Adele's record breaking week with 25 explained

It's been a week which will go down in UK music history...

We’re used to Adele shattering records. Her last album 21 virtually has a page in the history books all to itself, after all.

But 25 is living up to all the expectation raised by that famous album, at the end of a week in which it has generated more numbers than your average bingo hall on a Friday night.

When 25 was finally released last Friday (November 20), expectation was already high for Adele’s third studio album. But in the past seven days it has not only matched those expectations, it has smashed them to pieces.

A short overview of its achievements makes staggering reading:

  • The biggest selling UK Number 1 album of all-time - 800,307 sold.
  • The most album downloads in a week, with 252,000 sold - more than double the previous record.
  • Represented 46% of the total albums market on its first day on sale.
  • The second biggest one day total in history.
  • The second biggest one week sales total in history.

It has certainly been a week which will go down in UK music history. Consider that 800,307 figure. Never has a Number 1 album been able to claim such a tally, in the history of British music.

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25 arrived last Friday (November 20) to huge acclaim - a TV special, Adele At The BBC, drew an audience of 4.5m viewers on Friday night. The massive profile for the album helped push the record to an opening sales total of 313,000 copies.

That is a remarkable number by any standards – a one-day total second only to the 424,000 notched by Oasis’s Be Here Now in August 1997, it means 25 accounted for 46% of the entire market on its day of release and gave 25 the biggest one-week sales total in one day. It is worth noting that barely 20 albums have sold more in an entire week (let alone one day) since 2000.

It was also new territory for Adele herself, whose 21 album sold 208,000 in its first week in January 2011 and peaked with 258,000 sales in its 10th week on sale. In turn, her debut 19 sold 73,000 copies in its first week on release in February 2008, a total which it never again matched.

By the end of the weekend, 25 had passed the half-a-million mark, with around 540,000 copies sold – putting it ahead of Take That’s Progress, which previously notched the second biggest album sales total of all time with 519,000 units in August 2005.  

As each day passed, 25’s total increased, adding between 50,000 and 70,000 sales every day – before arriving at 800,307 after seven day’s sales have been tallied.

To put it into context, that is more than the rest of the Top 75 combined this week (the next 86 albums, to be precise) AND more than the last 19 Number 1 albums combined in the UK.

Of course, it has also achieved these totals without any album streams (which started counting towards the Official Albums Chart back in February) – although its download sales are enormous. Some 252,423 (32%) of its first week sales have come as album downloads, compared to 548,000 physical albums (68%) – on average, the rest of the week’s top album sales were split 78% physical and 22% digital (13% downloads and 9% streams).

To put that 252,423 download sales total in context, no album had previously sold more than 100,000 downloads in a week before. The previous record was held Ed Sheeran’s X, which sold 95,709 album bundles in Summer 2014. Incredible.

Those physical sales break down as 543,000 CDs and 5,000 vinyls - in contrast, when be Here Now set its own record in 1997, it sold 621,000 CDs (89%), 66,000 cassettes (9%) and 7,600 vinyls (1%).

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Of course, all of this is only the beginning. The biggest selling studio album of all time is The Beatles’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on 5.1 million copies, followed by Adele’s own 21 on 4.8 million.

There is a long way to go until such records are even vaguely threatened, of course. But there will immediately be new records in 25’s sights will be the first 10 day record of 933,000 sales and the 1 million speed record of 17 days, both set by Be Here Now in 1997.

Over the next few days we will see if Adele can cement a few more places in the history books. Who would bet against her?