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.