Declining Album Sales?

Searching through Billboard's website today, I noticed a question and answer column where a reader had inquired about the album sales of a few notable female artists. The response was:

That said, here are the to-date U.S. sales, through Sept. 7, of the most recent albums released by the artists listed above, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Duffy, "Rockferry" (462,000)
Estelle, "Shine" (110,000)
M.I.A., "Kala" (302,000)
Leona Lewis, "Spirit" (1,064,000)
Natasha Bedingfield, "Pocketful of Sunshine" (411,000)

If this was 10 years ago, or maybe even 5, the album sales would look more like this:

Duffy - 1 million

Duffy has that British soul singer appeal that is unparalleled in recent years. Oddly a crop of similar soul singers has emerged lately (ie: Amy Winehouse, Adele) but Duffy is by far the most appealing in appearance and voice. Although her performance of "Mercy" on a recent late night show (either Letterman or Leno) was absolutely horrible. She has an awesome voice but she desperately needs some stage presence.

Estelle - 500,000

Estelle is hardly a household name but in the past her album would have easily gone gold just based on the success of her song "American Boy" with Kanye West. It remains to be seen if she will prove herself with a second successful single.

M.I.A. - 500,000 at least

M.I.A.'s song "Paper Planes" forced her out of retirement when it became a hit (largely from its inclusion in the Pineapple Express trailer). In the past, a Top 10 single like M.I.A.'s largely guaranteed at least a gold album. It is actually hilarious that such a politically charged song would end up in a stoner movie, maybe because of the word "weed" being repeated a few times throughout the song.

Leona Lewis - 4 million

Leona Lewis has already had two huge songs - "Bleeding Love" (who could escape this song, even if they wanted to, which I certainly did) and the much more listenable "Better In Time". Of this group of new female artists, she has had the most success, but her album has barely gone platinum so far. 10 years ago, she would have sold at LEAST 4 million albums, maybe even 5 on the success of these two songs and all the buzz surrounding her. Her album became the first debut album by a British solo artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard chart.

Interestingly, the single "Bleeding Love" is certified 3x platinum by Billboard. Therefore 10 years ago 1 million physical album sales + 3 million digital sales = 4 million physical album sales...potentially.

Natasha Bedingfield - 3 million

"Love Like This" with Sean Kingston (a fairly catchy song) went to #11 on the Billboard chart. And the hideously irritating "Pocketful of Sunshine" went to #5 inexplicably. So two (basically) Top 10 singles, but the album has not even gone gold. At least these songs are better than "These Words" or "Unwritten" - a beloved song for drunken sorority girls to scream the lyrics to, drink clutched in one hand, at the latest dingy college club. Usually in my ear.


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