‘The Greatest Showman’ was the only album to sell over one million copies in the USA during 2018. ‘A Star Is Born’, at number two, didn’t even come close.
‘The Greatest Showman’ sold 1,274,021 physical sales. Considering the climate, that was impressive but just four years ago in 2014 every album in the Top 10 sold over 1m and no. 1 sold over 3m.
‘A Star Is Born’ was the year’s second biggest selling with 525,736 copies sold. Justin Timberlake’s ‘Kamikaze’ was the third biggest album by physical sales in the USA in 2018. It sold 376,936.
Its remarkable isn’t it. Over the past five years the music industry has managed to turn its main revenue stream from a collectible physical product to a disposable digital one. By mixing apples with oranges the combination of physical sales with the streaming chart has muddied the waters making it now impossible to compare a hit from today with one from five or ten years ago.
17 of the Top 25 albums with the combined sales figures were hip-hop or rap titles but hip hip/rap only makes up five of the Top 25 physical sales places. Hip-hop fans clearly don’t want to spend money on their genre of choice. That is even more evident with XXXTentacion at no 3 combined not even making the making the physical top 25.
Likewise Justin Timberlake fans don’t stream, they buy. Timberlake’s ‘Man of the Woods’, the real no 3 album of 2018 falls to no 24 when streaming figures are attached.
Combining streaming figures with physical figures makes no sense. They are completely different reactions. A sale generates an instant impact, a stream has a long tale impact. On current rules a song must be streamed 150 times to count as a sale, an album needs 1500 song streams to count as a sale. If I buy an album today it is counted as a sale in the next chart. If I stream the album, for example with a complete play every second day, my one sale will take 300 weeks (almost a year) to register.
The end of year data from BuzzAngle showcased some interesting trends. Only 11% of music streamed is New Music (eight weeks or less since release). The BuzzAngle data also showed that while people might not be buying albums, they are certainly listening to them now more than ever. The ‘people only what single songs’ theory is totally inaccurate based in 2018 BuzzAngle consumer figures.
New Music had an even worse showing on the Vinyl Chart. The only 2018 album to make the Top 10 was by a 92 year old. Tony Bennett & Diana Krall’s jazz album ‘Love Is Here To Stay’ was the seventh biggest vinyl seller of 2018 in the USA.
The 2014 ‘Guardians of the Galaxy” Awesome Mix Vol 1’ was the biggest selling vinyl album of the year but every song on the album was from the previous century. The only other 21st Century release to accompany the 92 year old legend’s success was the 12 year old Amy Winehouse ‘Back To Black’ album.
Every other album in the vinyl Top 10 was from the 21st Century:
1. Various – Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol 1
2. Michael Jackson – Thriller
3. The Beatles – Abbey Road
4. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
5. Prince & The Revolution – Purple Rain
6. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
7. Tony Bennett & Diana Krall – Love Is Here To Stay
8. Queen – Greatest Hits 1
9. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
10. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend
While they talk about big percentage increases for Vinyl, the reality is the numbers are small. No 1 sold 47,155 units. No 10. Sold 33,191 units.
It is becoming harder and harder to take charts seriously as the industry makes them cloudier and cloudier. The Top 40 chart, the one-time key indicator of public taste for radio is dead on arrival these days. Billboard (USA), Official Charts (UK) and ARIA (Australia) reflect obsolete data from 3-10 days earlier they the time they are published. In an instant, on-demand world, that is meaningless to the music consumer.
Everyone today is there own personal music director. You create your own playlist and tune it to your exact tastes. You don’t need to play Russian Roulette with the radio anymore to get what you want to hear.
The irony is that the industry itself drove the audience to this position. By turning the cherished collectable into something disposable like tap water listening habits have changed.
We now have a chart full of songs by artists nowhere cares about. Producer driven mass-market fodder has put talent in the background and cartoon characters like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj up front. Its all about celebrities now, not stars. Why invest in “expensive talent” when the industry can have disposable acts and keep all the money? Its no wonder kids flocked to see ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘A Star Is Born’ in 2018.