Adele didn’t just break ’N Sync’s long-standing single-week sales record -- she demolished it. Nielsen Music calculated the British pop star’s third album, “25,” sold 3.38 million copies in its first week, according to the New York Times, 40 percent more than the 2.4 million copies sold by the previous record-holder, ’N Sync’s “No Strings Attached.”
That record was set in 2000, at the height of the CD era, when it was not uncommon for highly anticipated albums to sell tens of millions of copies. Today, the standards of success have changed dramatically -- a high-six-figure sales total, such as the 763,000 copies sold by Ed Sheeran's "X," is considered more than respectable.
By the time “25” finally hit store shelves and download stores last Friday, an enormous reserve of demand had built up. Thanks to preorders, "25" had gone to the top of the iTunes and Google Play album charts well before its official release date. According to Rob Copsey, the Web editor of the Official Charts Company, which tracks music sales and streaming data in the U.K., “25” was the most-preordered album in the history of Amazon, the second-largest music retailer in the country. Representatives from Target told International Business Times last week they anticipated that “25” would break the retailer’s all-time record for album sales, a mark held by Adele’s previous album, “21.”
The hunger and anticipation was also visible in the rapturous embrace of "25's" first single, “Hello.” Within days of its release, "Hello" had detonated previous records for the most-streamed song on Spotify, and its corresponding music video, which has already been viewed more than half a billion times, piled up more views during its opening weekend than any other music video in history.
While Adele’s popularity with many different generations of fans may have played a role, her decision not to stream “25” contributed to the unprecedented sales, too. Over the past several years, streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have grown into a dominant source of music consumption, and while streaming does not necessarily replace all kinds of music consumption, it has certainly had a dramatic effect on the recorded music industry.
Even without the benefit of streaming, Adele will surely take a bow at the top of the Billboard album chart this coming week. That spot, which is determined by total album sales, track-equivalent sales and stream-equivalent sales, is currently occupied by Justin Bieber’s new album, “Purpose,” which sold 450,000 copies in its first week, and racked up another 75,000 track- and stream-equivalent album sales.