A decade is over and nobody is selling albums anymore. Physical copies of albums are relics of another era, another decade, and we are now talking in album-equivalent to evaluate the success of an album or a single. These past years, the music industry has found a way to define a unit that equals the purchase of one album, and if you are wondering what exactly is an album-equivalent, Billboard has decided that 1250 streams would equal one album sale.
Just two days ago, it was even announced that YouTube streams will now be included in the count, adding more complexity to the entire process. Now, Billboard has to take into consideration streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, plus the downloads (rarer and rarer I presume, especially for the young generation) and since January 3rd, Billboard is also including the YouTube Streams. It makes complete sense, when you look at the way people consume music in 2020. Times have changed a lot in a decade.
This evolution has truly occurred in the last years, and this decade will probably be the last one to see physical sales mentioned anywhere. Here are some of these relics. This is probably not an exhaustive list, but it is often difficult to know if articles are truly talking about physical sales or album-equivalent:
Adele 25 (2015): 22m
Adele 21 (2010): 31m
Taylor Swift 1989 (2014): 10m
Frozen, Soundtrack (2014): 9m
Taylor Swift Red (2012): 7m
Twenty One Pilots Blurryface (2015): 6.5 m
Eminem Recovery (2010): 6.2 m
Ed Sheeran Divide (2017): 6.1 m
Taylor Swift Speak Now (2012): 6 m
Lady Gaga Born This Way (2011): 6m
Taylor Swift Reputation (2017): 4.5 m
One Direction Midnight Memories (2013): 4m
Ed Sheeran X (2014): 4 m
The Greatest Showman Soundtrack (2014): 3.5m
Beyonce Lemonade (2016): 2.5m
Drake Views (2016): 1.7 m
Even Beyonce, often perceived as the queen, has not done well in terms of physical sales,… as for her ‘The Lion King: The Gift’, it was reported to have sold a ridiculous amount of 10,000 physical copies.
With the incredible number of copies of 53 million sold for her 2 albums released this past decade, Adele arrives as a strong winner of the decade, followed by Taylor Swift as all her albums did quite well. And since Spotify pays the artists $0,0032 per stream, and Youtube pays them only $0.00164 per video-stream on the official artist’s channel, the many copies sold by Adele made her a very rich woman I guess. The decade is over, and despite a revival of the vinyl, which still only represents 4% of the market, streaming is king and will be for a long time. I guess we will never see these Adele’s numbers ever again.
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