Spice Girls albums and songs sales

Exactly 20 years ago, the music industry was going through one of the most hyped eras that it had ever had. The Girl Power phenomenon was everywhere thanks to their unstoppable flagship, the iconic Spice Girls. Wannabe was concluding its run at #1 in the US, and the album Spice was on its way to climbing the top of the album chart as well. In the UK, both the album and the single Mama / Who Do You Think You Are? were dominating, the latter being their fourth #1 hit in their native country. Less than a year before they were unknown. This was the Spice Girls – an utterly massive, dominant group from the very first day.

As usual – we already met the case with the Beatles or ABBA – when a music act destroys the charts like no one else, myths quickly start surrounding them. Some are true, others aren’t. Their countless #1s were all over the place, as were their record breaking sales in each field – album, singles and videos. The legend tells that the Spice album sold over 30 million units while Spiceworld moved 22 million, while the group as a whole set a mark of 85 million physical records sold. As you can guess, this includes a fair share of exaggeration. With the Spice Girls, the case is quite easy in reality – all their official album sales are known and you will be finding them right here. As they did well in various formats, we need to check the complete picture to accurately rate their success.

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

NB: N/A means no specific number is available. Sales from the country are still accounted for in the Worldwide estimate by using figure patterns of both the artist and the country market. Countries not displayed in this fixed panel are also factored in.

Spice (1996)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "spice girls spice"
  • America
    • US – 7,600,000
    • Canada – 1,200,000
    • Argentina – 80,000
    • Brazil – 525,000
    • Mexico – 250,000
  • Asia – 2,100,000
    • Japan – 750,000
    • South Korea – 250,000
    • Taiwan – 225,000
    • Thailand – 180,000
    • Philippines – 175,000
    • Malaysia – 80,000
    • Indonesia – 75,000
    • Singapore – 65,000
    • Hong-Kong – 50,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 450,000
    • New Zealand – 75,000
  • Europe – 9,260,000
    • UK – 3,300,000
    • France – 1,080,000
    • Germany – 825,000
    • Italy – 620,000
    • Spain – 1,025,000
    • Sweden – 240,000
    • Netherlands – 380,000
    • Switzerland – 120,000
    • Austria – 90,000
    • Finland – 77,000
  • World – 21,900,000

Spiceworld (1997)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "spice girls spiceworld"
  • America
    • US – 4,400,000
    • Canada – 1,200,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 425,000
    • Mexico – 200,000
  • Asia – 1,400,000
    • Japan – 450,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 450,000
    • New Zealand – 55,000
  • Europe – 5,460,000
    • UK – 1,800,000
    • France – 760,000
    • Germany – 550,000
    • Italy – 540,000
    • Spain – 275,000
    • Sweden – 165,000
    • Netherlands – 190,000
    • Switzerland – 110,000
    • Austria – 65,000
    • Finland – 93,000
  • World – 13,950,000

Forever (2000)

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "spice girls forever"
  • America
    • US – 220,000
    • Canada – 100,000
    • Argentina – N/A
    • Brazil – 40,000
    • Mexico – N/A
  • Asia – 170,000
    • Japan – 75,000
  • Oceania
    • Australia – 50,000
    • New Zealand – 5,000
  • Europe – 590,000
    • UK – 280,000
    • France – 30,000
    • Germany – 80,000
    • Italy – 45,000
    • Spain – 20,000
    • Sweden – 10,000
    • Netherlands – 15,000
    • Switzerland – 20,000
    • Austria – 10,000
    • Finland – 2,000
  • World – 1,200,000

Original Album Sales – Comments

1996 Spice – 21,900,000
1997 Spiceworld – 13,950,000
2000 Forever – 1,200,000

Obviously, it is always tempting to simply believe figures we read on Wikipedia and similar sources. Not only do country breakdowns prove the Spice Girls albums haven’t sold as many units as always claimed, EMI, owners of Virgin Records, also fully reported their results in their annual reports.

In fact, up to the end of March 1997, their debut album shipped 9,5 million units. From April 1997 to March 1998, it added over 10 million copies. From April 1998 to March 1999, shipments reached 1,5 million units. In other words, by that latter date, the album had shipped the total of 21 million units. Of course, one may think about catalog sales since that time. They have been absolutely dreadful though. In the US, since mid-1999 to now, Spice sold a mere 200,000 units. In the UK, it’s selling less than 2,000 copies a year. While in Italy the figure is around 100 units. That’s Spice – arguably by far their ‘best’ catalog seller.

The same links will show you that Spiceworld shipped 11 million units up to March 1998, and 2,6 million the following year.

If widely reported figures are strongly inflated, this takes away nothing from the ground breaking sales they achieved in next to no time. In just over two years, those albums moved close to 35 million units combined. The few additional shipments brought the tally to 35,2 million by the time they were awarded a life-time prize at the Brits in 2000.

Unfortunately, Forever quickly shipped 2,2 million units. It truly bombed, and bombed hard. It came nowhere near the numbers of their two previous albums. In all countries where both sales indicators and certifications are available, we can easily see that first week deliveries weren’t sold. This means the conclusion is there was extensive returns.

Physical Singles Sales

During the 90s, physical single sales were strong in a few places – the US, the UK, Germany and France most notably. The Japanese market was massive, the biggest actually, but selling almost exclusively local artists’ products for singles. In 1997, at 444,8 million singles sold, those five countries accounted for exactly 90% of the global 494,1 million total. Meanwhile, the same markets were responsible for only 48,5% of total album sales. This gap in representation often leads to overstated singles estimates for that period. This is why the Spice Girls had sold 18,1 million physical singles by the time of the Brits ceremony in 2000. This was in spite of having moved 16,6 million singles in the UK (7,45m), the US (5,15m), France (2,6m) and Germany (1,4m) combined.

Unsurprisingly, the top seller is Wannabe at over 5 million units. It must be noted that every single from the first two albums sold past 1 million units, a tremendous achievement given the market at that time. It’s even more impressive considering their big album sales on the back of the same hits.

Please note that although included in the Forever album afterwards, the single Goodbye is represented within the Orphan Album as it came out two years before the studio set, completely outside of its era. In the digital sales and streaming sections it will be included within the album, as it was already part of it when those formats appeared.

As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 3 ratio between one album and one physical single.

Spice (1996) – 3,405,000 equivalent albums

Wannabe – 5,050,000
Say You’ll Be There – 2,650,000
2 Become 1 – 2,450,000
Mama / Who Do You Think You Are – 1,200,000

Spiceworld (1997) – 1,830,000 equivalent albums

Spice Up Your Life – 2,100,000
Stop – 1,000,000
Too Much – 1,700,000
Viva Forever – 1,300,000

Forever (2000) – 150,000 equivalent albums

Holler / Let Love Lead the Way – 500,000

Orphan – 621,000 equivalent albums

Goodbye – 2,000,000
Headlines (Friendship Never Ends) – 70,000

Digital Singles Sales

Let’s be honest – digital sales of the Spice Girls are bad. While Wannabe is a good seller at 2,4 million, which was to be expected given its immense popularity, the rest of their catalog moves very low numbers. It must be said that they are getting close to no airplay, only being remembered in TV programs covering past successes. As a whole, they sold only an estimated 5 million download tracks.

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

Spice (1996) – 350,000 equivalent albums

Wannabe – 2,400,000
Say You’ll Be There – 300,000
2 Become 1 – 400,000
Remaining tracks – 400,000

Spiceworld (1997) – 120,000 equivalent albums

Spice Up Your Life – 550,000
Stop – 250,000
Too Much – 125,000
Viva Forever – 200,000
Remaining tracks – 75,000

Forever (2000) – 40,000 equivalent albums

Holler – 100,000
Goodbye – 250,000
Remaining tracks – 50,000

Orphan – 10,000 equivalent albums

Remaining tracks – 100,000

Streaming Sales

As seen with the example of the Beatles, today’s weight of Spotify is steadily increasing, representing as much as 63,5% of overall streams on their platform. The Swedish giant recently announced they broke the 50-million barrier of paid subscribers.

We will keep that ratio that Spotify-All Audio Streaming services updated as much as possible, especially when the next IFPI RIN comes out next month covering the 2016 Global market. For now, we will be sticking with this 63,5% rate.

What is this section about? Here we will be reviewing streams from all songs and all albums by the Spice Girls, converting each of them into equivalent album sales. The equivalent album sales is the division of the comprehensive streaming figure by 1500 as is now the norm in the new industry model.

Streaming Part 1 – Golden Era

Here comes a surprising feat – most Spice and Spiceworld album tracks are past 1 million streams. Given how weak their catalog sales are, this is the trademark of an ever-lasting fan base which keeps on playing their material. Those fans obviously owned the albums for a long time which is why physical sales are so poor.

In fact, streaming gives the Spice Girls some credit back. Not many people will likely buy their albums, or even download their singles tomorrow, yet many will enjoy listening to a couple of tracks at a party. This is visible with Say You’ll Be There, 2 Become 1, Spice Up Your Life and Stop being around 15 million plays a piece.

What can we say about Wannabe then? Up to 139 million streams, this gigantic smash remains as popular as ever. An obvious favorite for a 90s child, girls or party themed playlists it isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

That track alone is responsible for the huge difference between both albums’ totals. As a result, Spice has 201,000 equivalent album sales while Spiceworld is much lower at 57,000 units.

Streaming Part 2 – How to disappear completely?

The initial bad reception of Forever remains just as cold today. Even Goodbye, once a bit hit, is far from being the favorite of streamers at only 3 million plays.

The poor reception of Headlines translates to horrendous streaming numbers – at less than a million. This 2007 single has less plays than all Spice’s album tracks.

Full Length related record Sales

It sounds fairly logical to add together weighted sales of one era – studio album, physical single, downloads and 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, instead they exploit the value originated 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 how valuable the studio album is, we need to re-assign sales proportionally to its contribution of all compilations which feature its songs. The following table explains it all.

Remaining Long Format

How to understand this table? If you check for example the Greatest Hits compilation album line, those figures mean it sold 1,350,000 units worldwide. The second statistics column means all versions of all songs included on this package add for 242 million streaming plays on Spotify.

The second part at 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 Spice songs are responsible for 76% of the Greatest Hits tracklist attractiveness. This means it generated 1,032,000 of its 1,350,000 album sales and so on for the other records.

Considering the insane domination of Wannabe in their catalog – it has quite simply more streams alone than all other Spice Girls songs combined! With 139 million against 121 million, it comes as no surprise to see Spice as the driving force of their compilations and music videos.

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 the original studio album sales on those releases, they are a key piece of the jigsaw.

The large lead of Spice gets all the more visible. One interesting note is the massive amount of video sales the group managed. At 3 million units, they are one of the best selling acts ever in this format.

Spice Girls Career CSPC Results

So, after checking all the figures, how many overall equivalent album sales has each Spice Girls 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

While Spiceworld someway managed to follow the pace of sales Spice managed in various markets, once considering all other formats, the group’s debut album appears to be the incontestable winner. Even if it is climbing slowly at the moment, it’s only a matter of time before it crosses the magical 30-million barrier.

Never getting a second life thanks to a compilation or a live set, and still being a fairly terrible catalog seller in spite of the absence of competition, Spiceworld’s total of 16,5 million is huge given its very short lifespan.

The same can’t be said about Forever. Released at the all-time peak of the music industry, and after all, not that long after the first two albums, it should have done much, much better than 1,45 million equivalent album sales overall. Even the absence of Geri Halliwell isn’t a good enough justification to explain such chaotic sales. Ironically, all subsequent members – Mel B, Mel C, Emma Bunton and Victoria Beckham – remained strong and managed various hit singles after that bomb.

The ultimate total of the Spice Girls amounts to 48,5 million equivalent album sales. While some may rate this final total as disappointing, remembering that a huge chunk of that figure came within 24 months, makes it fairly impressive. Last but not least, in the famous “Who’s the biggest selling female group ever” debate, this result puts them ahead of the 45,16 million achieved by Destiny’s Child. Obviously, R&B legends TLCas well as the legendary Supremes, have yet to be studied. Maybe more than sales, the real feat of the Spice Girls is found in their insane impact on popular culture. Such territory the above mentioned female groups come nowhere near replicating.

The following sections list his most successful songs as well as his records and achievements.

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

Sources: IFPI, EMI, Spotify, Chartmasters.org.

1 1996 – Wannabe [Spice] – 20,670,000
2 1997 – Spice Up Your Life [Spiceworld] – 5,410,000
3 1997 – Stop [Spiceworld] – 4,010,000
4 1996 – Say You’ll Be There [Spice] – 2,990,000
5 1997 – Viva Forever [Spiceworld] – 2,960,000
6 1996 – 2 Become 1 [Spice] – 2,920,000
7 1997 – Too Much [Spiceworld] – 2,040,000
8 1996 – Who Do You Think You Are [Spice] – 1,440,000
9 1998 – Goodbye [Forever] – 980,000
10 1996 – Mama [Spice] – 950,000

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