Just because you happen to be the biggest band in the world does not guarantee your latest album will sell in the millions and become successful. Even bands like Velvet Underground found that their debut album only sold 10,000 copies.
Most bands would love to be considered influential or critically acclaimed but just because an album gets such a status is certainly no promise that it will sell well.
The albums below were all critically acclaimed and considered ground breaking either when they were released or at a later stage but none of them were considered commercially successful. In fact all of them failed to meet sales expectations and were considered commercial and financial bombs.
Nirvana – In Utero (1993)
When Nirvana released their eagerly anticipated ‘In Utero’ album they were considered to be one of the biggest bands in the world. It is hard to imagine any album that Nirvana released could ever be a commercial bomb but ‘In Utero’, even though it sold 3 million copies, was considered to be a huge commercial flop.
The reason behind ‘In Utero’ gaining the label of commercial bomb was down to the simple fact it was following some pretty tough competition. That competition was the hugely successful Nirvana album by the name of Nevermind which sold a whopping 10 million copies.
When Nirvana released Nevermind they were relatively unknown and very little money was spent on promoting the album. It went on to change the musical landscape forever and introduced grunge to the world.
Nirvana hired top producer Steve Albini for their ‘In Utero’ album and even used Scott Litt (another top producer) to make sure the album sounded more commercially palatable. No doubt these two producers were well paid for their services but regardless of this, the extra money spent on promoting the album and media hype surrounding it, the album fell dramatically short of sale expectations.
Despite very weak sales ‘In Utero’ is still considered by many people to be one of the greatest albums ever and constantly pops up on top 10 lists everywhere.
Smashing Pumpkins – Adore (1998)
When the Smashing Pumpkins managed to sell more than ten million copies of their album ‘Mellon Collie and the infamous Sadness’ it was obvious that expectations were going to be high for their next album.
Unfortunately for all of those people hoping to make big bucks from the next Smashing Pumpkins album the sales did not come anywhere close. Although Smashing Pumpkins ‘Adore’ album was considered a commercial bomb what it lacked in the sales department it certainly made up for in critical acclaim. In fact ‘Adore’ pretty much received brilliant reviews from anyone who heard it.
There are lots of people out there who consider the My Bloody Valentine album ‘Loveless’ is the most influential albums to come out of the 1990’s. The album took two years to complete along with the use of 19 different recording studios and approximately a $500,000 budget. The album nearly bankrupted Creation Records while it was being recorded so you can imagine the disappointment when the album bombed commercially.
Very few copies of the album were sold and as a result Creation Records dropped My Bloody Valentine from their label. Despite very weak sales the album received near-universal praise upon its release but due to the poor sales we are still waiting today for a follow-up album.
U2 – Zooropa (1993)
Nearly every album that band U2 has ever released has turned into commercial gold for all involved. It was therefore a huge surprise when U2 released ‘Zooropa’ and sales were nearly non-existent.
The album was considered experemental featuring various digital sound effects, audio loops, gated guitars and synths and was well received by critics. ‘Zooropa’ is a great example that shows just because the critics love your work is not a golden ticket to great album sales.
Weezer – Pinkerton (1996)
If you were to look up the phrase ‘sales disaster’ there is a good chance that you will find a picture of Weezer’s album ‘Pinkerton’.
‘Pinkerton’ was released in 1996 and debuted at number 19 in the charts and quickly dropped from there churning out three totally ignored singles in the process. Just like their debut album ‘Pinkerton’ was to fall well short of any expectations and received very mixed reviews. It was only the test of time that went in its favour as over the years it has gained somewhat of a cult classic status.