Posts filed under “Mathematics”
No, Michael Jackson did not sell 750 million albums.
A funny thing happened to Michael Jackson’s sales figures over the past few years: They seemed to have more than tripled:
“In the last three years of his life, long after the release of his final original album, Michael Jackson’s career album sales took a curious leap.
For many years, Mr. Jackson’s lifetime sales tally typically was reported at 200 million albums world-wide. But in late 2006, news articles began putting the number at 750 million, a figure that became part of the popular lore as Mr. Jackson was attempting a comeback. In the last few weeks, it has popped up in obituaries and retrospectives.
So how did the sales figure nearly quadruple? A likely explanation is that a rough tally of individual songs was misinterpreted or misrepresented to reflect album sales. Such a numerical misstep is surprisingly easy to make in the world of album sales figures, where reliable information is spotty in the U.S., and often nonexistent overseas.”
Several fans actually did the heavy lifting of totaling official sales data, country by country. Lau Ho Hoi in Hong Kong noted on the music blog Hitsville that MJ sold 131.5 million albums world-wide, and 65.6 million singles. The total doesn’t include digital downloads, which have taken off for Mr. Jackson since his death. Guillaume Vieira, a Paris engineer, puts the totals at 205.5 million albums.
Neither fan is remotely close to 3/4 of a billion sales.
So how did that number come about? There is a simple explanation: A Publicist made up the 750 million number!
I kid you not:
“That figure first got legs in late 2006, when Raymone Bain, a publicist for Mr. Jackson at the time, touted in a letter to Jackson fan clubs that sales had “exceeded over 750 million units.”
The WSJ article generously spins the error as a misinterpretation of songs sold versus albums — but that’s giving a PR flack way too much credit. Those of us who earn our living in the economic trenches deciphering PR spin know a good bullshit tale when we see one. 750 million albums sure as hell qualifies!
Spun: The Off-the-Wall Accounting of Record Sales
WSJ, July 15, 2009
Encouraging comments from SEC chair Mary Schapiro: “The Securities and Exchange Commission has created a new group of examiners to oversee credit rating agencies, which came under sharp criticism for their role during the financial crisis. The SEC has already adopted a number of measures to increase transparency at credit rating agencies, which are paid…Read More
Look, let’s not beat around the bush: Wall Street economists, as a group, well, they suck. Most of them did not see the crisis coming; many were deep in denial about the recession long after it started. They missed the housing boom and bust, the credit crisis. They continued to see phantom bottoms and false…Read More
There has been a lot of recent chatter along the lines of Bill Miller is back in the WSJ, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg, etc. This turns out to be a simple case of bad mathematical analysis — like declaring Fannie Mae (FNM), AIG or Citibank (C) buy & hold owners were back because they were…Read More
Michael (Jeff Goldblum): I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex. Sam (Tom Berenger): Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex. Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization? -The Big Chill > You can never underestimate the absurdity…Read More
In college, I was pretty blown away by this book. So when I stumbled across the MIT openware course on Douglas Hofstadter’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, I just had to share it: Here’s the MIT course description: What do one mathematician, one artist, and one musician all have in…Read More
The good news is that Housing Starts and Building Permits each increased for the month of May. And in a statistical shocker, the monthly gains for May 2009 were (surprisingly) greater than the margin of error for both Starts at 17.2% (±14.4%) and Permits at 4.0% (±1.7%) over April. The stunning news was the 45.2%…Read More
Today’s must read article is a front page NYT story by David Leonhardt. It looks at the process by which boom time surpluses were turned into boom time deficits, and then even greater crash deficits. The two economic takeaways from the piece fits into some of the nonsense I have been criticizing here: 1) President…Read More
Interesting article about bringing “Wall Street-like analysis” to the advertising industry. That unfortunate choice of words does not mean what it appears to at first blush. By “Wall Street-like analysis,” I do not believe the writer meant to imply that 1) the analysis was conflicted, 2) there was in inherent bias in it; 3) the…Read More