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 375m 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.
2. 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)
3. 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.
4. 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). In many, if not most cases singles charts then had an airplay component. From what I gather only the UK and Japanese singles charts were based on sales.
5. CLAIMED SALES. 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.
6. 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.
* excluding downloads and streaming equivalent sales. Physical copies only. If downloads included probably 205-210m
For the record, other artists have exaggerated sales - The Beatles and Elvis Presley haven't sold a billion records. "Thriller" by Michael Jackson hasn't sold over 100 million nor has "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby sold 50 million.
For general problems of calculating global sales see here
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