Arcade Fire Sell Nearly Half A Million Records in 2010, Will Perform at the Grammys


“The whole chart thing is kind of like sports,” said an unimpressed Merge label chief Laura Ballance, back when Arcade Fire hit #1 on the Billboard charts. That may well be true. But if selling records is like sports, Arcade Fire are weirdly good at it, considering they’re a bunch of spindly indie-rockers with weird haircuts in marching band clothing. For one, the Grammys just announced that, following up on the band’s nomination for album of the year (where they’ll go up against Eminem, Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum, and Lady Gaga), they’ve invited the band to perform at the ceremony, which takes place early next month. As long as they keep the Jonas Brothers offstage while this happens, this should be a wonderful moment. For another thing, it turns out the band’s #1 debut was a harbinger of a very respectable sales year. From Eric Harvey’s rundown of sales numbers for Pitchfork’s 2010 top 50 albums:

25 Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz (100,405)
24 Hot Chip – One Life Stand (~30k)
22 Girls – Broken Dreams Club EP (10,266)
21 The Walkmen – Lisbon (39,159)
18 Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh (~300k)
17 Caribou – Swim (33,803)
16 Sleigh Bells – Treats (94,478)
15 Robyn – Body Talk (23,869)
14 Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (33,574)
13 No Age – Everything In Between (13,802)
12 Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid (129,152)
11 Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (459,083)
10 Titus Andronicus – The Monitor (26,090)
09 Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today (25,942)
08 James Blake – The Bells Sketch EP / CMYK EP / Klavierwerke EP (511/4,091/na)
07 Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (48,754)
06 Vampire Weekend – Contra (454,914)
05 Beach House – Teen Dream (104,217)
04 Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (208,747)
03 Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (59,879)
02 LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (126,288)
01 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (915,391)

That’s the top 25; Harvey goes all the way to 50 at his site. Arcade Fire sold a very respectable 459,083 copies of The Suburbs in 2010, a mark that is, for instance, only about a 100K shy of Rick Ross’s numbers for Teflon Don. There are other interesting facets of this list–we’ve spent a lot of time this morning wondering at the relative numbers of Titus Andronicus as compared to Sufjan Stevens, for instance. But mostly, it seems to confirm the thing we’ve been going on about for a while now: indie-rock, at its most commercially viable, high-profile, Colbert Report-guesting end, anyway, is as much part of the national conversation as guys like Big Boi and Ross at this point. Even Kanye only sold about twice what Vampire Weekend did. Expect that gap to narrow even more in 2011–if anybody sells any records at all, that is.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 13, 2011

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