Understanding: Music Clubs #1 – Janet Jackson, Celine Dion


IV) Estimating

A) Janet Jackson

Often quoted as one of the most under-certified artist ever, Janet Jackson enjoyed tremendous sales at BMG Music Club. The list below.

Year Album Certified Units (Cert. Date) – SoundscanBMG
1986 Control 5,000,000 (10/26/1989) – 505,000883,000
1989 Rhythm Nation 1814 6,000,000 (11/19/1992) – 1,389,0001,100,000
1993 Janet. 6,000,000 (04/12/1994) – 7,041,000860,000
1995 Design Of A Decade 2,000,000 (12/18/1995) – 2,439,0001,480,000
1997 The Velvet Rope 3,000,000 (01/15/1999) – 3,237,000420,000
2001 All For You 2,000,000 (05/18/2001) – 3,109,000100,000

As you can easily notice, all her albums have been certified at the end of their initial run and then never audited again. Also, her sales at BMG Club are quite massive with her biggest albums being released at the perfect timing. Assuming similar, if not bigger sales, from Columbia House, would led us to very high estimates for all those albums. Once again, that’s a huge trap.

A key element is that from 1991 Janet Jackson moved from A&M to Virgin label. Both Control and Rhythm Nation 1814 as well as the compilation Design Of A Decade were available on both, BMG and Columbia Clubs. This being said, Virgin policy about Clubs was pretty different. Checking in details the BMG Top 100 list, we notice two of her albums are concerned by an asterix:
63. Janet Jackson – Janet. (Virgin) (860,000 units) *
95. Janet Jackson – The Velvet Rope (Virgin) (420,000 units) *

* Items that were at one time apart of a Special Promotion, sales restricted titles available for a limited time due to popular demand.

In the same original article, BMG stated “other Jackson title’s include “All For You,” (100,000 units sold and issued under contractual agreement)“. Also, when we check Columbia House full catalog from 1997, only three Janet Jackson albums appear, the three ones released by A&M:

139501 : $16.98 : JANET JACKSON : DESIGN OF A DECADE: 1986-1996
343319 : $15.98 : JANET JACKSON : CONTROL
388918 : $15.98 : JANET JACKSON : RHYTHM NATION 1814

The reason is quite simple, in early 1995 Virgin decided to drop its agreement with Columbia House, along with Geffen and MCA, later that year they also failed to renew their contract with BMG Music Club. This is the reason why unlike other labels, Virgin never fully audited his artists after 1994 RIAA rules change – others like Tina Turner or Mike Oldfield are in the same case – because they were going to quit them. With those new facts highlighted, Janet Jackson certifications make much more sense:

Year Album Certified Units (Cert. Date) – SoundscanBMG
1986 Control 5,000,000 (10/26/1989) – 505,000883,000
1989 Rhythm Nation 1814 6,000,000 (11/19/1992) – 1,389,0001,100,000
1995 Design Of A Decade 2,000,000 (12/18/1995) – 2,439,0001,480,000

One can hardly argue those certifications are up to date giving available facts. Still, on their audit programs, labels always separated current albums and catalog albums. Current albums are certified very, very regularly, almost automatically, what happened for those three albums. Time to time, labels audit their deep catalog records to update them. In this case yet as Janet Jackson is no more a A&M artist, she was most likely out of their audit lists.

Sales-wise, those albums are also not good contenders for strong sales at Columbia House despite their availability with a target audience way too young for the Club standards in the 80s. Rhythm Nation 1814 still was pictured for its debut on Clubs in January 1990 but was already moved to standard listings by the next month. Similarly, even when it was incredibly hot in January 1987, Control was barely included among listins.

1993 Janet. 6,000,000 (04/12/1994) – 7,041,000860,000
1997 The Velvet Rope 3,000,000 (01/15/1999) – 3,237,000420,000
2001 All For You 2,000,000 (05/18/2001) – 3,109,000100,000

Here comes the trio of Virgin studio albums. What is safe to say is that those albums were never part of Columbia House catalog as they do not even have an ID on it. Janet. sold 4,3 million units as per Soundscan in 1993, 1,6 million in 1994 and 1,1 million since. It was up to about 5,4 million copies scanned and with many more copies shipped when certified 6xP. With BMG sales likely happening in 1993 fall / during 1994 as it was a special offer due to popular demand, the album crossed 7 million overall copies by mid-1995, when Virgin dropped out of BMG Club. As they completely stopped that contract, they were very unlikely to keep related bills at their disposal, naturally archiving them. With this assumption in mind, Janet. became eligible for a 7xPlatinum award quite recently, while by now majors hardly care about updating their artists anymore. Of course, if all bills were fully audited tomorrow, the album would end up 8xP.

The case of The Velvet Rope is even more striking as the album is not even under-certified when we know that it wasn’t available at Columbia House. Considering all certification dates and both Club sales and Soundscan sales since, below is the most realistic estimates we can set for this bunch of albums:

1986 Control – 7,000,000 
1989 Rhythm Nation 1814 – 8,100,000
1993 Janet. 8,000,000
1995 Design Of A Decade 4,000,000
1997 The Velvet Rope 3,800,000
2001 All For You 3,300,000

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