Metallica released their self-titled fifth studio album 30 years ago today (August 12.) Affectionately known as “The Black Album,” the LP became a game-changer for the band. It also had a massive impact on the music industry at large thanks to the game-changing technology then known as SoundScan, which celebrated its own 30th birthday on March 1, 2021.
Per a feature piece from Billboard, “SoundScan, which is now known as MRC Data, measured album sales as they happened — stores scanned bar codes at the checkout register — and over the next few months [after its launch] it upended the conventional music business wisdom about what sold, as well as when and how. It revealed the popularity of several genres — alternative rock, country, hip-hop, harder metal — that had been seen as commercially marginal compared to bread-and-butter pop-rock bands.”
Basically, SoundScan provided real-time data of what was actually selling at record stores and other retailers, and it has provided proof of Metallica’s popularity.
How popular are the metal icons? “The Black Album” is the biggest selling record in the United States since the launch of SoundScan.
Metallica, however, has some very unique company on the list of the biggest selling albums of the SoundScan era. Scroll through the gallery below to see which titles join them in the top ten.