A fanzine writer once observed that sometimes a copy of a copy can be better than the original. But when it comes to pop music, where originality is about as prized as diversity, the real question is whether a copy of a copy can sell better than the original (or its copy). Certainly, to look at the progression from the Lawrence Welk Hotsy-Totsy Boys to the Bee Gees to Hanson is to understand that quality doesn’t vary much in aural ready-mades. Quantity of sales, however, does:

Jackson 5
1 million
New Edition
2 million
Backstreet Boys
1 million
Rolling Stones*(’60s-’70s)
6 million
Rolling Stones*(’80s)
4 million
Rolling Stones*(’90s)
2 million
Barbara Streisand
5 million
Whitney Houston
16 million
Celine Dion
9 million
Velvet Underground
Galaxie 500*
The Beatles
16 million
The Monkees
5 million
4 million
Led Zeppelin
16 million
5 million
Pearl Jam
10 million

Research by Tracy Hamilton and Katie Isenberg. Figures reflect sales of best-selling album.
*Indicates that bands share actual genetic makeup or members.


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