Remember when buying and receiving iTunes gift cards was useful? Whether they were for stocking stuffers or Secret Santa gifts, $10 on an iTunes gift card could get you a whole album. However, those days are old news. These days, a majority of avid music listeners are subscribed to Spotify premium or loyal streamers on SoundCloud. Let’s not forget about Pandora or Apple Music users either. The age of digital streaming is certainly having a moment.
Last Friday November 20th an artist made a risky decision to keep her album from any streaming service. That’s right. You can’t find it anywhere except in their jewel CD cases and via mp3 download on services like iTunes. Spotify has a disclaimer stating, “The artist or their representatives have decided not to release this album on Spotify just yet. We’re working on it, and hope we can change their minds soon.”
On Friday November 13th, Justin Bieber promptly released his highly anticipated album, “Purpose” on Spotify at midnight. With viral chart toppers and viral videos for “Sorry” and “What Do U Mean?” Bieber was able to sell over 161,000 copies of his album in two weeks.
That’s a lot considering he released his work on streaming services too, right? Maybe.
Well… in just one week, Adele sold over 3.4 million albums.
3.4 million albums
If your jaw dropped when first hearing this news, you’re not alone. It’s been a while since anyone has sold this many albums in one week. How long you might ask? Adele broke N*Sync’s record, “No Strings Attached” – an album that was released over two decades ago in 1991. It’s been almost 15 years since anyone has sold 3 million albums. Back in the 90s, N*Sync certainly did not have social media to guide the promotion of their album either. What helped Adele rise to the top of the sales charts this past week?
Her marketing strategy began with one commercial aired during X-Factor. In a matter of 30 seconds, the first few lines of her song flashed across the TV screen. The next minute, social media blew up. People questioned, was the queen back for her throne from a four-year hiatus?
In a matter of no time at all, the music video for “Hello” was released – a music video that garnered just as much attention from social media as her mysterious commercial. One of the reactions was the explosion of gifs and memes created as a result of this video, while the other reaction was towards the fact that Adele used a flip phone in the video. Adele was everywhere.
Social media might have given Adele a boost, but it certainly was not the sole reason for selling over 3 million records. In addition to getting widespread attention over social media, Adele and her team had the help of other tools.
The strategy involves withholding certain forms of distribution to encourage consumers to pay for a more expensive version first: Think of a movie maker waiting to release a DVD or put a film on Netflix, or a book publisher putting out a paperback several months to a year after a hard cover is released. (via Fortune)
It doesn’t always work, but with only releasing one single and one video, then keeping her album away from YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music, Adele fans had no choice but to turn to purchasing the album and they were willing to purchase it too.
A Wide Fan Base – 11 million people bought Adele’s sophomore release, “21”. She has fans far and wide. It’s no doubt that a bulk of these fans contributed to the response on social media.
Star Power – Let’s be real. No artist today has the power that Adele has, besides maybe Taylor Swift. She has so much influence over her fans, which made her record-breaking sales possible.
Could this change the future of music, social media, and music streaming? Probably not. Realistically, Adele is the one artist that can truly accomplish selling over 3.4 million albums in one week compared to artists that have equally crazed fans like Justin Bieber and One Direction — two artists who barely even sold a quarter of a million records in a week. However, it’s captivating to observe how one artist can defy “the norm” of inbound marketing or social media marketing and accomplish what no one else has been able to in over two decades.