Men lie, women lie, numbers deceive

Michael Jackson – Dangerous (1991) – 326’000 1st week  (now 7x Platinum)

Lil Kim –  The Notorious K.I.M (2000) – 230’000 1st week  (now Platinum)

Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000) – 134’000 1st week  (now Gold)

Lady Gaga – The Fame (2008) – 24′ 000 1st week   (now  3x Platinum)

Why are 1st week numbers so important?

Statisically speaking, whatever an album sells in the 1st week, it should sell 50% of  that in the 2nd week. This allows the label to estimate what the overall sales of an album will be. This isn’t always the case as we saw with Susan Boyle’s most recent album. The 2nd week figures were higher then the 1st weeks.

For a corporation, growth is measured by hitting quarterly figures. For example, labels can compare and contrast sales figures to show increases in market share. This means more revenue and more performance related bonuses, as well as opportunities for promotion.

When Lyor Cohen was at Def Jam, the label sold albums at a reduced price in the 1st week of release. This helped increase 1st week sales for a record and it has now become a standard industry practice.  (It’s how Dynasty beat Stankonia to the Number 1 Album spot).

I recently saw the latest Kanye West & Nicki Minaj albums being sold at $3- $4 on Amazon in the 1st week.

Why have record sales appear to have dwlindled?

Album sales have decreased. In 1975, Gold was 1 million copies. Singles have increased- hit singles are going gold and platinum every other week in today’s record industry.

Are these figures valid?

There is some debate as to whether or not sales figures are valid.

1 ) Shipments are different from sales. RIAA monitors records shipped, Soundcan is more accurate and measures records sold. If an artists ships 500-000 records they get a Gold certification from RIAA. If an artist sells 500-000 records, it doesn’t neccessarily mean they will receive a Gold certification. One example of this is the BMG Music Club ( a direct to consumer service). They have reported over 100 million sales through their BMG Music Club to RIAA, however Soundscan doesn’t record these sales.

Labels also use double albums to claim they have sold more than actual figures suggest. They can use loopholes in album length to make it seem that they have sold more.

Diplomatic Immunity – 1 million discs shipped = Gold certification (because it’s a double disc)

2) There was a lawsuit made by Curtis Mayfield which claimed that record labels are under reporting sales of records, so that they don’t have to give artists substantial pensions (through AFTRA).

3) Digital sales weren’t recorded until 2005.

4) Incompetence & Tax purposes. – To receive a Gold/Platinum certification, you must pay the RIAA for an audit of sales/returns.


About Harlem World

the BAWSE *ross grunt*

Posted on December 5, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Huhmmm! Given the above post, I honestly don’t see why a truly talented artist with any business acumen would sign with a major. It sounds extraordinarily stupid to me, in this day and age.

  2. RNC Chairman Michael Steele

    Some more recent examples of first week sales not being a good measure of long term sales: Ke$ha, and you could argue Rihanna has always been a good example.

    A favourite: Pearl Jam’s “Ten”. Those guys in the 90s were selling a shitload without music videos after that album, too. Crazy.

    I’m not sure if this affects a record labels bottom line at all, but I think first and second week sales are a good measure of how many *serious* fans an artist has. Those are the guys who will get a record first week out. Kanye just did 518k first week with no top 10 Single, which says a lot about his fan base IMO.

    The fact that these days singles dominate record sales, artists have to have fans to sell CDs. Even though Ke$ha went platinum, and the Black Eyed Peas went 2x Platinum, and that new Katy Perry will probably go platinum, those guys sell way less than what they would have in a time when a couple of hot songs could sell a whole record. Cudi didn’t have a hot single like on his last album but hist new album is on pace to sell better and did sell better first week.

    Another recent thing that stuck out to me was twitter and how much it may matter. I was quick to dismiss it, but Trey Songz and Nicki Minaj both did really well first week and both have a lot of twitter followers. Kanye West had much less successful singles and bad press before this album but he finally got a twitter that was the source of much coverage and sold better than his last LP. I’m not calling it a factor yet, but I think an artists attempts to keep in touch with his/her fans through these more direct means will matter a lot too.

    I don’t think there was ever a strong connection between first week sales before [some top selling LP did great 1st week but others didn’t] but I think in the future that connection will only get stronger. Strong singles don’t mean strong album sales anymore, only developing serious fans do. And serious fans will be more likely to buy the album first or second week.

  3. RNC Chairman Michael Steele

    BTW this blog is awesome. I’ve already said it before on here, and on Nah, but still. It needed to be said again.

    It’s a completely unique perspective on urban music. Keep up the great work.

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