WTF?! Not a Single Album Has Gone Platinum in 2014
[Nov. 11th Update: Taylor Swift has broken the dry spell.]
The music industry is in a state of unprecedented decline, and with not a single album surpassing the million sales mark in 2014, things have never been quite so bad for an industry either unwilling or unable to adapt to evolving technologies and tastes. As the previous decade’s straw-man claims of piracy dismantling the industry fall away, Spotify and similar subscription-streaming services continue to grow in popularity as a primary source of music consumption. Brick-and-mortar indie stores are vanishing, Tower Records and Sam Goody are ghosts, and despite Jack White’s wildly successful vinyl resurgence efforts, a niche market isn’t bringing back any real boom to a top-heavy industry.
In 2014, not a single artist’s album has gone platinum. Not one. The only music release to sell over a million copies this year has been the Frozen soundtrack (3.2 million copies sold), the entirety of which is firmly embedded in the minds of parents, older siblings and friends of little Disney junkies near and far. Wildly ambitious promotional campaigns and a blizzard of back-patting echo-chamber awards ceremonies be damned.
Beyonce’s surprise self titled album has come the closest this year, with 776,000 units moved, followed by Randy Marsh, aka Lorde, with her Pure Heroine album moving 754,000 units. But just like Frozen, both of those albums came out in 2013.
In other words, the best selling albums of 2014 came out last year.
What the hell?
The devil is in the details of technicality, however, as Thom Yorke’s BitTorrent experiment for the release of his new solo album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes sold over a million copies within the first week. And it’s best we leave U2 out of this, a band who could very well have dismantled their entire careers by forcing their free new album into people’s iTunes. And sorry to burst your little bubble Bono, but that’s the opposite of punk rock.
Let’s put this in the perspective of deeper history. Back in 2010, a full ten artists sold over a million albums, with Eminem’s Recovery leading the group at 3.42 million and Kesha rounding out the list with 1.14 million sold for Animal. Three years later, in 2013, only five artists crossed the platinum threshold. This year, not a single artist has done it. In fact, only 5 have even crossed the Gold status threshold, selling upwards of 500,000 copies.
Pre-millennial pop-culture fad Right Said Fred, whose “I’m Too Sexy” song was an inescapable staple circa 1991, has sold over 20 million albums. A joke one-hit-wonder, who none of America could name another song by if their lives depended on it, have sold more than most artists on this year’s chart-topping list could ever imagine achieving through their combined efforts. “All About That Bass” doesn’t stand a chance.
For a wider historical context, have a look at the 30 top selling albums of all time below. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see the names on this list do much more than slightly shift positions from now until the end of time, unless a complete cultural shift occurs in not only the way we obtain and experience music, but in the value of the work itself.
1. Michael Jackson, “Thriller”: 66,200,000
2. Soundtrack, “Grease”: 44,700,000
3. Pink Floyd, “The Dark Side of the Moon”: 44,200,000
4. Whitney Houston et al., “The Bodyguard”: 38,600,000
5. The Bee Gees at al., “Saturday Night Fever”: 37,200,000
6. The Eagles, “Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975”: 36,900,000
7. Bob Marley, “Legend”: 36,800,000
8. Led Zeppelin, “IV”: 35,700,000
9. AC/DC, “Back in Black”: 35,700,000
10. Shania Twain, “Come on Over”: 35,400,000
11. Michael Jackson, “Bad”: 34,700,000
12. Soundtrack, “Dirty Dancing”: 33,300,000
13. Dire Straits, “Brothers in Arms”: 33,200,000
14. Alanis Morissette, “Jagged Little Pill”: 33,200,000
15. Fleetwood Mac, “Rumours”: 33,000,000
16. The Beatles, “1”: 32,400,000
17. Pink Floyd, “The Wall”: 31,900,000
18. ABBA, “Gold”: 31,400,000
19. Guns N’ Roses, “Appetite for Destruction”: 30,800,000
20. Simon & Garfunkel, “Greatest Hits”: 30,700,000
21. Queen, “Greatest Hits”: 30,600,000
22. Celine Dion, “Let’s Talk About Love”: 30,300,000
23. Michael Jackson, “Dangerous”: 30,200,000
24. Celine Dion, “Falling into You”: 30,200,000
25. The Eagles, “Hotel California”: 30,000,000
26. Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the U.S.A.”: 29,100,000
27. Metallica, “Metallica”: 28,900,000
28. Meat Loaf, “Bat Out of Hell”: 28,700,000
29. Soundtrack, “Titanic”: 28,500,000
30. The Beatles, “Abbey Road”: 28,300,000