On 19 March, Adele’s 21 overtook Dark Side of the Moon to become the seventh bestselling album in British music history. A day or two later it caught Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms napping, and eased into sixth place. So far 4.15 million copies have been sold. One in six British households has one. Ahead lie Thriller, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, Abba’s Gold, Sgt. Pepper and Queen’s Greatest Hits, still the daddy with 5.86 million registered sales.
These five have been the top five for so long that industry experts with sad goatees thought they would never be caught. But records are made to be broken, or at the very least scratched. Thus young Adele, with her big voice, amazing nails and rather good songs, sweeps aside all competition, past and present. Apparently those same industry experts are now working night and day trying to decide what she could call her next album. An odd but non-prime number, ideally the product of two prime numbers, looks favourite.
But weren’t albums supposed to be over? Had we not all stopped buying them? Music sales (including legal downloads) fell last year for the seventh year in succession. Overall they have dropped about 30 per cent since 2004. But compact discs still account for three quarters of those sales, and roughly four quarters of all sales to me. (Apparently some older consumers haven’t quite got to grips with downloading. The poor fools.) So the market is still there, even if it is usually dormant.
Adele’s extraordinary success isn’t a freak. It merely suggests that when there is something people want to buy, they whip out the credit card with the insouciance of old. And it just about goes without saying that most of the people doing this buying are the ones with disposable income, i.e.