Several factors need to be taken into consideration when talking about what defines an album as successful.
In the world of music, we generally gauge the success of musicians by their album sales. Often, the bestselling music is considered popular music, but that doesn’t mean that popular music comprises of only the pop music genre. Often rock music, dance or even classical music and jazz outsell the typical pop albums of artists such as Madonna or Michael Jackson. A prime example of this can be seen in the lists of top selling albums of all time, which include albums by artists such as 2 Pac, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
Continued album sales long after the original release must also be taken into account. Albums that continue to sell hold influence for several years, decades and even generations… they also appeal to a wide variety of people. Ultimately, however, the use of catchy lyrics, a simple structure and rhythmic melodies have the final word on the success of an album.
The year 2014 saw artists like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Beyonce sell millions of albums. One can’t help but wonder whether these artists will be the Fleetwood Mac and Beatles of this century. That said, Pink Floyd also sold roughly 1,717,000 copies of their new album in 2014.
Often, people look back on the all-time best selling albums with nostalgia and reverence for the rock royalty of yesteryear. Some conveniently forget that pop music artists such as Ace of Base, Brittany Spears, ABBA, Bee Gees, Backstreet Boys and The Spice Girls have also lined their pockets with record album sales.
These days, biggest hindrance to album sales is the availability of illegal music downloads. Illegal downloading hinders not only statistics, but also means that the artists, producers, record labels and an entire chain of supporting professionals aren’t compensated fairly for all of their hard work.
Some may argue that musicians make more than enough money; however, there are hundreds of thousands of musicians (especially less recognised independent artists) who don’t make very much money at all. On the South African music scene especially, few artists can afford to create music fulltime, regardless of whether or not their music is played on the radio.
In the end, album sales keep popular music in production. Supporting your favourite artists allows them to record a new album, gain recognition and to just earn a living. Whether it is Taylor Swift or Led Zeppelin that you adore, shell out to show your love.