I saw a thread recently asking about a release strategy and posing the question ‘are albums a waste of good songs in the age of streaming?’ It’s a great question, here are my thoughts.
On average it takes about 60k album sales in 1 week to get to number 1 on the UK album chart, whereas for singles it’s more like 100k to hit the top spot. Although there’s obviously a gap, it’s not huge. People listen to both. So maybe it’s not about the format, it’s about the marketing.
Liam Gallagher’s latest album As You Were is a great example. Two singles were released first; Wall Of Glass peaked at number 21 thanks in part to his performance at One Love in Manchester (it only entered the chart at no. 60), and Chinatown only made it to number 56 despite it having a very popular video with over 2 million hits. Not great, but ok, and functional. But here’s where it wins, having a track out there gives you a fantastic opportunity to talk about the upcoming album.
Remember that Oasis were at one point the biggest band on the planet — Be Here Now sold over 424,000 copies on its first day alone and became the fastest-selling album in British chart history, a record that still stands 20 years later. Liam Gallagher’s fans are now in their 30s, 40s and 50s, they aren’t buying singles, but he needs a way to tell them there’s an album on the way.
As You Were included a truly massive PR effort, aided in no small part by the singles acting as a reference point for the upcoming album and giving Liam Gallagher an excuse to appear everywhere. Each single generated airplay and interviews that beamed Liam Gallaghers face, voice, and music into the homes of half the country, including Oasis fans. Announcements about Oasis tracks being played on the tour helped the hype, a few headline grabbing tweets gave him more of a boost, and just to make sure Gallagher even said he’d like to make up with his brother triggering “oh my god, are Oasis reforming?” posts everywhere.
Soon the narrative pedaled by the press was that real rock is back again, and that LG has saved the world with this truly incredible album. As You Were debuted at number 1 in its first week outselling the rest of the top 10 of the UK Albums Chart combined.
So what can we learn from all of this?
Firstly that marketing is everything. As You Were is well written and produced nicely, but it’s probably not the masterpiece the press have made it out to be. It sold well because it was marketed well and to the right people. We don’t all have the potential pulling power of Liam Gallagher, but you have to remember that Beady Eye (Oasis without Noel) sold less albums in their entire career than As You Were sold in its first week. The difference is the marketing.
Secondly, Singles, Eps and Albums all have their place, and most independent artists will need a combination to really get anywhere. Liam Gallagher’s team knew how to use singles to sell albums. You can only find that out what works for you by researching your audience, putting together a marketing campaign, measuring the results, and taking what you’ve learned into the next release.
Whatever format your next release takes, good luck with it!
Originally published on gigride.live in Nov 2017.