Saturday, 23 January 2010

Best selling albums

I hope eventually to be able to publish a reasonably accurate list of the best selling albums in New Zealand.
I say reasonably accurate as there are quite a few albums for which complete sales figures are unknown.

The Best Of ABBA.
In 1976 this album sold 200,000+, this is fact. by the end of 1977 it had been awarded 18xPlatinum discs, this is facts. in 1977/78 Platinum was equal to 20,000 copies, this is fact. Therefore we know that this album sold over 360,000 copies by the end of 1977.
This album was still on general release until 1989, and released as a CD. It is quite possible that the sales figure for this album reached 400,000.
Arrival - ABBA
In 1976 this album sold 145,000+, this is fact. During 1977 it outsold The Best Of ABBA, which had sold around 160,000 (this included the Christmas periods of 1976 and 1977). This puts the sales figure over 300,000. It was on general release until 1983 when Universal (Polydor at the time) took over ABBA's catalogue, in those 6 years, it is quite possible the album sold another platinum (15,000) copies. It had also sold about Gold (7,500) with Universal. This could easily place the sales figure at about 325,000. But this is only an estimate.

Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
an Ex-employee of Warner informed me that this album had sold about 10xplatinum in the 70s, this is highly likely. The figure I have is for sales from the 80s, including CD. Altogether it is around 17xplatinum, therefore possible over 200,000.

Soundtrack - Grease
Soundtrack - Saturday Night Fever
These albums were released on RSO, then released through Polygram records, Polygram eventually became Polydor, which eventually became Universal. All vinyl sales for these albums have since been lost and therefore even an estimate on the sales figures of these albums is nigh impossible.
From 1990 onwards though, we do have figures.
Saturday Night Fever has sold about 1xPlatinum, and basically has not been a big seller since its release, which is quite normal for soundtracks.
Grease, on the other hand has sold about 9xPlatinum since the company became Polydor.
these two albums were #1 and #3 respectively for 1978.
The #2 album is: Bat Out Of Hell, which eventually sold over 17xplatinum, and is still going strong. But unlike the other two, it has continued to sell strongly throughout the years, it is one of the great classic albums of the 70s, and one of the biggest selling albums worldwide. therefore comparing sales figures of this classic album to the 2 soundtracks isn't plausible.

Elton John:
Don't Shoot Me, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Captain Fantastic, Greatest Hits.
unfortunately Festival records had no record for the sales of Elton John so anythign even resembling an estimated guess would be worthloess.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was charting for over a year before our first album chart came into existance, and would have been at its peak when singles like: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road & Candle in The Wind were charting. Once the albums charts were up and running, this album spent over 100 weeks on the charts. Once Universal took over the rights to Elton John's DJM material, this album sold an additional 3xplatinum. But how much it sold on DJM is completely unknown.
his other major albums on DJM (Listed above) also have unknown sales figures, but each would be well over 3 or 4xPlatinum.

Olivia Newton-John
Greatest Hits, First Impressions
Like Elton John, this festival release was not found among the Festival sales figures, although unlike Elton, Olivia did have some figures found.
this album was one of the biggest sellers of 1975 and 1976, and continued to sell for years afterwards.

Neil Diamond
Hot August Night
MCA was originally its own label, then it was released through Warner, then it was released through BMG/Geffen, and now it is released through Universal.
This is another big selling album, which has sold copious amonts since its release in 1972, but what these sales figures are, no-one knows, or if they do, they haven't told me (As with the above figures). Although I have asked all companies for sales figure for what they have available.

I am sure there are many more albums with enough of a sales figure to place them among our top 100 albums of all time.


Hernán said...

Hello Dean,

As far as I know, back in 1977, "only" 15,000 copies were needed for an album to go platinum. Billboard actually stated that Abba's "Best Of" sold 250,000 copies in New Zealand by Septemeber 1979 and that it had achieved 18 times platinum. Are you sure it sold 360,000 like you state?

By the way, according to the information in your book, Queen are heavily deflated. I have record company's information and they sold 619,000 albums from 1984 to December 2003 (without counting all their albums). "Greatest Hits 1" went 10 times platinum (150,000 copies) but just from 1984 onwards. Sales before 1984 are missing. It may very well have sold over 200,000.

Dean Scapolo said...

Hi Hernan,

In New Zealand we didn't have Gold or platinum [On the charts] until 1978, and when Platinum was introduced it was at 20,000.
ABBA were awarded 18 Platinum discs for the Best Of ABBA, this gives a shipment amount of 360,000.
It then went on to sell well for another 4-5 years.

Don't trust billboard when it comes to NZ figures, no album has ever outsold the Best Of ABBA in one calendar year, and according to them several have, yet according to official figures, they can't have done.
Grease & Saturday Night Fever allegedly sold 250,000 in one year - 1978, this means that Bat Out Of Hell also did, as it came in 2nd for the year, however, it didn't! Sales figures would suggest a figure of around 120,000 to 150,000 for 1978, same with the other two (Perhaps they were talking about discs sold, not albums). Bat Out Of Hell has continued to sell constantly, and well in NZ, Saturday Night Fever has not. And Bat Out Of Hell is 17xPlatinum NOW - This would mean B.O.O.H has sold less than 15,000 since 1978 - considering it has charted many times since, it is incredibly unlikely.

Queen: You are quite right in assuming it may have sold over 200,000, it wouldn't surprise me at all. However, the sales figures KNOWN for Queen albums from 1984 onwards is nowhere near 619,000. According to all acceditations of Queen they have sold around half a million albums, plus whatever warner has sold, this would put them at the figure you have given, but EMI only is half a million. I have the official figures from the record companies in question.

Dean Scapolo said...

Hi Hernan,

I am very sorry, but I had to delete your last post as it contains classified information, which I will not publish.
Apart from that the figures you have given are quite inaccurate, where did you get them from?
Queen GH1 Sold 21,000 more
Queen GH2 Sold 11,000 more
Wembley sold 6,000 more
Platinum collection Sold: 17,000 more
Queen GH3 sold 3,000 more.
Queen GH 1&2: No figure, but 4xPlatinum = 60,000+
The studio albums figures I have may be incomplete - A kind Of Magic certainly is. The figures i have for those 4 albums is 75,000 less than what you quoted, but a Kind Of Magic is out by at least 20,000 anyway.
I am waiting on EMI for more accurate figures, but this may take some time.

Hernán said...

Thank you, Dean. Actually, the guy who let us know some sales numbers didn't tell us not to share with someone else or something like that. But sorry for revealing them without knowing whether I could publish them or not.

I think that you shouldn't completely dismiss my source by saying that they aren'r accurate. maybe your figures are incorrect or just not comprehensive. We just don't know. Anyway, the source is EMI. they are sales numbers as far as EMI is concerned which means that they are shipments figures.

Two things I would like to comment on your reply:

1) "Queen GH1 Sold 21,000 more
Queen GH2 Sold 11,000 more
Wembley sold 6,000 more
Platinum collection Sold: 17,000 more
Queen GH3 sold 3,000 more.
Queen GH 1&2: No figure, but 4xPlatinum = 60,000+"

I'm not sure if I understand correctly here. You are saying that those albums sold more than what I stated in the message you had to delete? I said that "Greatest Hits 2" sold 151,000 copies and "Greatest Hits 1" sold 142,000 copies. Does that mean that you are telling that they sold 11,000 and 21,000 copies more than that, which would mean taht they are on about 160,000 copie apiece according to your numbers.? Is that what you are saying? Remember that my nubers go as far back as December 2003, while yours may be from about 2007 or 2008.

2) "The studio albums figures I have may be incomplete - A kind Of Magic certainly is. The figures i have for those 4 albums is 75,000 less than what you quoted, but a Kind Of Magic is out by at least 20,000 anyway."

Not sure what you mean here. What "4 albums" are you referring to? I guess that you are talking about "The Works", "Live Magic" "The Miracle", and "Innuendo", no? What numbers do you have for those albums? The information I have is accurate, believe me. For example, as your book states, "Made In Heaven" was certified 3 times platinum (45,000 units), while in my numbers it is on over 50,000. Both figures match with each other.

"Greatest Hits I & II" is certified 4 times platinum for sales of 60,000 copies as you said. Well, my figures of 65,000 copies is in line with it so not sure why you don't believe or say that it isn't accurate when clearly all my numbers make sense.

Hernán said...

Dean, I'm sorry to insist. However, in your book, it is stated that Abba's "The Best Of" is certified 24 times platinum. However, here in your blog, you are telling us that it was certified 18 times platinum.

I don't understand, how many times has it been certified? Or maybe you assume it is certified 18 times platinum for sales of 360,000 copies (with each platinum denoting shipments of 20,000 copies) and you converted it into 24 times platinum to make it fit with what you state is the current level (15,000 copies). If I'm not understanding you incorrectly, the album received 18 times platinum which you are increasing to 24 times platinum so as to make it fit with the current level.

Dean Scapolo said...

Hi Hernan,

first of all, sales figures are always confidential unless I have been informed otherwise by the record company in question. this is not negiotiable. it is called privacy of classified information.
The sales figures i have are direct from EMI in New Zealand.
I guessed i missed the date you mentioned. Sorry.

Those albums did indeed sell more than you stated, as for the other 4: Live Works, Kind Of Magic, Innuendo, Made in Heaven. My figures are incomplete.
so yes, the figure you say may actually be correct, or even understated, but I am only going by platinum and gold figures, nothing morer, i don't include those without certifications. So it is an inaccurate work.

ABBA The Best Of. you are correct in your assumption.
ALL albums are classified at the current platinum level of 15,000.
Albums prior to 1992 were classified at 20,000, but no multi-platinum existed in regards to the chart.
I have learnt that ABBA received 18 Platinum discs in 1977 (or 1978) for the Best of ABBA, and at this time, Platinum was 20,000. 20,000x18 = 360,000. And by todays platinum standard this is 24xPlatinum.

Hernán said...

Hello Dean,

Thank you for your time. Yes, I think that my numbers are right. The problem is that EMI hasn't bothered to apply for further certifications and, while certain albums have reached new milestones, no new acreditaion have been requested. Let's wait for them to do it. I think that Queen are a very successful group in New Zealand from what I can see, although extremely underrated. Nobody refers to them as being one of the best selling groups while they clearly are. Just curious, do you have any DVDs sales numbers for some of their videos, like "Luve At Wembley '86", "Greatest Video Hits 1" or "Greatest Video Hits 2"? I know it is private information, but can you at least try to give me a rough indication as to waht they sold? For instance, I know that 2Live At Wembley '86" is certified double platinum for sales of 10,000 copies, so how much more has it sold since that? Any idea?

I would like to know in which year were your Queen' sales numbers received? Are they from 2007 or so as I guessed?

Also, any sales or certifications for Freddie Mercury there? Sorry for so many questions, I'm just curious.

Dean Scapolo said...

Hi Hernan,

My sales figures are from 2008.
I don't recall seeing any Freddy Mercury certifications, for some reason his solo stuff was never popular here - except 'the Great Pretender' and his duet with Monserrat Caballe 'Barcelona'.

As for Queen's DVDs:
GVH1 is 3xPlatinum
GVH2 is 2xPlatinum
On Fire At The Bowl is 1xPlatinum (Nearly 2)
Queen Rock Montreal/Live Aid is through Shock records, so I don't have a sales figure for it. the chart shows no cert. but i doubt it.

Once I get the full sales figures, or at least what EMI has, I will ask them if they can keep us - myself and the RIANZ - up to date with new AND old albums. Whether or not they do is up to them.

Hernán said...

Hello Dean,

Impressive information as always. Great sales for those DVDs.

Do you know much the DVD "Live At Wembley" sold in New Zealand? I guess it is anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 copies in New Zealand, which would be enough for it to be officially certified from 4 to 6 times platinum.

"Queen Rock Montreal" was gold in July 2008, after it reached #2 on the local chart compiled by RIANZ.

Just my last question: would you rank Queen among the best selling groups in New Zealand? Let's say among the top 10 groups.

Dean Scapolo said...

Hi Hernan.

All I have for Queen-Live At Wembley and Queen Rock Montreal is what is on the chart, but I shoud be able to get information for those quite easily.

As for Queen being among the top 10 artists of all time, sorry, no.

Top 5:
Elvis: 500 million+
Beatles: 410 million+
ABBA: 375 million+
Frank Sinatra: 300 million+
Madonna: 250 million+

Those are confirmed. In the next 5 I can only guess at:
Pink Floyd, U2, Neil Diamond, Elton John, David Bowie.

then we have the likes of: Celine Dion, Queen, Prince, Cliff Richard, Metallica, Bee Gees, Billy Joel, Eagles, and Michael Jackson (at c. 135 million+)

I think Queen just misses out on being among the top 10 acts in NZ's sales history, they're probably something like #11 or if they're lucky #10. They are certainly big here.

Hernán said...

Thank you.

Based on certifications, you are right about Queen not being among the top 10 acts ever in New Zealand. But they have sold about a million albums, over 100,000 music videos and probably as many singles as that ("Bohemian Rhapsody" is, to the best of my knowlegde, one of the best selling singles ever in that country). I would say that only a few groups 8not mentioning solo acts) sold more.

Worldwide, Queen sold 150 million albums, 50 million singles and 20 million digital tracks. Plus, around 10 million music videos. That accounts for as many as 230 million records altogether.

Your Abba's sales are way inflated, there is no way they sold more albums than U2 or Pink Floyd.

Dean Scapolo said...

Hi Hernan,

Sorry to disappoint you, but the ABBA figure is correct and verified. ABBA were incredibly huge in their heyday, selling over 200 million in the 70s alone!
they have been selling between 1 and 3 million a year since 1992, and ABBA gold is about 27 million worldwide!
they may not have been big in the USA, but they were far bigger than any act outside of the USA.

Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody would be among our top ten singles of all time, I don't doubt that. Well over 20,000 in 1976 and almost 5,000 in 1992.
Of the singles in 1976 though, it would only be 3rd. Both Fernando and Dancing Queen sold around 40,000 at least!

U2 and Pink Floyd are very big ALBUM artists, their singles, however, have limited sales, whereas many of ABBA's singles have sold in excess of 5 million worldwide.

I would put Queen's worldwide sales at about 150 million all inclusive. Queen have only ever had 3 massive international hit albums: Night At The Opera, GH1, GH2, most of the others would not have made the 10 million mark.
as for their singles, the same thing applies, only several were big international hits, the rest were lesser.

The figures I quoted are not for albums, they are for all forms of release: Albums, Singles, DVDs.

Hernán said...

Ok Dean, Let's agree to disagree. I just want to thank for the numbers you shared with me. But the figure of 375 million records for Abba isn't verified or anything like (they were presented with such an award from their record company, but most of those supposed sales haven't been properly audited; that is how, if you go by official certifications, gold and platinum, you won't get anywhere near that amount). I can't think of many markets where Abba sold more albums than Queen, for example. In USA, UK, Europe as whole and Latin America, Queen sold far more. Even if you add singles, Queen are largely ahead of them. In Australia, Abba sold more. Other than that, we know very little about them in further regions, so any assumption will just be that. I can mention Korea, where Queen's "Greatest Hits 1" sold more than "Gold" and "Definitive Collection" put together, and where "Made In Heaven" sold over 200,000 copies. Although Abba had big sales in Thailand, Hong Kong, as far as I know. Also, if Queen only had three international sellers, then Abba didn't have more than three either. Both Queen's "Greatest Hits 1" and "Greatest Hits 2" sold more than 20 million, while "A Night At The Opera" sold over 10 million. The only Abba's album that sold over 20 million is "Gold", while their "Best Of" and "Arrival" sold over 10 million. I have plenty of information on Queen as you may have realized, and I can tell you that 150 million is reasonale estimation for their albums while at least 50 million were achieved (they had surpassed 25 million singles by 1980).

Dean Scapolo said...

hi Hernan,

OK, you've got me on Queen, they definitely seem to be much cloaser to 200 million than I thought. However, GH1 has not sold over 20 million. Perhaps around 13-14 million, it is only 3xPlatinum in USA, but that could be because they haven't updated their stats.

all i know about the ABBA figure is that it has been stated in many publications and considering how big they were at their time, is not surprising. The 200 million in the 70s is fact, the 26+ million for ABBA gold is fact, the 2-3 million CDs a year since 1992 is also fact.
All of their studio albums from Arrival to Super Trouper sold about 10 million worldwide.

We can debate all we like, but we'll never get the true picture as most of the figures no longer exist. Oh well.
Queen are certainly up there, though with the best.

PS: I do indeed realise you have much information on Queen, just like i have much information on ABBA.
They were both brilliant groups and pioneers in the music video industry, they have their critics and their fans alike, and also both have bands who were modelled somewhat after them or their sound.

and of all the new stage plays based around the music of an act, Queen and ABBA were the only 2 that lasted.

Hernán said...


Since I wrote here a few months ago, have you received any new information on Queen in new Zealand? Any album or DVD sales for the group?

Dean Scapolo said...

Hi Hernan,

The only Queen album of late that has any certification whatsoever is the latest Hits compilation: Absolute Greatest, which is platinum. Older albums rarely get classified - it is usually only Sony and universal who do that, and mainly because I've talked them into it.


Anonymous said...

Hello Dean,

After more than a year, do you have any updated number for Queen's "Absolute Greatest" in New Zealand? Last time, it had reached platinum (15,000 copies); but I'm guessing it may now be on about 20,000 to 30,000 copies.

Also, if you have any other total for Queen, be it for an album or a music video, please share it with me.

Dean Scapolo said...


No Queen albums or DVDs have new certifications. Absolute Greatest got to Platinum (15,000) shipment, but sales is a different question, while on the chart it may not have sold this much. However I don't doubt for a minute that it has sold this much by now, but whether there is any more certs for Queen, I haven't heard of anything.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dean. Too bad there are no new certifications. Queen have now moved to Universal Music, so I don't think EMI will be updating any of their albums.

Do you know any annual position achieved by any Queen album? For example: "A Night At The Opera" (in 1976), "Greatest Hits" (in 1981, 1982 and 1992), "The Works" (in 1984), "The Miracle" (in 1989), "Greatest Hits II" and "Live At Wembley '86" (in 1992), and "Made In Heaven" (in 1995).