December 1, 2015
With her latest album, “25,” Adele has erased any doubt about her preeminent position in the music world. The new album, which showcases her signature torch songs and ballads, had a record-breaking first week of sales — $3.38 million in the U.S. — despite the fact that Adele withholds her music from streaming sites and largely eschews a social media presence (although she did appear on “Saturday Night Live” and promotions for Target). Adele’s previous album, “21,” sold 30 million copies worldwide.
According to The New York Times, tracking service SoundScan (owned by Nielsen) reports only 20 albums have sold more than a million copies in a week, putting “25” in rarified company. Likewise, Target and Barnes & Noble said first day sales for “25” was greater than any other album; with 800,000 albums sold, it also had the biggest opening week ever in Britain.
The new album is expected to sell at least five million copies in the U.S. by end of the year, a milestone that was last reached in 2011 with Adele’s “21.” The singer’s announcement that she will tour for the first time in five years will also push up album’s sales. Meanwhile, says NYT, one song from the new album, “Hello,” became the first track to sell more than one million downloads in a week.
“There are people out there for whom this may be the only record they’ve bought in five years,” said Nielsen senior analyst David Bakula.
The album’s success stands in stark contrast to the music industry’s hard times: in 2000, 700 million CDs were sold annually in brick-and-mortar outlets. Today, just 141 million CDs were sold in the U.S., says Nielsen, with an additional 106 million more sold as downloads. Although streaming has upended traditional album sales, Adele withholds her full album from streaming outlets including Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer, hinting that “she viewed streaming sites as being… primarily a promotional platform.”
But Adele’s success without streaming might make her an outlier, notes NYT: the No. 1 title on Billboard’s most recent album chart is Justin Bieber’s “Purpose,” which opened with a record 100 million streams.