Sit down for this bombshell: Adele’s new album ’25’ is quite popular.
The album sold 900k copies in the US on iTunes alone in its first day on sale, and reportedly passed the 1.9m overall sales mark there after two days, with Billboard’s prediction of 2.5m first-week sales possibly needing a revision early this week.
In the UK, meanwhile, ’25’ sold more than 300k copies in its first day, behind only Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now’ in first-day album sales in UK chart history.
There’s some smart analysis of What It All Means from Kobalt Label Services’ David Emery, who worked on Adele’s last album ’21’ when he was at Beggars Group. He notes that ’25’ is running counter to several of the familiar claims about the modern music industry, including the death of the CD.
But also the notion that an album can’t be a success if it’s not available to stream. “I think holding back 25 from streaming services is exactly the right thing to do (which is ironic, as I argued against the exact same thing on 21 when I was working it),” wrote Emery in a blog post this weekend.
“This is a rare (but not totally unique) case of mass cultural impact where people are truly engaged and connected to a release. The Adele record does not need to be on streaming services for people to hear it, and if it isn’t there people will search it out. Sure, some people will turn to piracy but that’s just not a mass market activity in music anymore.”
But just as interesting is Emery’s suggestion that a number of artists will follow Adele’s non-streaming strategy with their upcoming albums – and find that it is a mistake.
“Unlike film though, which enjoys the luxury of an event-based form of windowing in the form of cinema which enforces how people first can see most movies, music by and large is governed by how you, as a fan, listen. It’s extremely difficult to push people to break with how they listen to music, just for the sake of one record,” he wrote.
As we wrote last week, Adele is one of the outliers in the current music industry, alongside Taylor Swift (who held back her last album ‘1989’).
In both cases, the strategy undeniably worked, but as an argument for wider windowing should be considered alongside the likes of One Direction, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, whose albums were released on stores and streaming services at the same time.
Big artists still get big sales, but isolating any one as ‘the’ model to copy is a risk.