Mozart, the best new artist of 1782, outsold Drake and Beyoncé this year

Image: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger
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The music business as we know it is dead. It’s fitting that the final nail in its coffin would be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—the 18th-century composer, long-dead himself—who this month became 2016’s top artist by CD sales.

Mozart owes the win to a boxed set of his music that was released Oct. 28 in celebration of the 225th anniversary of his death and went on to sell 1.25 million CDs in just five weeks. (Drake’s Views took twice that time to edge past 1 million sales, by comparison.) The compilation “is the fruit of years of scholarship, planning, and curation,” according to Universal Music Group.

Of course, as one might suspect, the world has not developed a sudden fervor for a classical era revival. As several music blogs have pointed out, the 1.25 million figure tallied by Billboard technically counts every individual CD sold—and because each of the Mozart box sets contains 200 discs, only about 6,000 people are responsible in total for the composer’s chart-topping success.

But those numbers are telling, nonetheless. Mozart 225 sells for more than $500 on Amazon, meaning there are 6,000 people out there who were willing to shell out half a thousand dollars for a classical compilation; they’re almost certainly niche enthusiasts, similar to the older rock music generation propping up vinyl’s resurgence—and let’s not forget, music artists today are still making more money from vinyl than YouTube.

In a time when the $10-a-month buffet model of digital streaming has become king, the majority of listeners are not spending money on individual albums, especially physical ones.

Mozart enthusiasts may still be committed to paying for music. Kanye fans, on the other hand? Not so much.