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Is the Album Dead? As Sales Plummet, Look at the Top 10 Best-Selling Albums of All Time!

A black mood has descended on the music business. The US music industry, the largest in the world, has seen a drop in album sales from $800 million in 2002 to $316 million in 2012. It seems that the 10 song-filled, journey format that originated with the advent of the 33â…“ long player in the late 1940s could itself be nearing the end of the line.

Last week, US album sales fell to a new low. Katy Perry’s Prism album sold less than 300,000 copies, yet that wasn’t bad when you consider that it was still more than the next EIGHT titles combined. It is even more surprising when you consider that Pearl Jam and Drake where amongst those 8! And no matter how much clothing she sheds and twerking videos she tweets, Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz album fell to 4th place with 43,000 sales, having peaked at no. 1.

Analysts have commentated that the album is dying — that consumers are only interested in the single, as no one now has the time to sit and listen through to an album in its entirety. Other suggested reasons are the fact we no longer browse in record stores and select albums based on the cover’s artwork, to then spend hours trawling through the lyrics and thank yous in the record sleeves. It is therefore a less intimate experience, just simply the act of pressing some buttons and voila! The music is downloaded, without us having connected in any way with the band/singer and their hopes for the record.

Was the album’s fate sealed long ago with the advent of the CD? It meant that folk had 80 minutes of music (instead of 21 minutes each side, the maximum an album could hold), which led to a lot of “filler” music being thrown in, just to add time. People got bored, and would no longer listen to entire albums, instead skipping through to the tracks they liked.

Analysts blame Spotify, YouTube, and other cheap or free streaming services for broad declines that include a 4% drop in digital downloads — the first since Apple’s iTunes was launched a decade ago. Album sales arguably have been threatened by poorer quality music and every store being filled with bargain discounted releases that have failed to win over customers. Customers prefer now to buy albums or use streaming services (up 59% from last year) to get their music.

Jon Bon Jovi has previously stated that he thinks the iPod killed the music industry. But regardless of who or what is to blame, I tend to agree with his sadness that our kids will never get to experience the joy of music the way we did. The saving of pocket money for weeks and then staring up at the new albums in the record store, gleaming on the shelves … what treasures where inside?? The top 30, with the artist you loved climbing slowly but surely every week to the coveted #1 spot. The sheer joy at lifting out the smooth vinyl from those thin cover sheets; listening in a small booth, before deciding to buy. The stacks of your much loved records leaning against the hi-fi. The fluff on your stylus, the moment when a record crackled into life.

So as the album becomes perhaps obsolete, let’s take a look at the Best Selling Albums of ALL TIME. Can you guess which one is at No.1??

  • 10. Shania Twain – Come On Over 1 of 10
    twain

    Shania had released a previous album, The Woman in Me, but  her 1997 release of Come on Over catapulted her to huge success. It became the highest selling country album of all time, selling over 40 million copies. A winner of 5 Grammys, she has sold over 80 million albums in total, her last studio release being Up in 2002. 

    Photo credit: Amazon 

  • 9. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours 2 of 10
    rumours

    Confession: This album is in my own personal top ten of all time. Formed in 1967 in London, the only remaining member who founded the band is Mick Fleetwood, the drummer. 1977's Rumours produced four U.S. Top 10 singles and remained at No.1 on the American albums chart for 31 weeks. To date, the album has sold over 45 million copies worldwide. The band has sold over 120 million albums worldwide and continue to record and tour. 

    Photo credit: Amazon 

  • 8. Bee Gees – Saturday Night Fever 3 of 10
    saturday night fever

    Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta, was released in 1977 with the accompanying soundtrack. The movie was a huge hit — the story of 19-year-old Tony Manero, who lives with his parents and has a dead end job, but is "king of the dance floor" at 2001 Odyssey, a local disco. The soundtrack helped to promote the film and includes classics such as "Stayin' Alive," "How Deep is Your Love," and "Night Fever."

    Photo Credit: Amazon 

  • 7. The Eagles – Greatest Hits 4 of 10
    eagles

    With seven #1 singles, six Grammys, five American Music Awards, and six #1 albums, The Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s. Their Greatest Hits album was a collection of their singles and was released in 1976. The album sold the most copies of any album in the 20th century and includes the songs "Take it Easy" and "Desperado."

    Photo Credit: Amazon

  • 6. Meat Loaf – Bat out of Hell 5 of 10
    bat

    Bat out of Hell has sold more than 43 million copies worldwide. It was released in 1977, and Meat Loaf went on to release Bat Out of Hell 2 (Back into Hell) and 3 (The Monster is Loose). It includes the hits "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" and "I Would Do Anything." 

    Photo Credit: Amazon 

  • 5. Michael Jackson – Bad 6 of 10
    bad

    The album Bad was released in 1987 as Jackson's follow up album to Thriller. Nine of the eleven songs on Bad were released as single, and gave Jackson 5 No. 1's. To date, it has sold over 40 million copies. Songs on the album (and boy did I play and play this as a teenager) include "Smooth Criminal," "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," and "Man in the Mirror."

    Photo Credit: Amazon 

  • 4. Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard 7 of 10
    whitney

    The Bodyguard film and soundtrack were released in 1992. The film starred Kevin Costner and singer Whitney Houston, who recorded the soundtrack. It went on to become the best-selling soundtrack of all time. In the film, Costner played a secret service agent turned bodyguard who is assigned to protect Whitney Houston's character, a successful singer who has a stalker. The soundtrack features five hit singles for Houston: "I Will Always Love You," "I'm Every Woman," "Queen of the Night," and two Oscar-nominated songs" "I Have Nothing" and "Run to You."

    Photo credit: Amazon 

  • 3. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon 8 of 10
    moon

    Dark Side of the Moon was the 8th studio album released by British band Pink Floyd in 1973. It went straight to the Billboard #1 spot and subsequently remained in the charts for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988. With an estimated 50 million copies sold, it is Pink Floyd's most commercially successful album. It spawned two singles, "Money" and "Time." 

    Photo credit: Amazon

  • 2. AC/DC – Back in Black 9 of 10
    acdc

    (Another personal favourite — I bought this when I was 10 and played it until the tape quite literally wore out). Australian rock band AC/DC recorded Back in Black in 1980 and dedicated it to their original lead singer Bon Scott who died that year. Brian Johnson took over lead vocal duties, and the result was released. According to Angus Young, the guitarist, the album's all-black cover was a "sign of mourning" for Scott. Surprisingly at the time, it did not top the US charts but went on to sell over 50 million copies. To date, AC/DC has sold over 200 million albums worldwide. Phew! 

    Photo Credit: Amazon

  • 1. Michael Jackson – Thriller 10 of 10
    thriller

    Bet you guessed it, didn't you? The late Michael Jackson's 1982 album Thriller is the best selling album of all time, selling over 65 million copies. Produced by Quincey Jones, the album was a following up to Jackson's successful Off the Wall album released in 1979. Thriller was one of the first albums to make use of the new video channels to promote singles, with Jackson's "Thriller" video being a whopping 13 minutes long and MTV's first world premiere video. The video alone sold over 9 million copies, and its infamous dance routine is still mimicked today. It still sells an estimated 130,000 copies a year in the US alone and features such greats as "Billie Jean," "Beat It," and "P.Y.T." Jackson passed away in 2009, leaving one of the greatest legacies ever to the history of music.  

    Photo credit: Amazon 

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