Crunching the Numbers
How are country artists faring? Let’s take a look at cumulative sales for current albums. Sales are rounded to the nearest hundred.
Top Selling Current Country Albums
- Taylor Swift, Fearless: 6,233,900
- Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift: 4,955,000
- Lady Antebellum, Need You Now: 3,138,700
- Taylor Swift, Speak Now: 3,078,600
- Zac Brown Band, The Foundation: 2,489,200
I’ve always been something of a chart junkie. While I don’t pay as close attention as I used to, I still have a pretty good handle on historical trends. One artist I’ve been keeping an eye on is Carrie Underwood. When each official country single from her first two albums peaked at #1 or #2, it caught my attention.
But I never expected the trend to continue, with three more #1 hits from the new album. The source of that belief was the history of women on country radio, especially in the twenty most recent years that were based on actual monitored airplay instead of radio playlists. Since that change, far less records have gone #1 or #2.
Here are the top selling country albums of the calendar year 2009. The number in parentheses is the album’s rank on the overall list encompassing all genres. The totals are rounded to the nearest thousand:
- Taylor Swift, Fearless (1) – 3,157,000
- Zac Brown Band, Foundation (15) – 1,243,000
- Carrie Underwood, Play On (19) – 1,150,000
- Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable (21) – 1,123,000
- Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum (24) – 948,000
- Jason Aldean, Wide Open (27) – 940,000
- Darius Rucker, Learn to Live (31) – 849,000
- Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift (36) – 766,000
- Keith Urban, Defying Gravity (38) – 715,000
- Sugarland, Love On the Inside (41) – 678,000
While Taylor Swift mania continues to grow, there’s another impressive accomplishment being achieved by two veterans of country music on the opposite end of the age spectrum.
Contrary to what is commonly believed, there has always been a ceiling on how old you could be and still get country airplay. This year, both George Strait and Reba McEntire have been working steadily to shatter that ceiling.
Take a look at the age of country legends when they earned their most recent top ten solo hit:
It’s time for an album sales update, our first since May 23. Brad Paisley is off to a strong start with American Saturday Night, selling 130k in its first week. That’s about 70k less than his previous two studio albums – Time Well Wasted and 5th Gear – opened with, but not a terrible drop-off, considering the state of the music market.
Meanwhile, the new studio albums by Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban are slowing down considerably, now being outpaced on a weekly basis by 2008 releases by Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.
Among younger acts with a new album in 2009, the most impressive sales are coming from Jason Aldean, while 2008 releases from Kellie Pickler, Billy Currington, and Randy Houser are showing new signs of life.
Biggest disappointments? It’s hard not to look in the direction of Martina McBride, who has barely cleared the 100k mark on her new studio set. Lee Ann Womack’s 2008 set just made it over that mark, too. Then again, one only needs to have sold 455 copies to make the chart this week, with the anchor position going to Wynonna with that total. Her covers album Sing – Chapter 1 has sold 41k to date.
Here are the latest totals for albums released over the past three years that are still charting:
- Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable – 842,000
- Keith Urban, Defying Gravity – 452,000
- Jason Aldean, Wide Open – 384,000
- Kenny Chesney, Greatest Hits II – 281,000
- Dierks Bentley, Feel That Fire – 219,000
- Martina McBride, Shine – 104,000
- John Rich, Son of a Preacher Man – 103,000
- Eric Church, Carolina – 94,000
- Rodney Atkins, It’s America – 88,000
- Jake Owen, Easy Does It – 81,000
* Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable – 669,000
* Keith Urban, Defying Gravity – 349,000
* Jason Aldean, Wide Open – 241,000
* Dierks Bentley, Feel That Fire – 189,000
* Martina McBride, Shine – 89,000
* John Rich, Son of a Preacher Man – 89,000
* Rodney Atkins, It’s America – 72,000
* Jake Owen, Easy Does It – 70,000
* Eric Church, Carolina – 66,000
* Randy Travis, I Told You So: Ultimate Hits – 59,000
* Randy Rogers Band, Randy Rogers Band – 57,000
* Pat Green, What I’m For – 54,000
* Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel, Willie & The Wheel – 50,000
* Billy Ray Cyrus, Back to Tennessee – 29,000
* Jason Michael Carroll, Growing Up is Getting Old – 26,000
* Dean Brody, Dean Brody – 5,000
Sugarland will move to #1 on the overall album chart this week, following a relatively small 45 percent drop from their opening week numbers. Last week, it entered at #2 with sales of 313,600. This week, it sold an additional 171,400 units, good enough to beat out Miley Cyrus, who suffers a 56 percent drop. That brings the total sales of Love on the Inside to 485,100 after only two weeks. For a sense of perspective, Sugarland is only a few thousand units shy of the current sales totals for superstar acts George Strait and Alan Jackson, and their albums were released 18 and 22 weeks ago, respectively. Will more labels follow the novel approach of releasing a fan deluxe edition first, especially if it curtails that big second-week drop? Or did this work out so well because one of the bonus tracks (“Life in a Northern Town”) was already Read More
One of the reasons cited for country's dramatic sales dip last year was that the consumer base was slow to adapting to digital distribution. Taking a look at both current and all-time digital sales, it's quickly apparent how far country trails other genres. However, there are a few artists who are crossing that digital divide, some consistently, and others with a signature song with significant crossover appeal. Let's see how digital sales are going since the last time we checked in. Digital Singles On the current sales chart, the highest-charting country song is Sugarland's “All I Want to Do”, which is at #21. Sugarland is one of a select few country acts that post strong digital numbers, a group that also includes Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. In some cases, non-single tracks of these artists are outselling #1 country hits by other artists.Rascal Flatts was one of last year's strongest Read More
There was quite a bit of discussion earlier this week about the scarcity of female artists on the radio these days. Then again, there’s usually quite a bit of discussion about the women in country music on this site anyway. This edition of Crunching the Numbers takes a look at the current studio albums of veteran female artists, all of whom have been established names for more than a decade. Reba McEntire, Reba Duets Release: September 18, 2007 Sales to Date: 1,419,600 I’ll completely cop to the fact that I underestimated this project. Reba’s done so many side projects lately, and every duet album carries a faint whiff of desperation. But she proved all the naysayers wrong, scoring her first #1 album on the all-genre chart. Reba Duets is now her highest-selling studio album since 1996’s What if It’s You, and is likely to eclipse that set soon. After a Read More