Adele’s Label Got 3.6 Million CDs to Stores… But How?

5 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adele reigns triumphant at top of UK charts.

After the British singer-songwriter’s new album 25 made history by selling 3.38 million copies in the U.S. in its first week, it has gone on to sell 1 million more in its second, according to Billboard.Adele’s shipment of 3.6 million CDs of 25 appears to be the second-largest physical shipment of that format ever, after the 4.2 million that NSYNC’s No Strings Attached moved back in 2000.25, the third studio album from the Oscar-winning singer, sold a further 439,000 copies this week, outselling the rest of the top 10 combined, according to the Official Charts Company. In doing so, it becomes the first album to surpass the million mark in two different weeks since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales data in 1991 — and there’s still one more day of data to be tabulated.

But here’s what non-obsessives might not fully grasp: Since the album’s Nov. 20 release, a serious portion of the population has spent most of its waking hours in total Adele mode. Tickets for Adele’s shows in Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham as well as four gigs in London sold out within minutes, when they went on sale at 9am on her official website,

While the music industry has gotten much better at keeping track of sales since the advent of SoundScan (now Nielsen Music) in May 1991, data on shipments of physical product hasn’t been greeted similarly by the digital age. Meanwhile, Justin Bieber replaces himself at the top of the chart as he takes his third number one single with Love Yourself – breaking a 52-year record previously held by The Beatles.

Before SoundScan, the only reliable source of sales data, at least for albums that sold more than two million units, remains RIAA certification data. (For albums that moved less than 2 million, labels were known to game the system, offering retailers free shipments of hit albums in exchange for their agreeing to not return the exuberantly over-shipped album until after the RIAA had awarded them a platinum sales certification.) Shipment data in general from back then, is downright scarce, particularly initial purchase orders (IPO’s), known as the pre-order amount shipped to accounts prior to street date. The Canadian pop star – who took the top spot with Sorry, which takes the title for the most streamed track of the week – is the first living act to achieve that in UK chart history, following the Liverpool four-piece, who managed it in 1963 with She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand. A survey of veteran sales and distribution executives on big shipment albums pre-Nielsen Music shows that Adele and *NYNC define the upper stratosphere of physical shipments. Adele’s single Hello remains in third position, followed by Justin’s What Do You Mean and newcomer Grace, who makes her top 40 debut with You Don’t Own Me to round off the top five singles. A story in the Sept. 5, 1987 issue of Billboard quotes Sony Music Entertainment as saying that its 2.25 million pre-order shipment of Michael Jackson’s Bad was the largest in the company’s history.

As those in the grip of the British star’s wistful lyrics and soulful melodies know, there are Adele/Lionel Richie mashups to enjoy; the “Saturday Night Live” Adele “Thanksgiving Miracle” sketch to watch and re-watch; her appearance with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots to gush over. Elvis’s album If I Can Dream holds onto its place at number two in the UK albums chart this week, with Justin’s Purpose, Little Mix’s Get Weird and Jess Glynne’s I Cry When I Laugh. Trusting the memory of industry veterans points to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, their follow-up to Rumors, having shipped 2 million units, according to former WEA executive Fran Aliberti.

Other albums that probably — yes, the data is that scarce — generated big shipments include Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Garth Brook’s Ropin’ The Wind. In Hingham, a 4-year-old asked her mother “why can’t Adele sing every song?” In Jamaica Plain, travel writer Steve Garfield not only listens to “25” on repeat, but every time his wife opens the front door, he sings the word “Hello,” and cracks up when she sings the next words, “it’s me.” She is a college-educated woman between the ages of 25 and 44.

She has children, works in health care support, enjoys “Family Guy” and “The Office,” shops at Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, drinks Aquafina water, and has a household income between $40,000 and $50,000. David Bakula, a senior vice president of industry insight at Nielsen Entertainment, couldn’t say whether Adele fans were more or less likely to engage in pre-purchase sniffing than Taylor Swift’s fans, but he does know that Adele’s devotees skew older. “And they’re 32 percent more likely [than the general population] to say they spend less time sleeping because of the Internet,” he said. “That’s crazy.” Nielsen’s pollsters didn’t ask participants their views on calling former lovers incessantly, or about not taking a hint, but considering the lyrics to “Hello,” one gets the feeling Adele-ites might be OK with it. “She takes you to a place you feel guilty going, but you love every minute of it,” said radio personality Sue Brady Hartigan. “You’re happily married, yet memories of that one love before resonate.” In the Seaport District, Katelyn LaGarde, a recruiter for a venture capital firm, spent the days following the release of “25’” subjecting colleagues to secondhand Adele as she listened at work.

He has reportedly been “begging for mercy,” and recently struck back in a mall garage by turning off the car before Adele, now 27, had finished lamenting about when she and a former S.O. “were younger and free.” Nevermind that LaGarde owns “Hello” and can hear it whenever she wants. In the ’80s some of the regional chains like Musicland (Sam Goody), and Trans World Entertainment (FYE, Cocounuts, Record Town) started building toward national chains. Emily Burns, an account executive with Marlo Marketing, can’t find time to listen to her new Justin Bieber album. “I’m sorry Justin, but it’s Adele day,” she said.

In the beginning of the ’90s, the race to become national went into high gear as chains like Wherehouse Entertainment, Wall-To-Wall, Camelot Music, Record Bar, Turtle’s Sound Warehouse, National Record Mart and Tower Records were soon joined, or replaced, by chains like Blockbuster Music, Super Club, and invaders from the U.K. like Virgin, HMV and W. By 1993, Billboard counted 4,183 stores operated by national, regional and local chains, with another 2,000 or 3,000 independently owned stores also competing. Conversely, albums that scan one million units in their first week have declined since 2000 through today as record store chains have gone out of business due to the big-box price wars and the conversion to digital. 100 albums scanned one million units in 2001 — last year four albums reached that total.

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