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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Is Adele saving the music industry?


Written by Sue Murphy — There are few artists who have managed to succeed in ensuring their records, and we mean records, are paid for with hard-earned cash.

Interestingly, over the last few years the artists who have managed to command this influence on music have mostly been women; Taylor Swift kept her music off Spotify and sold quite a number of albums in the process. Similarly, Beyoncé delayed the release of her album on Spotify choosing instead an exclusive paid release on Apple. Some of her videos were only released on to Jay Z's Tidal.

Did they still manage to sell albums? Absolutely.

Swift sold five million copies of 1989 by July of this year, the first time this figure was reached since 2004 while Beyoncé's self-titled album became the fastest ever-selling on Apple.

Adele, however, is in a entirely different league. Her last album 21 sold a massive 11 million copies and yet the British songstress refuses to become the typical music industry dream.

In the past, as Rolling Stone pointed out, she cancelled a US tour and also stays away from social channels like Twitter and Instagram, dominated by the likes of Swift and Rihanna. Despite other artists lining up to work with her, she has never recorded a duet.

However, Adele has something which other artists would beg all the live long day for; universal appeal. Everyone can relate to something from one of Adele's songs, whether it be falling in love, breaking up or just growing up in general. She even wrote a Bond song and won an Oscar for it. This appeal in turn creates access to a market of people who are willing to buy her album without downloading it.

So if the most universally appealing pop star can command this presence and interest, will she save the music industry?

The answer is, probably not. The music industry is in flux with artists braving the Spotify and Apple Music elements in order to just make people aware of their product. Mark Mulligan, a music industry analyst for MIDiA Research, told CBC that rather than saving the industry, Adele is just really delaying the inevitable.

"There might be one or two more, but we're seeing the last days of the music album," he said. "They're not going to disappear as a creative construct and they're not going to disappear as a consumption format, but as a mainstream sales vehicle, those days are definitely numbered."

On top of that, it's hard to see if 25 will have the same staying power as 21, an album which smashed records, taking the top spot for year-long album sales, a feat not reached since Michael Jackson's Thriller. Vulture have pointed out that even if she was to top the success of her last album, it might not be for years and hardly any other artists have been able to achieve this coveted prize anyway. Take Alanis Morisette for example, Jagged Little Pill was hugely successful selling 15 million copies in the US. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie? Not so much. About a fifth of that, in fact.

However, Adele is most certainly part of the new revolution.

Her debut single from her third album, Hello, sold a whopping one million digital tracks in its first week, the first song ever to do so. In a time when the music industry is considered under threat, Adele continues to command the sales of both her online product and actual cds. CDs!

On November 20th, she will release her third studio album, conveniently in the run up to Christmas, an album expected to sell 1.8 million copies within its first week, according to Billboard.

There's no doubt about it, convincing anyone to hand over their hard-earned cash is a struggle but a woman who actively shuns the social media-saturated, image-focused music industry is continuing to dominate the proceedings... and she's being smart about it. By appealing to many, she ensures her legacy and that's the important thing where artists are concerned. How else would Madonna have a career?

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