Parsing the Record Sales of Pitchfork's Top 10 Albums of the Year
Matthew Perpetua posts the numbers behind one of the more visible/influential year-end lists out--so what do they mean? Well, for one thing, the once and future Brooklyn triumvirate of Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, and Dirty Projectors really sold records. About 300K of them, to be exact--which is small number by traditional industry standards but in 2009, still pretty impressive. (For comparison, Perpetua prints some other sales figures. Pearl Jam's Backspacer, at 394K, isn't even 100K up on that.)
For another, Pitchfork--that great indie obscurantist punchline--didn't have a single album under 19K in sales on their top 10. 19K isn't much, but it's not exactly the underground stereotype, either--that's an awful lot of people, even before you even start talking about the heavy illegal download biases that attach themselves to bands like Girls when it comes to counting sales. (Take Real Estate as your counter-example, as far as what an actual "underground" type band might look like in 2009: their LP, which admittedly just came out, has sold all of 3,400 copies so far.)
Third, not that this is news at this late date, but in a crippled industry the field is wide open. Bon Iver, Pitchfork's #26 record of the year, sold 89K copies. On the indie label Jagjaguwar, no less. That's better than all kinds of releases from bands with major label promotional budgets behind them, from Clipse to the Flaming Lips. A tentative conclusion? In this climate, Pitchfork's purview is as commercially viable as pretty any other, give or take a U2 or Taylor Swift. Of course, cooler, smarter, more savvy heads (Maura, ahem) may disagree.
Pitchfork Top 10 Albums, In US Sales [Fluxtumblr]