By, Wendy Day
I’m loving the new music business. My clients are having fun, building their fan bases directly, and making money. What’s not to love?!
As a student of the industry, never before have we had so much access to data and research (I used to put out music based on my feelings and my gut–now I do it based on research and example) and so many larger, established artists willing to try new things and share results. Sure, there’s still the media spin that the egos at the labels put on everything to make themselves look good, but that hasn’t changed and I learned to decipher and look past that decades ago. What a time to be alive!!
I am fascinated by the Beyoncé and Drake releases of late. First of all, dropping projects with a short lead time (a week or less) is exciting in this “I want it now” era. Waiting is for chumps, always has been. LoL. Secondly, America’s Dreamgirl dropped her project not only with an hour long film/art project in tow, but apparently as a way to work out some emotional issues she had plaguing her (plaguing means ‘tormenting’ in this instance) which set off a shit storm of speculation, accusations and funny memes to replace our then-current obsession of memes clowning a man desperate for “Respeck on his name.” (For the record, I’m both done and finished with that). And lastly, these releases tried some new things that we info junkies were quick to watch as Bey and Drake dropped projects a week apart:
- fans had to purchase the whole Drake album as a bundle (except the previously released singles One Dance and Hotline Bling) for $13.99
- speaking of those previously released singles, their sales and streaming history if added to Drake’s first week sales would guarantee him a Number 1 release long before the first download was ever made on release day
- Drake, the number 1 streamed artist on Spotify in 2015, was giving his exclusive release to Apple (iTunes and Apple Music) for a week before anyone else
- Beyoncé, all marriage and infidelity angst aside, was allowing an exclusive week on Tidal for her first week of availability (do I need to point out her potential heartbreaker is the largest shareholder in Tidal and that she also owns a share in Tidal?)
- Queen Bey’s release was selling for $17.99 on iTunes (after Tidal’s exclusive streaming week) together with the film, but fans could purchase each track separately
As background for this analysis, in 2015, music overall was purchased (not consumed, because this doesn’t take radio or Pandora into consideration) 29% by CDs, 34% via streaming, and 34% by digital download (the remaining 3% of music revenues were sync fees). Drake was the #1 streamed artist on Spotify with 46 million listeners in 2015. That’s approximately half of all of the worldwide Spotify listeners jamming the Canadian rapper. The rumor is that this exclusivity was part of the $19 million agreement signed with Apple last summer that brought us the Hot Line Bling video, the comedic Super Bowl commercial, Drake’s OVO station on Apple Music, etc.
According to Nielsen, in the U.S., Beyonce’s Lemonade, debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 album consumption chart with 485,000 albums sold, over 900,000 digital track downloads, and 115 million on-demand audio streams.
On April 29, Beyonce’s Lemonade was the biggest album of the year so far in the US. Then, 24 hours later, Drake’s Views (previously ‘Views From The 6’) had surpassed Lemonade’s entire week-one album download figure, with around 600,000 sales. Drake’s views alone made $8 million in a day.
According to Music Business Worldwide, label sources confirmed that Views sold 600,000 on iTunes in 24 hours while moving around 630K album equivalents when streaming and song sales were folded in, just in the US alone. That’s about $8.4 million just in day one iTunes US download sales. BuzzAngle, the new and highly regarded market monitor, put first day sales in the US at 582,289 album equivalents, which includes 574,604 actual album downloads, 48,188 single download sales, and 54.3 million streams. No matter whose tracking we go by, that’s not a bad Friday at all, plus it looks like Drake now holds the highest first week streaming record in the US.
BuzzAngle shows a first week total for Lemonade in the US of 656,484 album equivalents, which includes 489k actual album downloads, 908k single download sales, and 115.5m streams.
Drake’s Views sold more copies on iTunes in its opening day in the US (575k) than Lemonade managed in a week (489k). Streaming-wise, Lemonade enjoyed 115.5m streams on TIDAL last week, while Views clocked 139.3m just in its first 2 days at Apple Music (Tidal has only a third to half as many subscribers as Apple Music).
It will continue to be interesting to see how the sales and streams progress on these two releases that had differing plans. Beyonce’s album released in tandem with an hour-long HBO airing of the Lemonade art film (I smell awards in its future) and a US tour that began immediately. Drake’s Tour (with Future) follows this summer. But what they both have done with their releases is force early adopter fans to consume their releases in ways they normally may not have chosen to embrace it: Beyonce with a week of streaming on upstart Tidal, and Drake with a bundled album for $14 that was only found on iTunes and Apple Music for the first week.
It appears to me that not only did the artists win financially, but so did their respective labels, Apple, and Tidal. I’m guessing both streaming services picked up some new subscribers who wanted immediate gratification via that first week exclusivity deal. My guess is that we will see Spotify making some of their own exclusivity plays relatively soon even though they own the largest share of the streaming marketplace, by far. And, provided the fans could wait a week without feeling dissed, they could then consume the music in any format they choose. I believe the fans (consumers) drive this business, not the artists, labels, or formats, so one thing I am sure about: the fans will have the last say in all of this.
According to BuzzAngle, the songs from Views streamed 247.9m times from April 29 through May 5 in the US. This is a little more than double Beyonce’s Lemonade at 115.5m streams the week before which was the record holder for streaming at that time.
The vast majority of the Drake first week streams would have taken place on Apple Music, where Views was exclusive, but would also have included the 3 singles (One Dance, Pop Style and Hotline Bling) available on other services including Spotify.
Views sold 851,670 in its first week according to BuzzAngle, and it appears Apple Music has the worldwide streaming exclusive of Views for another week. On May 13, other music services should begin streaming/selling Views.