Classic Rock Album Sales from 2020

How did the old Classic Rock Albums perform in the Top 200 album sales in 2020?  I wasn’t positive there’d be any Classic albums on the list.  Don’t most fans already have them?  Rolling Stone magazine released the sales figures for the year, which is a combination of actual sales and equivalent sales by streaming.  It turns out Classic albums made the list…starting at #46.

What Classic Rock album did the best?  If you knew it was an album by the Eagles, you might guess Eagles Greatest Hits (the biggest selling album of all time), or Hotel California (the 3rd best selling album of all time).  The surprise is that it’s Eagles, their very first album!

The album features “Take It Easy”, “Witchy Woman”, and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, but those are on on the hits album too, so people must want to hear the other tracks on that first album (unless Rolling Stone listed the wrong album).  The number to the right side of the ranking is the number of equivalent sales from a combination of actual sales and streaming.

The second highest Classic album is a little more predictable, because Queen has had a big surge in popularity since their big biographic movie.

A Beatles album made the list, and it’s the one that younger Beatles fans seem to favor.  The 50th Anniversary remix of Abbey Road was released in the fall of 2019.

If I would have guessed which Classic album did best, it would have been Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.  That’s because of the “Dreams” viral skateboard video.  Fleetwood Mac didn’t get the top Classic album, but they were one of only two Classic Rock acts to place two albums on the list.

And here are the rest of the Classic albums in the Top 200 list of equivalent album sales in 2020.

The top album of 2020 was by the only artist whose album actually sold over one-million hard & digital units, Taylor Swift.  The next highest album sold less than half as much.  Add in the streaming, and it’s still Taylor Swift’s folklore at #1.

Taylor Swift had a total of five albums in the Top 200 for 2020.  Extra trivia:  Of her first 8 albums, 5 of them have been the biggest selling albums in the year they were released (a record).  Swift’s 9th album, evermore, was released very late in 2020, so it could at least have a slight chance to be the biggest seller in 2021.  However, the smart money would be on a new release by Adele.  Her last two albums led sales for a total of two years each.

It’s right that new albums in 2020 are the biggest sellers, but it’s impressive that some Classic albums are still selling and streaming as much as 50 years after they were released!

So, after I wrote the above article…

I checked how Billboard  ranked the top selling albums of 2020.  The only real agreement between Rolling Stone and Billboard is that Taylor Swift’s folklore is the top album.

Here’s the ranking of the Classic albums and three new albums by Classic artists (James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen & Bob Dylan) in the Billboard 2020 sales chart. This ranking of the Top 100 albums is based on real sales, and do not include streaming (that’s the big difference).

It looks like the Billboard chart makes a little more sense, or at least it shows which albums people were actually willing to buy.  By the way, 2020 was the first year since 1986 that vinyl records outsold CD’s, and the most vinyl albums sold since 1991.  Pretty amazing popularity for a technology (vinyl albums & turntable cartridges) introduced in 1948.

What both lists show is that some great Classic Rock albums are still being purchased and streamed, with one of them, Abbey Road, being the 12th best-selling album 51 years after it was released!

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