How many records have ABBA sold?
Welcome to a site dedicated to ABBA's record sales. The focus is on UK and US sales where there are official sales figures from the Official Charts Company, Soundscan and the RIAA plus a few educated guesses to fill in the blanks. Sales from ABBA's time as an active group are notoriously unreliable or not available from most countries.
Sales for "Gold - Greatest Hits" are comprehensive as by the 1990s certifications and other official sales were well established.
The claim is that ABBA have sold over 400 million albums (or 'records' generally). This is untrue.
Please note the following:
1. GLOBAL SALES. There is no body that gathers global sales. Any 'worldwide' sales claim - is by a record company and is NOT audited. Unfortunately, this gets picked up by the media and 'official' records such as Guinness Book of Records. If you've seen pics of ABBA being presented with a presentation for 360m or so sales - this is record company hype not fact.
Universal Music claimed on 2nd September 2021 ABBA sold 400 million records. They have only been ABBA's record company since the early 90s - just before the release of Gold Greatest Hits. They don't even update sales sales from compilation albums since then. The Media just believe their press releases. It's rubbish!
2. CLAIMED SALES Timeline. The claimed sales have no credibility. The 50m sales reported in Billboard in January 1978 seem credible. and the 128m in the early 80s also seems plausible. After that though sales are exaggerated. 250m by 1992 and 350m by 1999 to 360m by 2004. This was then upped to 375m...and then just for albums! This chart enthusiast puts ABBA's album sales at 130 million albums.
There is no way ABBA sold almost as many records from early 80s to 1992 as they did during their career. The doubling of sales is simply not credible. There was also a number very unlikely jump from 1992 to 1999. ABBA did not sell 100 million in that period. "Gold" was on about 15 million sales Other compilations and back catalogue 10 to 15 million max. The claim of 50 million since 1999 seems credible but is starting from too high a base at 350 million.
3. CERTIFICATIONS for gold/platinum awards are for sales shipments. Unfortunately, in ABBA's day most countries didn't have them - including many where ABBA were big e.g Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, Belgium. Sweden still doesn't have a public database. Others countries such as the UK had no multiple platinum awards awarded then. Only a few countries have databases open to the public which include the US, the UK and Germany. The following countries started with certifications in these years: USA (1958), UK (1973), France (1973), Canada (1975), Germany (1975), Netherlands (1978), Spain (1979), Sweden (1987), Japan (1989), Australia (1997)
4.The Major Markets. CHARTS around the World do NOT tell you a great deal about sales. The vast majority of albums are bought in just a few countries:the US, UK, Germany, France, Japan account for the vast majority of sales. Singles sales were largely confined to a few countries such as the UK, US, Australia and Germany. (Japan is a large market but most sales are for Japanese artists not International ones).
5. STREAMING. We are now living in an era of streaming which started in the 2010s. Sales of singles are negligible and of albums very low. Streams are not sales. Some countries, notably the US and UK convert streaming statistics into and estimated sales figures. Others like Sweden, don't. This means sales are grossly exaggerated in the modern era. For example, in 2012 the UK's Official Charts Company claimed The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard sold over 20 million singles in the UK (ABBA were on 10 million). That was before Streaming. So for example in the UK Ed Sheeran's Shape of You has "only" sold about 850,000. But when the Streams formula is added this jumps to 5 million!
6 SALES FOR "GOLD". We have reliable figures for the sale of "Gold" - by the 90s certifications were widespread and multiples were used. From what information we have, the vast majority of sales are in 'the major markets'. Sales in Africa (South Africa), Middle East (Israel) and Eastern Europe (Poland/Hungary) are derisory. Even sales in Latin America aren't as great as many had led to believe. By 1999 it had sold 15m. By 2015 probably doubled its sales to 30m.
7. ESTIMATED SALES (Physical)
|Sub- Total||35 m||70 m|
* excluding downloads and streaming equivalent sales. Physical copies only. If downloads and sales equivalent streams around 212m.
A chart expert puts ABBA's sales
Studio Albums - 45,000,000
Other Albums - 91,000,000
Physical Singles - 54,000,000
Downloads - 18,000,000
Stream Equivalent - 4,000,000
ABBA are amongst the All Time Best Sellers in terms of Physical Singles and Greatest Hits albums. Where do they less well is Downloads, Streaming and Studio Albums. The huge success of Gold - Greatest Hits - about 30 million sales meant it was more worth it to but the CD of 19 tracks than download individual songs.
Top 5 Artists Sales - All Formats
The Beatles 547,000,000
Michael Jackson 454,000,000
Elvis 443 000,000
Eminem 376 000,000
It is not just ABBA with inflated sales claims, other artists have exaggerated sales too. The Beatles or Elvis Presley have not sold over a billion records. In the download era the likes of Eminem and Rihanna have very high sales - as downloads were very cheap. In the Streaming age this is even more exaggerated with artists such as Drake and Ed Sheeran having very high "sales" - when their actual sales are much lower. The era of when Gold Greatest Hits was the "sweet spot" when actual sales were easy to come by - and were actual sales.
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