sales

As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 1,5 ratio between one album and one digital single.

If estimating digital singles sales is often the hardest part of CSPC analysis, it just turns out to be a nightmare in the case of Aaliyah. Her uncle-handled label went bankrupt many years ago, forcing the sale of her catalog with the exception of her debut record. Now owned by Reservoir Media, this company seems in no hurry to properly release albums like One In A Million or Aaliyah. They are not only out of print in physical format, they are also unavailable for download – and for streaming.

Time to time, they do leak on iTunes or elsewhere. They are also available for download at Reservoir Media’s own website, which pretty much nobody knows. Thus, estimated download sales of Aaliyah are a tiny 3 million units, a total which includes a good chunk of ringtones.

Age Ain’t Nothing… (1994) – 210,000 equivalent albums

Back & Forth – 600,000
Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number – 200,000
At Your Best (You Are Love) – 400,000
Remaining tracks – 200,000

One in a Million (1996) – 30,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 200,000

Aaliyah (2001) – 75,000 equivalent albums

All tracks – 500,000

Orphan – 143,000 equivalent albums

Try Again – 400,000
Miss You – 150,000
Don’t Think They Know – 200,000
Remaining tracks – 200,000

Streaming Sales

The below table lists Spotify streaming of all songs from the five albums we are studying. The Comprehensive Streaming is reached by multiplying Spotify figures by 68/26. In fact, as shown in the IFPI 2015 Report, there were 68 million paying subscribers to all streaming platforms by the end of 2015. While the exact count of Spotify paying subscribers by the end of 2015 is unknown, that figure reached 20 million in June 2015 and 30 million in March 2016, thus an estimated 26 million is used as of the end of 2015.

The equivalent album sales is the division of the comprehensive streaming figure by 1500 as is now the norm in the new industry model.

NB: as we now switched to 2017, Chartmasters.org is going to update the ratio used on this methodology as soon as official market information from IFPI gets published. This is in order to maintain the relevancy of all figures.

Streaming Part 1 – 90s Rising Star

The lack of consistent availability of One In A Million becomes obvious with its streaming results. If we check the artist’s Last.fm catalog, this album has almost twice as many plays as her debut one, which shows its potential. While on Spotify it loses the battle by 12 to 1.

As a result, less than 7,000 equivalent album sales is all that it gets. Naturally, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, which is fully available and has always been at Spotify and other streaming platforms, performs much better with nearly 80,000 equivalent album sales. Its two US Top 10 hits back in the day registered more than 10 million plays.

Streaming Part 2 – Late works and Orphan

Aaliyah’s songs top Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number by more than 3 to 1 at Last.fm, but suffer the same treatment as One In A Million tracks. Within the brief periods of availability, its biggest songs topped the million streams milestone although they are far from riding at their full potential. Aaliyah has a total of 23,000 equivalent album sales from streams.

With nearly 18 million streams, it seems like Try Again has always been available on Spotify. Actually, it currently is but one has to, in some way, hit Spotify’s web version direct link for Ultimate package, which isn’t displayed within the artist’ page and impossible to reach on mobile. It can be reached through the Romeo Must Die soundtrack though. That very limited exposure still results in 85,000 equivalent album sales for Orphan Album songs.

Full Length related records Sales

Just one year after her passing, Aaliyah’s label dropped a career spanning compilation, I Care 4 U. One more compilation came out in 2005, Ultimate, but it was only released in a few countries with no promotion. Both records are studied below.

As you will know if you have already read CSPC analysis in the past, sales of compilations are added into the original studio albums by using Spotify streams distribution. As all Aaliyah’s albums haven’t been continuously available, it would create a flawed picture of each song’s popularity. Thus, rather than Spotify, Last.fm figures have been used.

Remaining Long Format Part 1 – Compilations #1

How to understand this table? If you check for example I Care 4 U’s compilation line, those figures mean it sold 3,100,000 units worldwide. The second statistics column means all versions of all the songs included on this package add for almost 1,5 billion streaming plays on Last.fm.

The second part on the right of the table shows how many streams are coming from each original album plus the share it represents on the overall package streams. Thus, streaming figures tell us One In A Million songs are responsible for 16% of the album’s attractiveness, which means it generated 505,000 of its 3,100,000 album sales and so on for the other records.

Considering the smash hit Try Again – by far her most streamed song, with a more than 2 to 1 lead over One In A Million – wasn’t part of the singer’s original albums, the Orphan Album folder gets assigned the largest part of the compilations. Each studio album contributed to their sales in a solid way though.

BONUS: Compilation Albums Sales

I Care 4 U (2002)

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « i care 4 u »
  • America
    • US – 1,825,000
    • Canada – 85,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – N/A
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia
    • Japan – 125,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 20,000
    • New Zealand – 10,000
  • Europe – 770,000
    • UK – 230,000
    • France – 160,000
    • Germany – 175,000
    • Italy – 5,000
    • Spain – N/A
    • Sweden – 10,000
    • Netherland – 25,000
    • Switzerland – 25,000
    • Austria – 5,000
    • Finland – N/A
  • World – 3,100,000

Aaliyah Career CSPC Results

So, after checking all the figures, how many overall equivalent album sales has each Aaliyah album achieved? Well, at this point we don’t need to combine all the figures found in this article.

In the following results table, all categories display figures in equivalent album sales. If different, pure sales are listed between parentheses.

'Av.' stands for Average, 'LD' for Last Day.

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 1/6750 for Video stream)

Artist career totals

See where the artist ranks among remaining singers

Mind-blowing? Definitely not. Good? For sure. A lot can be said about Aaliyah’s artistic talents as well as about her impact over R&B and pop music too. Many popular singers do quote her as a key influence. Most of what is said about her album sales though – figures repeated often a la 24, 32 or even 80 million – are insanely exaggerated.

She definitely sold well as an urban artist, but all figures point out that she never crossed over to a mainstream audience. Basically, kids born in the late 80s may have been big fans of her, but their parents have most likely never heard her name. Not all artists should be A-List stars though. A trio of consistent albums from nearly 4 million to over 6 million equivalent album sales each, plus various successful singles outside of them, is already a very nice showing. If the mess around her discography availability gets cleared up in the future, the diva’s catalog sales’ pace will get much better…

Overall, Aaliyah moved 17,9 million equivalent albums. This tally is not at the level of most artists studied so far – most of them were absolute monsters though. Although, you would be surprised at how many well-known singers are under that mark.

As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!

Sources: IFPI, Spotify, Last.fm, Chartmasters.org.

Biggest tracks – Aaliyah

The list of most successful songs is compiled in equivalent album sales generated by each of them. It includes the song’s own physical singles sales with a 0,3 weighting, its download and streaming sales with appropriate weighting too, plus its share amongst sales of all albums on which it is featured.

  1. 2001 – More Than a Woman [Aaliyah] – 2,400,0000
  2. 1996 – One in a Million [One in a Million] – 2,240,000
  3. 1994 – Back & Forth [Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number] – 1,830,000

  4. 2000 – Try Again [Orphan] – 1,210,000

  5. 2001 – Rock the Boat [Aaliyah] – 1,060,000

  6. 1994 – At Your Best (You Are Love) [Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number] – 990,000

  7. 2001 – We Need a Resolution [Aaliyah] – 930,000

  8. 2001 – I Care 4 U [Aaliyah] – 730,000

  9. 1996 – If Your Girl Only Knew [One in a Million] – 590,000

  10. 1996 – The One I Gave My Heart To [One in a Million] – 500,000

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