It’s not often that an album sells at least one million copies in a week. In fact, only 20 albums have done that since SoundScan started tracking album sales in 1991. This week, however, Adele’s third album, 25, set a record for the most sales in one week, moving a pretty incredible 3.38 million in just seven days. That doesn’t just beat the record that was held by *NSYNC (2.4 million), but shatters it. In fact, in one week, she almost doubled what 2015’s best-selling album (Taylor Swift’s 1989) has sold all year. Granted, Adele is a once-in-a-lifetime artist that has appeal across demographics. So aside from the million metalcore covers of “Hello” out there, what else can heavy bands take from Adele and this historic chart week?
No metal artist is going to sell anywhere near as many as Adele did
This is absolutely an anomaly. It doesn’t hurt that Adele’s last album has sold 11 million copies since it was released, but there’s no album that’s going to surpass her first sales week any time soon, if ever. Basically, Adele is the ultimate soccer mom/older people artist (aka the people that buy CDs), but also crosses over to pop, which you need to sell anything near this stratospheric. It’s hard to think of any metal band that could sell one million copies in a week. Maybe Metallica, given that Death Magnetic sold 490,000 copies in just three days back in 2008. If Tool ever gets around to releasing their new record, they’ll probably forgo streaming, since they have so far. 10,000 days sold 564,000 copies in its first week back in 2006. Those are the only two artists we can foresee coming anywhere even remotely close to a million, let alone three.
Only mega-platinum artists can hold out from streaming
At the eleventh hour, Adele’s team decided not to make 25 available to stream on services like Spotify and Apple Music. One of the few other holdouts was Taylor Swift. So basically, if you’re a multi-platinum star, you can keep your music off the streaming services, forcing fans to actually buy an album. It’s unclear how many more albums Adele sold as a result of people not being able to stream it, but it more likely offset the money she would have made as a result of streaming. There are very few artists that would want to go up against the streaming services, because they’re the easiest way to be heard, and there is money to be made from it, just not as much as when someone buys an album.
Her mass appeal status helped
One of the things that added to Adele’s sales week is that her music is mass appeal. From grandmothers to babies, people like her music (seriously, a friend has a kid that can hardly talk, but says “hello” back to Adele when she hears the song). The last mass-appeal metal band was probably Metallica, even though Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog-Flavored Water sold over 1 million copies (it was a different time!). No legitimately heavy artist wants to water down their music to appeal to the most amount of people, but if an album is powerful enough to touch a nerve with that many people, yet still be played in Starbucks, it probably has a chance. Hell, probably half the girls that bought the *NSYNC album when it came out 14 years ago picked up Adele’s album too.
Image is less important than talent
Bob Lefsetz, a music industry crank that somehow never worked in the music industry, has a newsletter in which he holds forth on his thoughts of what sixty-somethings think of the music industry (think of it as a blog of the “old man yells at cloud” Simpsons scene). A while ago, he said Adele would never succeed despite her vocal talent because she’s fat. We all know how that’s worked out. Granted, the majority of music, at least pop music, is about image, perhaps at the expense of actual songs. Metal is certainly less image-conscious than it was in the ’80s, when hair metal was a thing. If you hear a good song, chances are, you don’t give a shit what the artist looks like if the music’s strong.