Recently headlines were dominated with news about the highest-selling CD of 2016. Billboard, an American industry music publication, ran with the lead, “The biggest-selling CD act of 2016 doesn’t sing. He doesn’t play guitar and he doesn’t tour. In fact, no one alive has ever seen him.”

This person was none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In October, Universal Music Group, who now distribute his music, released Mozart 225: The New Complete Edition. By December it was declared he had sold 1.25 million units and was therefore the best-selling CD release of the year.

That’s sounds like a lot — and it is — 1.25 million units in under three months is unprecedented even for CDs and someone of Mozart’s fame. To give you an idea of how big this is, in the middle of the year Billboard released a report stating only three albums this year had sold over a million units, and this was done through streaming.

But the devil is in the detail, as to how Mozart (or Universal) achieved this — every box set has 200 CDs in it. And there were only 6250 box sets available. Were 1.25 million units actually sold? Not really. What Billboard did was count each individual CD sold as part of the boxset, instead of each boxset, to make it appear each CD counted as an individual sale. So did Mozart make an unprecedented comeback in 2016? Not so much.

Peter Fray

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