Chart Watch Extra: Adele Saves First Quarter
Adele's 21 sold more copies in the first quarter than the next five best-selling albums combined. 21 sold 2,667,000 copies in the first quarter. The next five albums combined sold 2,400,000. That's tremendous for Adele, but a shaky sign for the rest of the music business.
It's not overstating the case to say that 21 saved the first quarter. Without it, overall album sales would have declined by 3.4%, compared to the first quarter of 2011. With it, album sales were flat.
21 sold more copies in the first quarter than any album had since 2005, when 50 Cent's The Massacre sold 2,815,000 copies in the first quarter. The key difference is that The Massacre was released in that quarter, whereas 21 was released in the first quarter of 2011. 21 is the oldest album to wind up as the top-seller for the first quarter since No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom was the best-seller for the first quarter of 1997. The album was released in October 1995.
21 sold more copies in the first quarter than it had in any previous quarter. The album sold 847K copies in the first quarter of 2011, 1,670,000 copies in the second quarter, 1,256,000 copies in the third quarter, and 2,051,000 copies in the fourth quarter. (These figures and all others in this report are from Nielsen SoundScan, which has tracked sales for Billboard since 1991.)
The Grammy Awards telecast on Feb. 12 was the main factor that boosted Adele's sales in the quarter. She performed and won six awards, including Album, Record and Song of the Year. The show received its strongest ratings since 1984 largely because viewers wanted to see how the show would handle the shocking death the day before of Whitney Houston. Houston's 2000 compilation Whitney: The Greatest Hits was the second best-selling album of the first quarter. It sold 694,000 copies in the period.
The rest of the top five albums in the first quarter were Now 41 (573K), Drake's Take Care (405K) and Adele's 19 (369K). Now 41 is the only one of these five albums that was released in 2012. Drake's album was released in November. 19 was released in 2008.