Here’s a depressing stat for anyone who still cares about the fate of the album: 99.991% of the population of the United States did not buy last week’s No.1 album on the Billboard 200.
Drake’s Scorpion sold (as in, pure sales) little over 29,000 copies in the last chart sales week, ending July 12.
According to Billboard/Nielsen Music data, that was the lowest sales figure for the week’s biggest-selling album (in a chart published July 21) since Nielsen first began running the numbers in 1991.
There were at least one or two extenuating circumstances: Scorpion, originally released on streaming services on June 29, wasn’t officially issued on CD until July 13; the 29,000 sum was therefore almost entirely made up of digital downloads, plus a few street-date-breaking CD sales from a handful of retailers.
In addition, July is obviously a very quiet time for the music business, following a flurry of big-hitting streaming album releases in the States this year from the likes of Drake, Post Malone, Migos and J.Cole.
But still. That 29,000 tally represents approximately 0.0089% of the total US population (326m) – or, to put it another way, less than one in every 10,000 people. (Obviously, we’re presuming one album per person there.)
The US recorded music industry is obviously booming thanks to the growth seen on streaming services.
Yet the above stats will inevitably lead to the oft-repeated question: when does a US ‘No.1-selling’ album actually stop mattering to the general public?
That’s a query which may also have been raised in UK label offices this morning.
According to Official Charts Company figures, Scorpion grabbed the British No.1 spot on the Official Albums Charts on Friday (June 20) with ‘equivalent album sales’ of 29,393.
Of this number, however, 22,806 album ‘sales’ weren’t actually album sales at all: they were adjudicated as such by the OCC based on cumulative single-track streams.
Which means… the ‘No.1-selling’ album in the UK last week actually sold… a grand total of 6,587 copies.
In a country of 66m people, that also represents less than one in every 10,000 consumers.
You can see why the UK industry just saw fit to launch a ‘National Album Day’ on October 13 this year – hoping to emulate some of the success of its annual Record Store Day at retail.
According to stats from Nielsen, physical album sales in the US in the first half of 2018 fell 14.6% year-on-year (in volume terms), despite a double-digit bump in vinyl sales.
Digital album sales volume fell 21.7% year-on-year in H1 2018, down to 27.5m.
From H1 2015 to H1 2018, total album sales on all formats fell by 40.7%.
Music Business Worldwide