Music’s New Math

1. The Incredible Shrinking No. 1 Album
The record for the lowest-selling No. 1 albums in the SoundScan era (since 1991) was broken three times in early 2011. Before that, it was broken only three times in sixteen years.

2. Who’s Playing the Garden?
Gone are the days when only stadium acts like Radiohead and Pearl Jam sold out 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden.

3. The Monopoly at the Top
Since 2008, there have been 66 No. 1 songs, and six artists are behind almost half of them. (In 1986, there were 31 No. 1 songs by 29 different people). Here, the six who dominate.

4. Who’s Making What?
Here’s what three hypothetical artists of different sizes might be pulling down for each album they make, based on musician interviews and industry gossip.

5. Out With the New
In the first half of 2012, catalogue albums—industryspeak for those older than eighteen months—outsold new albums for the first time ever.

6. Adele, Industry Savior
How her sales measured up against other artists—and entire genres—in 2011. –Adam K. Raymond

7. 39,000 Sales, Adjusted for Inflation
Albums from the past ten years that started their Billboard run with 39,000 sales—the same number that earned Grizzly Bear their No. 7 debut.

Artist: Grizzly Bear
Album: Shields
Place on Chart: #7
Date: 9/26/12
Sales: 39,000

Artist: Timbaland
Album: Shock Value 2
Place on Chart: #32
Date: 12/26/09
Sales: 39,000

Artist: Eddie Vedder
Album: Into the Wild soundtrack
Place on Chart: #11
Date: 10/6/07
Sales: 39,000

Artist: Taylor Swift
Album: Taylor Swift
Place on Chart: #20
Date: 11/11/06
Sales: 39,000

Artist: Blake Shelton
Album: Blake Shelton’s Barn & Grill
Place on Chart: #20
Date: 11/13/04
Sales: 39,000

Artist: Nappy Roots
Album: Watermelon, Chicken, & Grits
Place on Chart: #28
Date: 4/20/02
Sales: 39,000

See Also
What Does Being Indie-Rock Royalty Get Grizzly Bear in 2012?

Photographs: Alamy (record); Ethan Miller/Getty Images (Santos); Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images (Black Keys); Courtesy of Glassnote Entertainment Group (Phoenix); Dario Cantatore/Getty Images (Interpol); Danny Clinch; Caitlin Mogridge/Redferns/Getty Images (Yorke); Patrick Mcmullan (remaining) 3

Music’s New Math