Adele’s new album “25” debuted at No. 1 with the most sales in a week since Nielsen began tracking point-of-sale purchases back in 1991.
People in the music industry are certainly excited, but the marketing machine that is Adele might not work for all artists. Adele is an anomaly, said Cara Duckworth Weiblinger of the Recording Industry Association of America.
“She chose to withhold her music from on-demand streaming services like Spotify, Rhapsody and Deezer,” except for the main album single, Weiblinger said. Adele and her U.S. label, Sony, can do that because of the unique leverage offered by the fact Adele’s last album, “21,” sold 11 million copies.
“That means that Sony and Adele have the flexibility to be essentially market makers,” said music industry consultant Eric Blackerby. “They can go into a situation and dictate the rules.”
Blackerby and Weiblinger said this kind of power is only reserved for the biggest of superstars: Adele, along with performers like Taylor Swift and Beyonce. Adele had the additional benefit of a long absence that drove fans crazy. Teasers on music reality shows and late-night television pushed fans to into the arms of big-box stores like Target.
“It has been sort of accepted wisdom since the turn of the millennium that a first-week record that does north of 2.1 or 2.2. million units is a thing of the past,” he said. “It’s something that of course we would love to see again, but we all knew that we never would see it again in our lifetimes.”
Gigi Johnson, director of UCLA’s Center for Music Innovation, said of the 3 million copies sold in the first week: “To get this number, to get this volume, you’re getting to the ‘not usual music buyer.’”
Adele appeals to just about every demographic, she said, even among people who typically prefer to stream music.
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