Something historic is happening in France this week.
Before we get there, let’s quickly set the scene.
According to SNEP, the French physical albums sales market – in value terms – fell by 4.7% in 2017. Digital album sales performed even worse, matching similar declines elsewhere in the world by dropping 19.1% in the year.
In short, it is becoming really hard to sell lots of albums in France. Unless that is, they were recorded by Johnny Hallyday.
If you didn’t know, Hallyday is a legend of the French music industry. He sold more than 110m albums worldwide during his lifetime, which sadly ended in December last year, aged 74.
At various points, Hallyday’s been dubbed ‘the French Elvis’ and ‘the French Sinatra’. There’s a wide musical berth between those two comparisons, but they pretty much sum up his national popularity.
On to business.
On Friday (October 19) Warner Music issued the first posthumous Johnny Hallyday album, Mon Pays C’est L’amour.
It is the 51st, and presumably final, studio album of Hallyday’s distinguished career. France is going mad for it.
According to MBW’s sources, Mon Pays C’est L’amour sold over 630,000 units in its first three days in stores (up to and including Sunday).
We’re told that Warner Music shipped 800,000 CDs into retailers – a confident gambit in any market – but even that may not be enough to satisfy week one demand in the region.
At the same point in the chart week on Sunday, France’s No.2 album – also a Johnny Hallyday record – had sold around 15,000 copies.
So, about that Drake headline. The biggest album in the US this year – the world’s biggest recorded music market, remember – is undoubtedly Drake’s Scorpion.
The Canadian megastar’s 25-track opus sold 732,000 equivalent albums in its opening seven days in the States, according to Billboard/Nielsen.
Of those equivalent albums, just 160,000 were actual album purchases by fans. The rest (572,000 ‘sales’) were all converted from streaming plays of tracks.
First things first, then: Johnny Hallyday’s album looks in contention to sell more than Drake’s 732,000 week-one equivalent US figure.
Sales of Mon Pays C’est L’amour, we’re told, are being dominated by physical purchases.
They no longer count ‘free’ / ad-funded streams towards album ‘equivalents’ in France. For they are French, and they do things their way.
Now, let’s talk population size.
Remember: in just its first three days on sale, Mon Pays C’est L’amour shifted over 630,000 copies.
France’s total population is somewhere around 67m people, according to recent measurements.
“It’s been a long time since CD pressing plants strained to keep up with demand as they have for Johnny’s album.”
Stu Bergen, Warner Music
Assuming that people weren’t purchasing multiple copies of the CD for themselves, this means close to one in every hundred people in France bought Johnny Hallyday’s latest album during its first three days on sale.
If you took Drake’s week-one album ‘equivalent’ figure in the States (732,000), and made the same calculation versus population size (326m)… it works out to one in every 445 people.
For the French, Mon Pays C’est L’amour is becoming a national event.
Its final sales tally will be revealed by France’s chart monitors, SNEP/GfK, on Friday (October 26).
The record was released by Warner Music, who are understandably jubilant about its performance so far.
Stu Bergen, CEO, International and Global Commercial Services, Warner Music, told MBW: “It’s been a long time since CD pressing plants strained to keep up with demand as they have for Johnny’s album. That’s what happens when a once in a century artist says farewell.
“I’d like to congratulate and thank Johnny’s wife Laeticia, the management team, Thierry and Rose-Hélène Chassagne, and the entire Warner Music France team for honoring the legacy of one of music’s greatest treasures in such a historic way.”
“This is a fitting legacy for one of the greatest stars France has ever produced.”
Thierry Chassagne, Warner Music France
Thierry Chassagne, President, Warner Music France: “The reaction of the fans to this album has been overwhelming. Johnny would have been delighted with its incredible success. It’s not simply the last studio album he recorded, it is one of the best.
“He was fully involved in its creation and his voice on the recording is magnificent. It’s a fitting legacy for one of the greatest stars France has ever produced.”Music Business Worldwide