How many records have ABBA sold?

BREAKING: New ABBA single, Just a Notion set to be ABBA's BIGGEST Flop Ever...and everywhere. Chart positions (if any) will be in the Voyage section over the weekend. It is unlikely now to make the Top 40 in either the UK or Sweden. This can be explained by lack of promotion, very little airplay, too near the release of Voyage and that unlike the previous two singles, not very good.

BREAKING: Bjorn and Benny give an interview with The Guardian. Here

BREAKING: Bjorn in this interview in the NME speaks about Just a Notion and what to expect at the ABBAtars Show in London. Here

BREAKING: Voyage album has pre-sales of 111,000 in the UK here. British sales of over 200,000 in the first week are possible. That is pure sales and not taking into account streaming.

FUN FACT 1 : the ONLY countries where ABBA had consecutive Number One singles are these pairings - Uk+Ireland, Netherlands+Belgium, Germany+Switzerland, Australia+NewZealand. That's it. Not Sweden. Not any Scandinavian country.

FUN Fact 2 : The Visitors, ABBA's last studio album was #1 in these countries, UK, Netherlands+Belgium, Norway+Sweden, Germany, Portugal. 

Fun Fact 3: The only countries where the two recent singles were  Number One were Don't Shut Me Down - Sweden and Switzerland Streaming Charts, and Download chart in Germany and I Still Have Faith in You, UK Sales Chart.

Global Record Claims

1. There is NO global organisation that verifies or audits global sales. In the case of ABBA, their record company, Universal, has been their record company since the early 1990s. Before that various companies during their career in the 1970s/early 80s.

The claim by Universal of 400 million on 2nd September  2021 is just that - a claim. They have NEVER been able to break down that figure by country or record.

2. There are around 200 countries in the world but the vast majority are sold in just a few countries such as the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, France. If we look at the detailed breakdown of Gold Greatest Hits we see this is the case. Look to at certification levels of gold and platinum records. Awards from high population countries such as India and Russia are very low.

3. Vinyl Era - pre ABBA. It is very hard to establish global sales in this period. There is a lot of 'guesstimates' involved. Only the USA in this time had audited sales via the RIAA for gold and platinum awards.

4. Vinyl Era - 1970 to mid/late 80s. This of course ABBA's era. The UK had set up a proper sales chart in 1969 and silver, gold and platinum awards since 1973. Other countries introduced certifications during this era - such as France (1973), Canada and Germany - both 1975, Netherlands 1978, Spain 1979 and Sweden 1987.

5. CD Era - Late 80s to 2005 for singles or up to 2015 for albums. This is the era of Gold Greatest Hits. Some countries such as the UK introduced multiple platinum awards. More countries introduced gold and platinum awards. This is the sweet spot" for sales. Sales were for physical albums in particular and were easier to audit and verify.

6. Download Era - 2005 to 2015. Downloads were sales. But of course downloads were so much cheaper than physical sales either at the time with CDS or comparing them to the past with Vinyl. As a result there was an explosion of sales especially for singles. 

7. Streaming era from 2015 onwards. Streams are not sales but some countries, notably the US and UK use formulas to  estimate sales based on the number of streams a song or album receives. Sweden, for example, doesn't go along with this pretence and just counts streams. 

8. ABBA Claimed Sales Timeline

1976 - 50 million

1982 - 128 million

1992 - 250 million

1999 - 350 million

2021 - 400 million

You can see the problem here. No way did ABBA sell as much in 1983-92 as they did from 1974 to 1982. Sales are exaggerated by over 100 million. Nor did they sell 100 million from 1992 to 1999. At that time ABBA Gold was "only" on 15 million. Other albums really did not amount to 85 million.



CountrySingles *Albums
US 8m20m
Australia 2m  6m
Canada 1m  3m
Germany 7m13m
France 5.5m  3.5m
Japan 1.5m  5.5m
Sub- Total35 m70 m
World estimate55m135m

 * 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.

10, Top 5 Artists Sales - All Formats

The Beatles 547,000,000

Michael Jackson 454,000,000

Elvis 443 000,000

Eminem 376 000,000

Queen 355,000,000

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, Lady GaGa, Bruno Mars and Rihanna had 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  CD era from say say late 80s to 2005 (singles) or 2017 (albums) when Gold Greatest Hits was released was the "sweet spot"  for sales.  They were easy to come by - and were actual sales. 

source: Chart Masters: Best Selling Artists

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