Discussion: SoundScan Sound Off

salesIn this era of rampant piracy and economic recession, things aren’t looking good for the music industry.   We don’t post too often about the business side of the music business here, as we tend to keep the focus on the music.   But the reality is that these numbers matter.  If Little Big Town’s second Equity album had performed as well as the first, the label might still be in business.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as many artists go on to make their best music once they leave major labels.   But this Christmas, you can guarantee that some artists and record executives will be bracing for the New Year, while others are embracing it.

Here’s a look at some totals for albums released in 2008, ranked by total sales (rounded to the nearest thousand):

  1. Taylor Swift, Fearless – 1,519,000
  2. Sugarland, Love on the Inside – 1,179,000
  3. George Strait, Troubadour – 693,000
  4. Alan Jackson, Good Time – 628,000
  5. Toby Keith, 35 Biggest Hits – 530,000
  6. Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun – 479,000
  7. Faith Hill, Joy to the World – 341,000
  8. Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum – 337,000
  9. James Otto, Sunset Man – 332,000
  10. Rascal Flatts, Greatest Hits Volume 1 – 330,000
  11. Darius Rucker, Learn to Live – 284,000
  12. Julianne Hough, Julianne Hough – 260,000
  13. Toby Keith, That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy – 224,000
  14. Jewel, Perfectly Clear – 203,000
  15. Dierks Bentley, Greatest Hits: Every Mile a Memory –  195,000
  16. Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – 183,000
  17. Heidi Newfield, What Am I Waiting For – 162,000
  18. Jessica Simpson, Do You Know – 153,000
  19. Brad Paisley, Play – 137,000
  20. Kellie Pickler, Kellie Pickler – 129,000
  21. Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew it All – 127,000
  22. Tim McGraw, Greatest Hits Vol. 3 – 127,000
  23. Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be – 119,000
  24. Zac Brown Band, Foundation – 118,000
  25. Randy Travis, Around the Bend – 89,000
  26. Ashton Shepherd, Sounds So Good – 84,000
  27. Jimmy Wayne, Do You Believe Me Now – 81,000
  28. Trace Adkins, X – 72,000
  29. Billy Currington, Little Bit of Everything – 65,000
  30. Blake Shelton, Startin’ Fires – 60,000
  31. Hank III, Damn Right Rebel Proud – 47,000
  32. Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy – 45,000
  33. Joey + Rory, Life of a Song – 44,000
  34. Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights – 38,000
  35. Craig Morgan, Greatest Hits – 34,000
  36. Craig Morgan, That’s Why – 31,000
  37. Randy Owen, One on One – 22,000
  38. Randy Houser, Anything Goes – 17,000


  1. *Nashville used to hand out gold and platinum plaques left and right. Now, I only see the five of the top six discs on this list reaching platinum (Keith’s Greatest Hits is a little old to reach that status now.).
    *Hough’s numbers surprise me, but she did have a built-in audience. Considering the fact she’s now focusing on a musical career, it will be interesting to see if country fans are interested in a second or third album. Her radio stats so far suggest the answer is “no”. Jessica Simpson’s sales have flatlined, and Kellie Pickler’s in danger, too.
    *Johnson’s album is at a relatively strong pace, especially this holiday season. Gold status, although unlikely until late in ’09, would be fully deserved.
    *Montgomery Gentry’s scored two #1’s in a row at radio, yet their sales numbers are tepid. Veteran acts without a prominent identity are getting brushed aside. The same goes for Craig Morgan, whose push to superstardom was basically killed in the last three months.
    *On the other hand, the #1 single “Chicken Fried” has really boosted the Zac Brown Band.
    *Loveless’ numbers aren’t a shock, although she routinely sold gold and platinum for over ten years. But Womack, with a Top 20 single, should be doing a little better. “Last Call” is hanging in at radio, so hopefully she’ll gain some traction into ’09.

  2. I think Loveless has impressive numbers, given the fact that press for the album has been limited and radio hasn’t been on board at all.

    When you think about how much money is behind a major label release as opposed to what the Loveless set probably cost, I imagine she’s closer to actually earning royalties on her album than most of the people above her.

  3. Wow! I see the recession playing into what I own of that list. I normally buy cd’s without even thinking about it. But, this past year I’ve been cautious with my spending. I purchased 8 on that list — in the past I would have purchased about 20 more. Geez, that stinks.

  4. You’re right. In her interview with Eddie Stubbs, Loveless said that it was a ridiculously short recording process. Although she and Emory spent a long time pulling songs together, their vision was basically complete by the time they gathered the musicians. Thankfully, the pair doesn’t have to be concerned about money at this stage in their careers anyway.

    I will say that the amount of press surpassed Dreamin’ My Dreams. That album only debuted at #29 and sold fewer copies in its first week than Sleepless Nights. GAC was particularly generous with their coverage. I think the overall publicity definitely helped when it came to the Grammy nominations.

  5. While the economy is partially to blame, perhaps the transition to digital and single sales are cannibalizing album sales more than people think. Certainly this has a lot to do with the LOW numbers of albums from artists like Montgomery Gentry and Craig Morgan. Gone for ALL genres are the days where most of the Top 40 sell gold. Morgan’s NEVER sold particularly strong when you consider the fact that his “My Kind of Livin'” album sold only 500,000 despite having the #1 single of the year and another big ole hit in “Redneck Yacht Club.”

    I think labels should realize the value of viral and grassroots marketing that websites can provide. Big Machine did with Taylor Swift and look at how she’s grown (to say nothing of the other marketing schemes they have). Perhaps, though, her talent is what made her become popular.

    Look at the Kristy Lee Cook and Phil Stacey things. They got deals because of American Idol and their albums got released rather quickly yet the labels ran when these
    artists didn’t sell well. Perhaps the labels should have decided to promote them more or give them more than one single at radio. Ride out the album, see what happens. God knows it certainly couldn’t be worse than it is now.

  6. I should add that it’s encouraging that Joey+Rory have sold 44K albums! They’re proof that the internet CAN make a difference as well as grass roots marketing/viral promotion. Same thing with Zac Brown Band and the success of Patty’s CD. Marketing all comes down to getting the word out to the target audience and not depend on old tired schemes (CMT and Radio).

  7. I’m a bit surprised to find that I own 21 of the 38 titles listed (I would have guessed a far lower number). In previous years the total would be a much higher %, with the % increasing as we go back in time (for 1971, I think I own all forty of the year’s top forty albums)

    The sales figures look like what you would have expected country acts to sell during the 1960s and 1970s

  8. I’m kinda surprised Lady A hasn’t reached the 400k mark yet, you’d think their sales would’ve been boosted with the ACM and CMA wins along with the two Grammy nominations. I’m also surprsed that I own 18 of this titles. I thought I would own like 10, but yea.

    Interesting sales numbers. Kinda sad that only two albums hit the platinum mark this year (as far as sales go).

  9. The list makes sense to me for the most part, but didn’t Chris Cagle’s CD debut at #1 Country and top 10 pop? I’m baffled at it not being on this list, despite being released in early 2008.

  10. I own 28 of the albums listed……..I spend way too much on music.

    I’m actually surprised that Emmylou has sold that much I thought she’d be a little lower.

    Also sad is the fact that the last three solo female artist to have number one hits were: Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Sara Evans (yes Sara Evans with 2005’s single “Real Fine Place To Start”)

  11. I would have only had 16 of the albums, but I counted right after taking Leeann’s tip on the $2 Houser download… so I have 17 of them. Just like Leeann. Spooky.

  12. I noticed that about “Last Call” and it made me very sad! I truly love this song and it runs rings around anything that the Pop Princess has put out. Geez guys, she’s had her wisdom teeth removed…do we need to take up??

  13. Lee Ann’s “Last Call” falls from 20 to 23 on today’s Radio and Records singles chart.

    All hope is lost.

    Yea I just saw that when I checked it, I was kinda hoping it would at least make top 15. I’m a bit upset that Lady A slipped from 11 to 12, I thought they’d go top 10 this week. I’m still holding out hope for them though!!

    I had an album question, Chuck Wicks’ cd was released in January, has it not even sold 17,000 copies yet?? Or was does it not count for the 2008 list??

  14. Out of fairness, I should note that even though “Last Call” dropped three spots, it still has a bullet, meaning it got more plays this week than last week. (Other singles gained more spins, pushing them higher.) So Lee Ann still could go back up again, although, overall, the drop is not a great sign.

  15. I just have to say I can’t believe Jessica Simpson and Taylor Swift are in the top 20. Taylor I can probably understand because she has her moments, but she’s not at #1 for country, she’s there because pop fans buy her stuff too.

    I wish the industry had a way of seporating sales by genre so that all the pop fans who bought Jessica’s and Taylor’s albums were not counted in this tally so we could see how they really made out in their target audience of country fans.

    I have no problem with Taylor, but I think credit in country should only be given where it’s earned IN THE GENRE, not in others as well.

  16. Kevin and Blake, good points about Patty’s rank for album sales this year, and the perspective you put on it.

    Yes, all things considered, these are fairly good numbers for Patty Loveless..GAC was good to her for a few months, but now she seems to have dropped off even their radar…and CMT pretty much followed suit with country radio and ignored her completely.

    And I agree, I am so glad that Patty and Emory have the financial freedom to make the kind of music they love, without sales calculations. We fans of quality Country are the beneficiaries here.

    But still, given many of the entertainers who scored a higher rank, I have to say it’s that old inverse ratio thing again, where the more talent one has, the less recognition one recieves. Obviously there are notable exceptions here, but in Patty’s case, as well as some others, this applies. Actually..it applies on both sides of the equation.

    Oh and Country Universe has made a good impression on Patty’s record label for your top 40 singles countdown. Sagauro has announced Patty’s #34 ranking on their website, and used Blake’s well written blurb to share the good news! Congrat’s guys!

    I think that was a great move for Patty and Emory to move to Saguaro Road Records…they are a label that knows how to SHOW their appreciation for their quality artists by giving them the support they deserve.

    Jordan, I didn’t realize that so few female solo artists have had #1 singles since 2005. Very surprising considering how Taylor and Carrie dominate the charts…I’m glad that Sara was one of them anyway…but yeah, that is very surprising.

  17. I think it’s incredibly cool how far ahead Sugarland is from the rest of the pack! And if not for Taylor, Sugarland would have been the undeniable champs of 2008.

    Kudos to Taylor and Sugarland for such a successful year. There is something to be said for artists that truly embrace their own music and their own work.
    Sure, everyone may not like them but apparently many, many others do. … including me.
    Say what you will but I find a definite artists’ uniqueness in these acts, unlike the “hat acts” that immediately follow them on this list.

    Taylor and Sugarland offer another “something” to their fans, beit the online relationship Taylor keeps with her fans and the very relatable lyrics (audience age considered) OR the thoughtful, personal lyrics of Sugarland… not to mention how they aren’t so wrapped up in Music Row.

    As far as the rest of the list: Interesting how fast Faith Hill’s Christmas cd shot up the list.

    Music Row needs to stop fighting the internet and learn to work with it. Times they are a-changin’.

  18. This is a truly grim list of sales for 2008. I’m especially disappointed in the numbers for Montgomery Gentry’s “Back When I Knew It All.” It’s the best album of their careers and has already produced two #1 singles. If that’s not a recipe for at least a gold album, then I don’t know what is. These guys deserve better, but at least it’s not just them – everyone seems to be struggling right now.

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