100 million record sales is a lot. If you have sold 100 million records, the chances are you're pretty famous and well-regarded in the world of music. However, some who have sold this many records will be much more famous than others who have apparently sold the same amount, and this is why you have to look at more than just the raw amount of sales to accurately gauge popularity.
Let's take Iron Maiden and Beyoncé as examples. Who's more famous, more popular? Surely you'd say Beyoncé, but here's the thing - both have reputedly sold about 100 million records. They have sold the same amount as each other, but in terms of outright popularity, one is clearly more popular. How does this work?
Well, to put it simply, the easiest way to figure it out is to look out how many records these sales make up. Iron Maiden have released sixteen studio albums, plus twelve live records, four EPs and seven compilations, meaning their 100 million sales span thirty-nine records. Approximately, that's just over 2.5 million sales per record (not including singles). Beyoncé's 100 million, on the other hand, comes from six studio albums, five live albums, three compilations, five EPs, one soundtrack and two karaoke albums. That's twenty-two albums, making the average sales of each one just over 4.5 million - 2 million more on average than Maiden.
So though Iron Maiden are undoubtedly huge and phenomenally successful, second only in the world of heavy metal to the unstoppable titans of Metallica, they cannot compete with Beyoncé when it comes to popularity, despite the similar number of sales. This is why looking at just the numbers, without the context of how many records these sales span, can be misleading.
Does this matter? No, not really. When numbers get that big in the first place, you can safely count your career as a success. But in case you're ever in a debate with someone in regards to which artist is more famous, a conversation people definitely have on a regular basis, pause it to do some quick Maths using the record sales vs. number of albums technique. It's a sure fire way to win the argument - unless the numbers swing in your friend's favour, in which case, fake a phone call and leave.
Of course, there is one other thing you can do, and it's easily the best option of them all: forget the numbers, forget the fame, and just listen to some awesome music. In the end, fame doesn't matter and it certainly doesn't correlate to quality. Who cares how many records an artist has sold? If they're awesome, that's all that matters, and both Maiden and Beyoncé are pretty damn awesome.
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