The biggest album sales weeks of all time

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I had a hard time finding consistent first-week album sales information. Even the industry bible, HitsDailyDouble, doesn’t archive old sales data (and uses slightly different numbers than most other sites). Where’s the music version of BoxOfficeMojo when you need it?

But then, at the last second, I came across an amazing treasure trove of data by user oldbloke on the UKMix forums Best I can tell, he’s been posting weekly & cumulative album sales for 10 years! I don’t know if he exports it from SoundScan or compiles it himself, but it’s really fantastic.

I went through as much of the data as I could find, using lots of Regex, Markdown & Excel to clean it up and combine it all. Analysis and interesting finds below!

Rank Chart Date Sales Week Artist, Album & Chart Position
1. 2015–12–12 3,377,885 1 Adele / 25
2. 2000–04–08 2,415,859 1 NSync / No Strings Attached
3. 2001–08–11 1,879,955 1 NSync / Celebrity
4. 2000–06–10 1,760,049 1 Eminem / The Marshall Mathers LP
5. 2000–12–09 1,591,191 1 Backstreet Boys / Black and Blue
6. 2002–06–15 1,321,799 2 Eminem / The Eminem Show
7. 2000–06–03 1,319,193 1 Britney Spears / Oops!…I Did It Again
8. 2014–11–08 1,286,544 1 Taylor Swift / 1989
9. 2001–01–06 1,258,667 6 Beatles / 1
10. 2012–11–10 1,208,290 1 Taylor Swift / Red
11. 2016–01–09 1,160,000 5 Adele / 25
12. 2005–03–19 1,140,638 1 50 Cent / The Massacre
13. 1999–06–05 1,133,505 1 Backstreet Boys / Millennium
14. 2015–12–19 1,112,162 2 Adele / 25
15. 2011–06–11 1,108,403 1 Lady Gaga / Born This Way
16. 2004–04–10 1,096,213 1 Usher / Confessions
17. 1998–12–05 1,085,373 1 Garth Brooks / Double Live
18. 1993–01–09 1,061,483 6 Soundtrack / The Bodyguard
19. 2000–11–04 1,054,511 1 Limp Bizkit / Chocolate Starfish…
20. 2010–11–13 1,046,718 1 Taylor Swift / Speak Now
21. 2004–02–28 1,022,149 1 Norah Jones / Feels Like Home
22. 2008–06–28 1,005,545 1 Lil Wayne / Tha Carter III
23. 2013–04–06 968,018 1 Justin Timberlake / The 20/20 Experience
24. 2011–09–17 963,970 1 Lil Wayne / Tha Carter IV
25. 2007–09–29 956,936 1 Kanye West / Graduation
26. 1993–11–06 950,377 1 Pearl Jam / Vs
27. 1995–01–07 907,114 2 Garth Brooks / The Hits
28. 1997–12–13 896,932 1 Garth Brooks / Sevens
29. 2001–12–08 887,229 1 Creed / Weathered
30. 1994–12–24 877,000 3 Pearl Jam / Vitalogy
31. 2002–12–07 874,137 1 Shania Twain / Up!
32. 2003–02–22 872,082 1 50 Cent / Get Rich or Die Tryin
33. 2004–11–27 870,730 2 Eminem / Encore
34. 2002–01–05 865,030 5 Creed / Weathered
35. 2005–09–17 860,330 1 Kanye West / Late Registration
36. 1995–12–09 855,473 1 Beatles / Anthology 1
37. 1998–02–28 847,500 10 Soundtrack / Titanic
38. 2004–12–11 839,696 1 U2 / How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
39. 1993–01–02 831,000 5 Soundtrack / The Bodyguard
40. 2000–12–30 823,587 5 Beatles / 1
41. 2003–03–01 822,275 2 50 Cent / Get Rich or Die Tryin
42. 1995–01–07 819,000 8 Kenny G / Miracles: The Holiday Album (#2)
43. 2000–04–15 811,298 2 NSync / No Strings Attached
44. 2003–04–12 810,488 1 Linkin Park / Meteora
45. 2002–06–22 808,708 3 Eminem / The Eminem Show
46. 1993–12–11 802,858 1 Snoop Doggy Dogg / Doggystyle
47. 2000–06–17 793,713 2 Eminem / The Marshall Mathers LP
48. 2013–11–23 792,394 1 Eminem / The Marshall Mathers LP 2
49. 2016–01–02 789,821 4 Adele / 25
50. 2008–11–08 784,288 1 AC/DC / Black Ice
51. 2002–09–14 779,828 1 Dixie Chicks / Home
52. 2005–03–26 770,887 2 50 Cent / The Massacre
53. 1991–10–05 770,000 1 Guns N’Roses / Use Your Illusion II
54. 2004–09–11 765,739 1 Tim McGraw / Live Like You Were Dying
55. 1996–01–06 759,000 12 Mariah Carey / Daydream
56. 2008–01–05 756,590 11 Josh Groban / Noel
57. 2001–11–24 745,744 1 Britney Spears / Britney
58. 2007–12–01 742,426 1 Alicia Keys / As I Am
59. 2010–07–10 741,413 1 Eminem / Recovery
60. 2005–06–25 737,294 1 Coldplay / X & Y
61. 2001–03–17 732,720 1 Dave Matthews Band / Everyday
62. 2012–03–03 729,900 52 Adele / 21
63. 2006–01–07 727,163 1 Mary J Blige / The Breakthrough
64. 2001–01–06 724,067 5 Backstreet Boys / Black and Blue (#2)
65. 2006–04–22 721,747 1 Rascal Flatts / Me and My Gang
66. 2008–07–05 721,207 1 Coldplay / Viva La Vida
67. 1994–12–31 718,000 7 Kenny G / Miracles: The Holiday Album
68. 2001–06–09 716,003 1 Staind / Break The Cycle
69. 2002–07–13 714,114 1 Nelly / Nellyville
70. 2007–11–17 710,946 1 Eagles / Long Road Out Of Eden
71. 2004–11–27 710,880 1 Eminem / Encore
72. 2002–11–16 702,226 1 Soundtrack / 8 Mile
73. 2009–12–12 700,779 1 Susan Boyle / I Dreamed A Dream
74. 2000–01–08 698,403 1 DMX / And Then There Was X
75. 2015–12–26 695,043 3 Adele / 25
76. 1995–01–07 694,500 5 Pearl Jam / Vitalogy (#3)
77. 2007–09–29 691,304 1 50 Cent / Curtis (#2)
78. 2000–12–16 689,578 2 Backstreet Boys / Black and Blue
79. 1997–04–12 689,535 2 Notorious BIG / Life After Death
80. 2001–01–06 688,339 6 Various / Now That’s What I Call Music 5 (#3)
81. 1991–10–05 685,000 1 Guns N’Roses / Use Your Illusion I (#2)
82. 2006–09–30 684,461 1 Justin Timberlake / FutureSex/LoveSounds
83. 1998–01–10 684,000 5 Garth Brooks / Sevens
84. 1998–08–01 681,572 1 Beastie Boys / Hello Nasty
85. 2006–12–09 680,052 1 Jay-Z / Kingdom Come
86. 1996–06–22 680,000 1 Metallica / Load
87. 1998–01–03 678,000 4 Garth Brooks / Sevens
88. 2000–12–23 670,673 4 Beatles / 1
89. 1999–01–09 670,227 1 DMX / Flesh of My Flesh Blood of My Blood
90. 2007–12–29 669,161 10 Josh Groban / Noel
91. 1998–02–07 664,500 7 Soundtrack / Titanic
92. 1996–11–23 664,000 1 2Pac / The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
93. 2001–05–19 663,280 1 Destiny’s Child / Survivor
94. 2000–12–09 662,077 2 Beatles / 1 (#2)
95. 2010–01–02 661,227 4 Susan Boyle / I Dreamed A Dream
96. 1999–05–29 660,807 1 Ricky Martin / Ricky Martin
97. 2013–10–12 657,922 1 Drake / Nothing Was The Same
98. 2000–05–06 654,596 5 NSync / No Strings Attached
99. 1998–12–12 649,496 2 Garth Brooks / Double Live
100. 2000–01–08 640,000 6 Celine Dion / All The Way…A Decade of Song (#2)
101. 1999–07–10 634,877 1 Limp Bizkit / Significant Other
102. 2011–12–03 630,571 1 Drake / Take Care
103. 2008–01–05 629,366 1 Mary J Blige / Growing Pains (#2)
104. 2002–12–14 625,580 2 Shania Twain / Up!
105. 1998–01–10 624,000 6 Celine Dion / Let’s Talk About Love (#2)
106. 2007–06–02 622,827 1 Linkin Park / Minutes to Midnight
107. 2003–08–02 621,725 1 Dave Matthews Band / Busted Stuff
108. 1999–06–12 621,621 2 Backstreet Boys / Millennium
109. 2001–08–18 621,419 1 Various / Now That’s What I Call Music 7
110. 2003–03–15 621,030 53 Norah Jones / Come Away With Me

This data should be accurate through the end of 2015. It includes the first 5 weeks of sales for Adele’s 25 which goes through 12/24/2015. If Adele sells another bazillion records the week after Christmas, I’ll update this chart!

Terms

Chart date is when SoundScan certifies the sales totals, a few weeks after the sales week begins—apparently 18 days back when albums were released on Tuesdays and 22 days now that albums are released on Fridays (but even then, it’s not always consistent?). So a “chart date” of 2015–12–12 is actually for the sales week of 11/20–11/26.

I believe Sales are pure album sales through the end of November 2014, and then include SEAs and TEAs, per SoundScan’s updated rules.

The Week indicates how many weeks the album has been on the charts (so Week 1 is the album’s debut week). I think you can assume higher numbers equal how many weeks an album has been out, though it’s possible an album could drop out of the weekly Billboard Top 200 and then re-appear.

A (#2) or (#3) next to an album represents its chart position that sales week (I omitted the #1’s to make it easier to scan). Most weeks you only have 1 album that sells in huge numbers, but there are a few weeks where you had 2 or even 3 albums that each sold enough to break onto this chart.

Analysis

  • If you see an album on this list that’s not in its debut week, check the chart date: it’s almost always December or January, AKA Black Friday to Christmas (remember, the “chart date” is a couple weeks after the sales date). I didn’t know so many people gave CDs as gifts either!

  • Of the 110 weeks listed here, 67 were for an album’s first-week sales. The other 43 are for later weeks (most during the Christmas season).

  • The albums that charted high in later weeks and NOT during Christmas: NSync’s No Strings Attached, which had a huge debut and then for some reason spiked again five weeks later in late April/early May; the Titanic soundtrack, which peaked in week 7 and then again in week 10 (though those are just its highest-selling weeks…it actually stayed at #1 for 16 straight weeks!); and Adele’s 21 & Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me, which got massive post-Grammys bumps 52 and 53 weeks after release respectively. In fact, those were the highest sales weeks ever for each of those albums!

  • There were 8 weeks where multiple albums each sold enough to make it onto this list. Of those, 6 were during the Christmas season. The other two are 1991–10–05, when Guns N’Roses released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II simultaneously, and 2007–09–29 when Kanye West and 50 Cent both released new albums and famously tried to outsell each other (50 has yet to retire, as he promised if Kanye outsold him).

  • Eminem is the only artist on this list to have an album sell more in its 2nd week than its 1st (and have both weeks chart this high). Encore was rush-released to stores because of widespread piracy, so his first “week” of sales (710k) was only a couple of days, whereas he moved 870k units the full week after that. (Sound familiar? The same thing happened with his previous CD, The Eminem Show! It sold 284k copies in its first 1.5 day “week” and then followed it up with another 1.321 million in its first full week.)

  • Lil Wayne would do great on The Price is Right. He has one album just above the 1m mark (Tha Carter III, 1.005 million) and one just below (Tha Carter IV, 0.964m).

  • Of the 22 weeks over 1m, Adele has 3, Taylor Swift has 3, Eminem has 2, NSync has 2, and the Backstreet Boys have 2.

  • Most artists only have 1 or 2 albums on this list. The exceptions: Garth Brooks (3 albums), Taylor Swift (3 albums), and Eminem (5 albums). If you count the 8 Mile soundtrack, that’s 6 Eminem albums!

  • Many artists on here have 1 album for 2+ weeks OR 2+ albums for 1 week each, but only four have 2+ albums that each charted for 2+ weeks: Garth Brooks, the Backstreet Boys, 50 Cent, and Eminem.

  • The oldest albums on this chart are from 1991–10–05, the first year SoundScan started tracking album sales: Guns N’Roses’ simultaneous release of Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Interestingly, the latter sold more!

  • The newest albums on this list are Taylor Swift’s 1989 (the only 2014 album to make it) and Adele’s 25 (the only 2015 album to make it).

  • One peculiarity I came across in my research: did Japan have the first 3m+ first-week album sales of the SoundScan era…14 years before Adele? This list of the fastest-selling albums in Japan is perplexing, especially because their population was half that of the US in 2000.

  • Similarly, that Wikipedia article says that a JFK memorial album sold 4m copies in a week at $0.99 each and a Beatles album sold 3.3m copies in its US debut, though the sourcing is thin (SoundScan started tracking sales data in 1991).


Google didn’t make it easy to find these, so for anyone else looking, here’s the data I used to compile the above chart:

(One weird thing I noticed: Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed A Dream shows up at #87 on the 1991–2012 list, but disappears on the 2015 list. And Garth Brooks’ Double Live shows up at #94 on the 1991–2015 list, but wasn’t on the 2012 list. I don’t know if SoundScan changed something, but I included both on my list above.)

Finally, a HUGE shoutout again to oldbloke for maintaining this data. I tried to post on the forums to thank him, but new accounts are not permitted. So oldbloke, if you ever come across this post, thank you so much!


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