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Pitchfork's Top 50 of 2010, By the Numbers

Eric Harvey, a Ph.D. student and apparent music obsessive, posted a list of (most of) Pitchfork's top fifty albums of 2010 along with their sales figures today on his Marathonpacks blog. It provides a pretty entertaining and somewhat eye-opening glance into the popularity of some of the bands currently considered to be the indie world's cream of the crop. For example, half of the top 10 sold well below 100,000 (James Blake's EPs didn't even hit a cumulative 5,000). The only artist to hit a million was Drake, with Kanye and Rick Ross at the number two and three spots. The most popular non-hip-hop artist was (unsurprisingly) the Arcade Fire, who still (unsurprisingly) fell short of 500k. Of course this is intimately connected to the fall in album sales in general as of late, but remembering that Halcyon Digest only sold 60,000 copies is pretty humbling in the context of the increasingly insular world of indie journalism. [FACT]


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Arcade Fire
Kanye West
Rick Ross

What I find interesting about this is the how low even the big numbers are. For instance, Drake, who is so popular that there was literally a riot when he canceled a show in New York last summer, a man whose releases are incredibly hotly anticipated, has sold WELL under 2 million albums. As little as five years ago, that would have been in the 3 - 5 million range, easy.

Given that new normal, 25,000 - 100,000 copies is actually a kind of incredible success for indie artists, let alone those like LCD and Vampire Weekend who post numbers around half a million. That's half as popular as Drake! Not bad, really.

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Agreed. I find most surprising that Robyn's Body Talk sold under 25,000. Granted the full album was released not that long ago, and many of the songs on the final full-length were over the course of the year on EPs. Still that's incredible!

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