Phrasing. It’s a word often used on the quite ribald animated FX series Archer, and it’s also a word that needs to be applied to just about every one of the stories you may have seen in the past week or so stating that none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has “the biggest-selling CD release of 2016.”
Well — yes and no.
Stay with me on this one.
Billboard reports the massive, 200-disc Mozart 225: The New Complete Edition has shifted over 1.25 million total CDs since its October 28 release, according to Universal Music Group. Rock me, Amadeus! However, if you analyze that figure a little more closely, dividing said cumulative 1.25 million discs by the fact that there are 200 discs in each box set having been sold, the actual number of box set units sold is just north of 6,250 copies. Look at that number again, spelled out: Six thousand, two hundred and fifty copies.
Now, I’m not here to take anything away from this clearly awesome sales achievement for one of the most storied composers of, quite literally, all-time, but the fact is: that’s only 6,250 box sets sold, and most definitely not even remotely close to 1.25 million copies sold. So, to my mind, that does not equate it to being “the biggest-selling CD release of 2016,” but rather it being “the release that sold the most number of individual discs collectively in one package in 2016.” Phrasing, remember?
Don’t get me wrong – this collection is formidable in most every sense of the word. It comprises the aforementioned whopping 200 CDs, presenting every known work by the classical great; features the talents of 600 world-class soloists and 60 orchestras; and plays for a total of 240 hours, not to mention the many hours of additional reading materials bundled into the package. Universal described it being “most authoritative, complete, and scholarly box set ever devoted to the work of a single composer” – and they’re probably right about that.
“It is wonderful to see the reaction to this box set, which is the fruit of years of scholarship, planning, and curation,” said Paul Moseley, UMG’s director of Mozart 225. “Mozart’s immortal melodies, no less than The Beatles or Abba, are in some way part of all our lives – and this edition is the perfect way to celebrate that on his 225th anniversary.” Can’t argue with that either.
So, you may ask, what is the actual best-selling release in 2016? The year isn’t entirely over yet, so we’ll have to wait on the final tallies just a little longer. Even so, we can get a good indication of who may show up at or near the top from Spotify, which recently unveiled lists of the most streamed artists, songs, and albums on the platform this year. For the second year in a row, Drake has been crowned Spotify’s most streamed artist, attracting 4.7 billion streams in 2016, despite his current album Views being an exclusive to Apple Music for the first 2 weeks of its release back in April. Also, earlier this year, it was announced that Drake is the most streamed artist ever, and his hit “One Dance” is the most streamed song to grace the service.
As for actual hard numbers, on December 5, the RIAA certified Views as being quadruple platinum, or having moved over 4 million copies, though it should be noted that honor includes 100 streams counting as one certifiable unit. That said, back at the end of August, Nielsen Music put physical sales of Views at over 1.44 million copies sold, which has likely increased somewhat in the ensuing 4 months. Other million-plus sellers in 2016 include Adele’s 25 and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. (Sorry, Wolfie.)
Like I said at the outset, it’s all about the phrasing.