France best selling albums ever: 15 Ans D’Amour by Jacques Brel (1988)
Maybe the most legendary French language singer of all-time, Jacques Brel passed away in October 1978. Call it a cash-in or a celebration, exactly one decade later the set 15 Ans D’Amour was released.
Both a compilation and a live album, recorded at the Olympia in 1966, the album entered straight at #1 where it remained for two months. Hitting Platinum very quickly, the album was already 2xPlatinum, 600,000 copies shipped, before the end of the year.
One of the very first high profile compilation from the CD era, the album had the exact trajectory that was going to be well known in the upcoming years: huge initial impact, moderate resistance on charts due to short lived promotional campaign and then strong catalog sales. From the first quarter 1989 departure to 1991, the album wasn’t featured on charts. It’s initial results pushed the record close enough to pass the million mark with a Diamond certification in 1991 thanks to catalog sales.
There isn’t much information for its sales from 1991 to 2000. As we already noticed in past articles, charts were short and very difficult to reach for catalog releases even if they were selling solid amounts. As much as four elements tell us this release was a strong seller during the 90s yet. First is the Diamond award in 1991. The initial run was stopped at about 800,000 units shipped, meaning it was resisting very well in 1989-91 to reach the million mark as fast.
Second element is that the set re-entered randomly at #26 one week in March 1994, a huge indication of high sales especially as it was most of the time excluded to Compilation side. Third element is Jacques Brel discography. Checking it highlight the fact he had no other high profile compilation released until Infiniment in 2003 so knowing the appeal of the artist catalog is a strong argument for high sales of the main item from it, which very precisely was 15 Ans D’Amour. The fourth element is the run of the package after the 90s with deeper charts available. The album re-entered charts in 2002, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The interesting point to notice is that on all those seven re-entries the album was too low to have re-enter if charts were compiled the same as the 90s, meaning it’s lowest presence in that decade wasn’t due to lower sales but only to technicalities. Most of those chart activities happened in April due to the Birthday of the artist (April 8 1929). Again, that’s interesting in understanding the real meaning of the information.
Anniversaries multiples of 5 can receive large promotion, but it isn’t the case for all years. Also, those events boost an entire discography, not one specific release, meaning the boost effect is spread over various supports and as such not that big while looking at a specific album. If from such a random boost an album re-enters the lower region of the Top 200 most years as it is the case with our case, it means it would be featured almost constantly, all year long, on a Top 500 chart.
Ultimately, what do we know? It sold 200,000 copies in late 89 til 1991, e.g. 100k/year. About 150,000 units during the 00s, e.g. 15k/year. About 50,000 since 2010, e.g. 8k/year. Sensible estimates for years 1992-1995 are at 40k/year thanks to the CD replacement factor, then 25k/year in 1996-1999 before the release of 2003 package Infiniment. All in all, sales are closing in 1,5 million copies, by very far the top seller of the Jacques Brel.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,460,000 copies.
As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!
Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, Platine.