System of a Down albums and songs sales

It’s been nearly two decades since they released a new album and with nothing in sight, System of a Down must be one of the most frustrating bands to follow, but still, fans clearly continue to enjoy their music.

Today, we review one of the most unexpected success story of all-time, a band that has demonstrated how you can make it big, while remaining true to yourself and offering no concessions.

CSPC System of a Down albums and songs sales_

Looking at the big picture: System of a Down

A very long road… just to get started

As absurd as it sounds, the history of System of a Down really starts in the early 1900s, when the Ottoman Empire was shrinking both militarily and economically. In an effort to prevent further decline, the government decided that targeting and exterminating people’s of certain ethnicities and religions, that existed throughout the Empire, would solve their problems. This led to more than 2m Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians, being murdered in the 1910s. Ultimately though, their plan failed and The Ottoman Empire vanished completely in 1922, being replaced by the Republic of Turkey.

Some of those targeted managed to flee to other countries, leading to a significant diaspora in several places, especially in the American state of California. Many others who had originally settled in places like Lebanon and Iraq, would also end up in America, later in the decade, due instability in these regions.

Throughout the decades, the Armenian community continued to evolve, to the point where an Armenian neighbourhood, Little Armenia, was created in the city of Los Angeles. Located within this area, is the K-12, Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School, where both history and religion lessons are given in the Armenian language.

Serj Tankian, who would become System of a Down‘s lead singer and keyboardist, was a pupil when the school was in it’s early years of existence, but had left by the time that Daron Malakian (guitar and vocals), Shavo Odadjian (bass and backing vocals) and Andy Khachaturian (drums) had enrolled.

Almost inevitably, in pursuing their musical dreams, these young men, of a similar background, living in the same area and with a love music, would meet. Serj, Daron and Shavo would end up meeting in 1992 and go on to create the band Soil, with Andy joining them in a new project, in 1994, called System of a Down. While building their reputation with live shows in nightclubs and sending out demo tapes, the legendary producer Rick Rubin discovered them and called them his favourite band, at that time. While he loved the group, he wasn’t expecting much commercial success. As he said, “no one was waiting for an Armenian heavy metal band. It had to be so good that it transcended all of that”.

The mastermind behind the explosion of rap (Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Jay-Z, Kanye West), the evolution of rock and metal, in more recent decades (Slayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park) and with monster pop smashes (Justin Timberlake, Adele, Ed Sheeran), he’s certainly clued up on what is popular and what sells and decided to give them a chance, signing System of a Down to his Columbia Records label in 1997. At this point, John Dolmayan replaced Khachaturian as the drummer, who broke every bone in his hand, after punching a wall, while practising martial arts.

The recording years

After years in the making, the group had plenty of material ready to record for their debut album. In June 1998, it all came to fruition and their self-titled first album was released. It was a moderate success, selling 800,000 copies after a couple of years, with both singles Sugar and Spiders reaching the US Top 40 Alternative Airplay chart. The album was closed by the politically charged song P.L.U.C.K., an acronym which stands for Politically Lying, Unholy, Cowardly Killers.

The fall of the 90s saw nu metal music explode. The genre, a fusion of metal with hip hop elements, topped charts with artists like Korn, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, and of course, Linkin Park. System of a Down would go on to create their own very unique and complex sound, with Serj Tankian mastering the art of sing-rap and delivering some highly charged and powerful lyrics.

Being over 30 years old, when their debut was released, the singer was obviously quite a bit older than fellow metal singers and brought perhaps more intelligent and thoughtful lyrics into the genre, as well as influences that ranged from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to trash metal legends Slayer and Metallica.

The fast paced, high energy tunes, briliant melodies, thoughtful lyrics, stripped down riffs, impeccable singing and rapping, all came together to perfection on their sophomore album, 2001’s Toxicity. While their reputation was strong in the metal scene, their debut had only managed to peak at #113, with no impact overseas.

In the blink of aye, everything changed. Toxicity debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. This obviously gave them and the album considerable media exposure, especially since it led the chart in the week of 9/11. The lead single, Chop Suey!, which refers to suicide, was listed among tracks to keep off airwaves following the event.

The title track and Aerials were similar hits, reaching top 5 on rock airplay stations but without climbing to the top 50 of the Hot 100. They weren’t and never really became mainstream though.

Steal This Album! arrived just a year later. It was seen as a disappointment due to its low peak in the US (#15) and the lack of hit singles. Obviously contributing to the downturn, was the fact that the album, in demo form, had leaked online many months earlier. It was also released during the busy Christmas period, when numbers all round are far higher and healthier.

They returned in 2005 with a duo of albums issued 6-months apart: Mezmerize and Hypnotize. Both topped the US album charts, making them the first band to have two #1 studio albums in the same calendar year, since Led Zeppelin in 1970, who hit the top with II and III. Their success overseas also grew considerably. Their singles B.Y.O.B. and Question! from the first album and Hypnotize and Lonely Day from the second, were all very well received, the former giving them their first Grammy, for Best Hard Rock Performance.

The tour de force of releasing two successful albums in a year was even more impressive considering Daron Malakian largely took over the song writing duties for these records, while also sharing lead vocals with Serj Tankian.

Hiatus’ hiatus

In May 2006, with the Mezmerize/Hypnotize Tour going strong, the band announced they were going on hiatus. They did reunite in 2011, to perform a string of European festivals and then various tours and shows. New music though, has never arrived though.

For almost 10 years, the members have chopped and changed their minds on a new studio album. In reality, they just seem to have different interests nowadays. Serj Tankian embarked on a solo career. Daron Malakian formed his own band, Scars on Broadway, which John Dolmayan joined as well. Shavo Odadjian participated in many projects and now operates as a DJ from time to time.

Back in 2006, they started their hiatus with the release of a documentary film called Screamers. This was to raise awareness about the Armenian genocide, at the hands of the Turkish, in the early 20th century. A genocide which in 2024, is still denied by the Turkish authorities.

Although on a hiatus, these political issues are an intrinsic part of every member and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the genocide, they got together for the Wake Up the Souls Tour, in 2015. In 2020, they issued their only 2 new recordings in nearly two decades, Protect the Land and Genocidal Humanoidz.

These tracks gave their fans hope of a return to the studio but they were actually Scars on Broadway songs, issued as a one-off to raise money for the Armenia Fund, as the country faced the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.

While a new studio album is very unlikely at this stage, the group is still very popular, outdoing most 90s/00s metal bands on streaming platforms, including several which were bigger back in the day.

Chop Suey! made headlines for hitting 1 billion views on YouTube and then again for 1 billion streams on Spotify. As we are going to see, their entire catalogue is going strong.

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!

System of a Down album sales

CSPC System of a Down album sales breakdowns

Updated studio album sales & comments

System of a Down reached Gold (500,000) RIAA certification, in 19 months, in the US and two more years to hit Platinum, on the heels of Toxicity success. Its success elsewhere was close to nil.

At 3.5 million pure sales, it shows just how well it has performed since 2001. At around 3 million sales we also see Steal This Album! and the Mezmerize / Hypnotize duo, which highlights how many fans they have. These people collected their entire discography.

Then, obviously, the front runner is Toxicity. A success from day one, it made the band a global phenomenon. Its classic status enables it to continue selling year in year out. It’s closing in 9 million sales.

Want to compare the act’s albums with others?

System of a Down songs sales

Below, we list down results from the artist through physical sales, digital sales and streaming.

Please be aware that when the artist is regarded as the lead act, they are rewarded with 100% of these units. However, featured acts share a 50% piece of the total.

Physical singles

Metal bands rarely go for singles formats, except some collectors items. It is no different for System of a Down. Singles from Toxicity sold a bit, in good part thanks to top 40 performances in the UK. Numbers remain low though, with the top songs below 100,000 sales.

Digital songs

Digital sales were barely getting started when the band called it a day in 2006, so even their 2005 songs sold a good share of their units as legacy titles.

Chop Suey! leads the way with 3.2 million sales. B.Y.O.B. isn’t too far away at 2.7 million, with a few more millionaires such as Toxicity, Lonely Day, Aerials, and Hypnotize.

With a catalogue made up of only 77 tracks, they moved over 18 million digital units overall.

Streaming

Streaming is made up of both audio and video streams. Our CSPC methodology includes both formats to better reflect the real popularity of each track.

The main source of data for each avenue is Spotify and YouTube, respectively. 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.

Audio Streams
– South Korea: Genie streams * 2.20 (consistent with Gaon streaming numbers)
– Japan: AWA streams * 100 / 4 (AWA has 4% of the Japanese streaming market)
– Arabic world: Anghami streams
– Sub-Saharan Africa: Boomplay + Audiomack streams
– Elsewhere: Spotify streams * Spotify market shares based on artists’ market distribution

Video Streams
– China* : QQ video streams * 50 if the song is available for audio stream, QQ video streams * 5 elseway (scale built based on known figures for several major artists)
– Elsewhere : Youtube views increased by 10% to account for various local platforms

*since Chinese streaming platforms are mostly video streaming platforms, their streams are weighted on par with YouTube streams.

Audio Stream value – 1,500 plays equal 1 album unit
Video Stream value – 6,750 views equal 1 album unit

Equivalent Albums Sales (EAS) = ( Spotify * ArtistRatio + Genie * 2.20 + AWA * 100 / 4 + Anghami + Boomplay + Audiomack ) / 1500 + ( QQ views* 50(or 5) + YouTube * 1.1 ) / 6750

Top hits

CSPC System of a Down top streaming hits

The general feel from these numbers is that they belong to a current band. Their top 5 are very strong, with songs combining for almost 5 million equivalent album sales.

To give these results some perspective, with 4 songs from the 2000s over 500 million streams, they are put just behind Coldplay (6), Rihanna (6), Beyonce (5) or Britney Spears (4) and doing better than U2 (1) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (3).

The weaker albums also contain standout tracks. Sugar is up to 255 million on Spotify, while I-E-A-I-A-I-O tops 100 million.

Another highlight comes from Mezmerize. If Toxicity claims the strongest top 3, the 2005 albums contains a stunning 6 tracks over 100 million streams. Only 2 of them were issued as singles, showing how strong the album is overall.

The band is now up to 10 million equivalent album sales from streams, a stunning total off such a tiny discography.

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.

Keep yourself up to date

Our website provides you a fantastic tool which fetches updated Spotify streams as you request them, use it to watch these results grow day after day!

System of a Down compilations sales

Raw compilations sales

System of a Down have no compilations or live albums so far. All their releases outside of their proper studio albums are box sets containing several of them merged or EPs.

Here is the most underestimated indicator of an album’s success: the amount of compilation sales across all versions that were generated. Due to the dependency of sales of the original studio albums on these releases, they are a key piece of the jigsaw.

To clarify that, we take the Raw compilation sales results and assign the numbers to the related original studio albums, as described in the first section Assigning compilation sales to original studio albums.

CSPC System of a Down compilation sales distribution

Bonus: Total album (all types) sales per country

CSPC System of a Down album sales by market

Please note country-specific numbers may miss sales of a few minor releases, although totals are complete.

System of a Down: career results (CSPC)

So, after checking all the figures, how many overall equivalent album sales has each album achieved? Well, at this point we hardly need to add up all of the figures defined in this article!

CSPC System of a Down albums and songs sales_

Albums results (CSPC)

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


Toxicity is now on its way to break the 15 million mark. I guess, after all, the demand was there for an Armenian heavy metal band. The album belongs to the very stop sellers of 2001, challenging records from the biggest pop stars.

Mezmerize comes second with 7 million sales, while the remaining 3 discs moved 4+ million copies apiece.

With one pre-fame album, another massively leaked online and a pair of albums issued as part of the same promotional effort, System of a Down really had only 2 proper eras from a commercial point of view. The total of almost 36 million equivalent album sales to date impresses all the most.

As their worst performing album on streams is approaching a million, their career tally will keep going up very fast.

Singles results (CSPC)

The list is compiled in album equivalent sales generated by each song. Therefore, these figures are not merged units of singles formats. Instead, the list 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.

Want to compare the act’s songs with other top hits?

Discography results (ASR)

Thanks to our new ASR (Artist Success Rating) concept, we know that sales represent 12.93 million times the purchase of entire discography. Coupled with total sales, it translates into an ASR score of 116.

The ranking of all artists studied so far is available too at this link.

Records & achievements

Dynamic Spotify key performance indicators

Please note that numbers below are retrieved automatically. They will evolve day by day,
unlike previously listed data which is valid as of the publication date of the article.

System Of A Down

System

Current followers count: 10,597,479
10,000,000 followers have been reached on 01/04/24
>> Daily breakdown

System Of A Down is #215 among the most followed artists of all-time
>> Visit our Top 5,000 most followed artists ranking

Current streams count: 8,087,998,441
8,000,000,000 streams have been reached on 05/04/24
7,000,000,000 streams have been reached on 10/16/23
6,000,000,000 streams have been reached on 02/18/23
5,000,000,000 streams have been reached on 05/01/22
4,000,000,000 streams have been reached on 04/18/21
>> Daily breakdown

System Of A Down is #194 among the most streamed artists of all-time
Popularity Rating: /100

>> Visit our Top 1,000 most streamed artists ranking
>> Visit our Top 20 highest rated artists ranking

Current monthly listeners: 21,935,208 (Trend: -589,217)
Global chart position: #305
The artist top 50 cities come from 20 distinct countries
>> Global impact breakdown

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

Sources: IFPI, Spotify, YouTube, Discogs, Billboard.

You may be interested in…

System of a Down‘s streaming masters analysis

checking out the upcoming artists or even voting for them!

… similar artists

… best-selling artists, albums, and singles

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments