From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"According to the Guinness World Records, the holiday perennial "White Christmas" (1942) by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single worldwide, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies." --Sholem Stein
Before the existence of recording medium and its player, the music industry earned profit through selling musical compositions on sheet music. The very first sales chart published by Billboard magazine in the United States was the Sheet Music Best Sellers chart.
Following the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison in 1877, the music industry began hiring singers to record songs made by composers. Due to the length limit of recording media, singles were the only available commercial releases. In 1900, the US record sales is estimated at about 3 million copies. The music industry continued its growth, and by 1921 the value of record sales in the US reached $106 million with 140 million records being sold.
Album sales were first reported by Billboard magazine on March 24, 1945. However, the album definition at the time was barely boxes containing a set of several singles, such as Glenn Miller by Glenn Miller, as well as Selections from Going My Way and Merry Christmas by Bing Crosby. Technological developments in the early twentieth century led to the development of the vinyl LP record as an important medium for recorded music. In 1948, Columbia Records began to bring out 331/3 rpm twelve-inch extended-play LPs that could play for as long as 52 minutes, or 26 minutes per side. Musical film soundtracks, jazz works, and thematic albums by singers such as Frank Sinatra quickly utilized the new longer format. Billboard launched its first regularly published weekly albums chart on March 24, 1956, at the dawn of the album era.
During the 1950s and into the 1960s, 45 rpm seven-inch single sales were considered the primary market for the recording industry, while albums were a secondary market. The careers of notable rock and roll performers such as Elvis Presley were driven primarily by single sales. Album sales reached its peak in English-language popular music from the mid 1960s to the mid 2000s (known as "album era") in which the album was the dominant form of recorded music expression and consumption. In 1986, Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms became the first album in history to sell over one million copies in CD format.
Sales as compared to critical acclaim
- Record guide
- Performing arts trophies
- Jahsonic 1000
- List of songs considered the best
- Top 1000 songs
- 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
- 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die
- Grammy award
- Record label
- Record collecting
- Album-equivalent unit
- Cultural economics
- Culture industry