Sales vs. YouTube

SoundScan #1:

Jack Johnson “From Here To Now”

Sales: 117,260

Entered the chart at number one! Got ink in every major newspaper!

But the single, “I Got You,” has 1,157,909 plays on YouTube.

Not bad…in 2011. But in 2013, when Miley Cyrus has 173,715,141 views of “Wrecking Ball,” I ask you…who is the biggest artist?

Oh, Johnson has 17,808,873 views of “Upside Down,” from four years ago. And “If I Had Eyes” has 10,478,296 views in four years too. Proving Johnson is far from nowhere. But he’s not in the league of Miley Cyrus, who is suddenly bigger than all the MTV acts of yore, because her music can be played on demand. And that’s a good thing.

As for Johnson’s fans wanting the album as opposed to streaming… Good point, he appeals to an older demo. But the trend is towards streaming, and YouTube is king.

SoundScan #5

Avicii “True”

Sales: 49,936

No one cares! Lefsetz was blowing smoke about a niche!
Well, what do you have to say about the 85,483,163 YouTube views, huh? Avicii’s track is humongous, but SoundScan album sales don’t reflect this.

SoundScan #9

The Weeknd “Kissland”

Sales this week: 26,212
Percentage drop: -73
Weeks on: 2
Cume: 121,832

He hasn’t made it yet, he hasn’t penetrated the public consciousness.

How do we know?


The single only has 502,929.

“Belong To The World,” released on July 16, 2013 (and suddenly it’s the YouTube release date that’s important, not the album release date), has 1,906,034 plays. Weeknd has a long way to go. Or not.

SoundScan #12

Robin Thicke “Blurred Lines”

Sales this week: 19,096
Percentage drop: -10
Weeks on: 8
Cume: 488,915

Yes, in the old days Thicke’s album would already be double platinum. Extrapolating one can say that music ain’t what it used to be, that it doesn’t penetrate the public consciousness as deeply. But that would be wrong.

“Blurred Lines” has 21,874,554 views.

Bupkes you say!

But that’s the unrated version, with boobies. The censored take? A whopping 185,658,025 views. “Blurred Lines” has captured the public’s imagination as deeply as any track of the sixties.

As for single sales… “Blurred Lines” has moved 5,801,150 units, nothing to sneeze at, divided by ten even a greater sum than the album total, proving once again it’s all about the single.

And speaking of singles… Lorde’s “Royals” has sold 1,560,917 in 15 weeks. But it’s got 18,881,081 YouTube views. It appears that you know a track has truly become ubiquitous and penetrated public consciousness when it goes north of 50 million views on YouTube. In other words, Lorde has a way to go…or not.

As for Katy Perry, she’s already a star. She’s sold 2,403,154 singles in 6 weeks. But she’s got 98,799,681 views of the “Roar” video on YouTube. Which is why Katy can sell out arenas and Lorde cannot. YouTube is the new arbiter of overall fanbase, not sales.

Oh, and while we’re on single sales, Mile Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” has moved 1,184,629 in 5 weeks.

And back to Katy Perry… “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J, sold 194,360 tracks this week. But with only an audio clip, there are only 594,466 views. Proving that if you’re going to bother put it out, launch it with the official video. YouTube means more than not only sales, but radio, especially if you’re an established act, predicate your plan upon YouTube.

SoundScan # 22

Jay-Z “Magna Carta…Holy Grail”

Sales this week: 15,308
Percentage drop: -11
Weeks on: 11
Cume: 989,624

Pretty impressive, right? Jay made a deal with Samsung, he’s the king!

Well, no. Despite all the hoopla, the album just hasn’t penetrated deeply. The official “Holy Grail” video only has 11,400,945 plays.

So what are you more interested in, music or money?

Jay got paid, but it didn’t move the needle on his musical career.

SoundScan #33

Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience”

Sales this week: 11,564
Percentage drop: -2
Weeks on: 27
Cume: 2,279,591

“Suit & Tie” wasn’t a stiff, but it was far from the record of the year. It had 54,918,931 YouTube views. Solid, but not superstar.

Now “Mirrors” had 113,104,859 views, it was a much bigger record. But not in the league of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” So, what we’ve learned is first and foremost Justin Timberlake is a celebrity, an entertainer, and that there are acts that are more successful musically.

He’s certainly not as big as Avicii.


But I thought “Wake Me Up” only had 85,503,475 YouTube views.

Yes, that’s true!

But that’s the “Official Video,” the “Lyric Video” has another 109,047,940 views! And Pete Tong’s “Radio 1 Premiere” has another 9,892,532! Proving that if it’s in the grooves, images are irrelevant, people are truly that hungry to hear their favorite tracks.

As for albums not on the chart… One Direction’s “Midnight Memories” isn’t even coming out until November 23rd, but the single “Best Song Ever” is still in the YouTube Top Ten, with 126,725,279 views. As for sales, it’s sold 879,832 in 9 weeks… Proving it’s about the YouTube views. But you might say that YouTube doesn’t pay that much! I’d point you to One Direction’s merch numbers, breaking house records in every building they play, there’s more than one way to make a dollar and if you’re focusing on album sales, you’re missing the point.

P.S. SoundScan sales are U.S. only and YouTube is worldwide. Proving once again that techies are smarter than entertainment czars. There are no borders anymore, other than artificial ones, tear them down (and yes, some of these albums have larger sales counts when you figure in the whole wide world…then again, Spotify dominates in Sweden!)

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