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Adele Didn't Need Streaming Services to Break the Charts, but Everyone Else Probably Will

The queen of music.

The Tonight Show via YouTube

Hello, music business. It’s Adele!

Nielsen Music released its weekly album sales tracker on Saturday and, as expected, the debut week for Adele’s “25” shattered all records, selling 3.38 million actual physical copies, the most since Nielsen began tracking point-of-sale purchases in 1991. Adele’s touchstone was accomplished without the aid of streaming services, where Adele and her label (XL Recordings) refused to put her album.

The previous single-week album sales record was set by Nsync in 2000*. That was pre-Napster, before Rhapsody and Spotify and Apple Music. At a surface look, the success of “25” without being available for streaming — and maybe because of it — could be a harbinger for more musicians refusing to cater to streaming services.

Probably not, though. Adele, along with fellow pop triumph Taylor Swift, can only get away with this because she is Adele. Here is my colleague Peter Kafka driving the point home earlier this week:

If you still insist on looking for lessons, you might head in this direction: We live in a pop music, track-and-hook world, but Adele lives in her own world, and it turns out lots of other people do, too. And an educated hunch is that many of those people are women, and/or older* than the people who camp out at Spotify and YouTube, and many of those people are happy to pay for a thing they like if it is convenient, which buying songs from iTunes (or even at an actual store!) can be.

With the inaugural week sales of “25,” Adele also topped Swift for best-selling record of 2015. Swift’s “1989,” which is not on Spotify but landed (eventually) on Apple Music, has sold 1.8 million copies.

* Despite the fact that in the same year both D’Angelo’s “Voodoo” and Radiohead’s “Kid A,” two of the greatest albums ever, also came out.

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