It’s accepted that Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ sold over one hundred million copies. But do the numbers add up? A fascinating look at sampling, rounding up, sales tracking, and hype from Bill Wyman at The New Yorker.
Did Jackson sell a billion records, or even seven hundred and fifty million? Sure, “Thriller” sold a lot of copies, but Jackson recorded infrequently, and his later albums sold nowhere near what “Thriller” did. We know from SoundScan figures that Jackson was selling, on average, roughly a million albums a year in the nineteen-nineties and the aughts in the U.S.—and that includes greatest-hits albums, like the four-million-selling “Number Ones.” That’s not nothing, but it’s not the sort of thing that adds up to a billion records over time.