by Frank Lewis
This week’s cover story about Kate Voegele identified her as “the best-selling locally spawned artist” of recent vintage, based on sales of 2008’s Don’t Look Away LP, her full-length debut. It should have identified her as the best-selling solo artist. She’s moved close to 300,000 albums to date.
The Black Keys have sold 671,000 records, between five LPs and one EP. The Keys’ recent live DVD has sold another 14,000 copies. Last year’s Danger Mouse-produced Attack and Release continues moving briskly, and is on track to break 174,000 by next week, according to figures Nielsen SoundScan provided Wednesday, May 27.
So the Black Keys are the best-selling locally based band. But Kate is way cuter. And Voegele’s new sophomore LP, A Fine Mess, has sold 38,000 since its release last week. The big numbers landed her at no. 10 on the Billboard album chart. The disc also topped the iTunes pop album chart.
All that reconciling words and figures prompted us to crunch some numbers and try to get a grip on who are the top-selling acts to come out of Cleveland in the last couple decades.
Metal heroes Chimaira have moved just over 400,000 units, combined, of their five albums. The band’s well-received new release, The Infection, has sold 28,000 copies so far. It moved 15,000 its first week out, bringing the band to no. 30 on the Billboard album chart, which was the group’s strongest showing ever.
Mushroomhead’s best-selling LP has outperformed Voegele’s. The band’s top seller is the comp XX, which culls tracks from the group’s first three albums. SoundScan reports its sales as 263,000, though previous reports claim it exceeded 300,000. Counting six proper albums (depending how you count reissues and comps), the masked metal commandos have sold a hair under 600,000 albums, according to the official books. Savior Sorrow, their most recent LP, has moved 95,000 copies.
Those figures account for Northeast Ohio’s top acts of the contemporary era. Most of the albums arrived during the digital age, which has seen sales dwindle dramatically. Whether due to technology, tastes, art, marketing, or starpower, Cleveland’s brightest lights of today haven’t come close to the previous generation.
R&B/soul singer Gerald Levert’s two most popular solo albums were Private Line and Love & Consequences. According to SoundScan, they’ve moved 705,000 and 839,000, respectively. According to the RIAA — that’s the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group that represents the U.S. music biz — both have been certified platinum, unlike his pop smashes with the group Levert. Gold refers to 500,000, and platinum means a mill.
Combined, the two biggest albums by Nine Inch Nails and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are in a heat, with Bone on top. Fueled by the smash single “Crossroads,” Bone Thugs’ 1995 breakout E 1999 Eternal moved 5.13 million copies, says SoundScan. Its follow-up, 1997’s The Art of War, moved 1.6 million, though both are certified quadruple-platinum, according to the RIAA database.
SoundScan says Nine Inch Nails’ debut, Pretty Hate Machine, has moved 3.07 million. The second NIN full-length, the band’s bestseller, has moved 3.39 copies, and is certified quadruple-platinum.
RIAA certifications acknowledge units shipped, not necessarily sold. Which is just one more reason to be skeptical about any kind of quick superlative qualifications. So in summary: Bone Thugs still own Cleveland. Since then, no. 1, Black Keys. No. 2, Mushroomhead. No. 3, Chimaira. No. 4, Kate Voegele. We’ll let you know when they start approaching Bone-NIN-Levert numbers. — D.X. Ferris