Sales of Adele’s “25” just smashed a 15-year record

Oh, all for me?
Oh, all for me?
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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Adele’s fanatically anticipated new album, 25, is here. And here in a big way.

The record, which was released for purchase on Nov. 20 but not made available for streaming, has sold more than 2,433,000 copies in the US in less than four days’ time, according to industry authority Nielsen Music.

That makes 25 the best-selling album in the US of any single week since Nielsen began keeping track of weekly sales in 1991. The hard-won title was previously held by boy band ‘Nsync’s 2000 album No Strings Attached, which claimed 2,416,000 single-week sales.

And 25 isn’t done climbing yet. There are still three days left in the album’s debut week, leading industry experts to predict that the final sales number may reach as high as 3 million. (Its full-week sales will be reported on Nov. 29.) Already, the record had managed to knock out all others as the best-selling album of 2015.

But the wild triumph of the album thus far isn’t only a testament to Adele’s star power—it’s also a stunning example of artist control. Perhaps one reason for the unusually brisk sales is that Adele blocked the record from streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. The singer has effectively forced fans to turn back toward actual album purchases, which generate more dependable profit for artists.

Streaming is popular among users for its low costs and expansive libraries. (Consider the absurdity of this deal on the consumer end: Spotify charges $9.99 a month for unlimited ad-free playback and puts 35 million songs at one’s fingertips, while buying a single album with 12 songs can cost $15.) But streaming is also controversial in the music industry because it affords artists little control and stingy loyalties. And more and more, it’s cutting into both physical album sales and digital downloads.

Adele’s decision to keep her album away from streaming echoes that of Taylor Swift, who last year withheld her album 1989 from Spotify and took the rest of her song catalog with her after accusing the service of not paying artists enough money.

Of course, these artists have enough leverage to release albums on their own terms. As Quartz reported earlier this year, in the age of streaming, most artists are being forced to take a hard look at the way they do business.