While the industry’s gaze has been fixed almost exclusively to the official UK albums and singles charts to see what record Ed Sheeran’s ÷ will break next, the uplift it has given to his previous album releases may have gone unnoticed, despite sales (including streaming sales) of X tipping over the 3 million mark this week.
As of Wednesday, X had shifted 12,411 copies this week alone (including streaming sales), according to the Official Charts Company. Add this figure to X’s 2,991,043 total sales (again, including streaming sales) prior to Wednesday and the total crosses the 3m barrier, even if 3m actual sales remains a way off.
Though X would almost certainly have joined the 3m club eventually, the impact that ÷ has had on its sales since release earlier this month cannot be understated. X was first reactivated when Sheeran's twin singles, Shape Of You and Castle On The Hill were released, stoking demand for a Sheeran album amongst both new fans and old. By the week that ÷ landed on shelves, download stores and streaming platforms, X found itself at No.3 in the official UK albums chart, dropping only one place to No.4 the following week. And according to the midweeks, it looks set to remain in the Top 5 when today’s charts come in.
Of course, the omnipresence of Sheeran in recent weeks has played a significant role in driving sales of his back catalogue releases, but retailers have also been throwing their weight behind his previous albums in a bid to capitalise on the Sheeran Frenzy.
Speaking to Music Week, Andy Healing, senior music buyer at supermarket Sainsbury’s, said that the store has made pains to ensure the momentum surrounding Sheeran in-store lasts as long as possible.
“We have dedicated units on the shop floor set aside deep into week three of the album’s release,” he explained. “We are showcasing not only the new Sheeran album, but also Ed’s two back catalogue titles, which are available as a linksave. This initiative has set us aside from other retailers and sales are very strong as the excitement around everything Ed rolls on."
Despite such initiatives, the revival of X is being powered predominantly by streaming, quite possibly in no small part by people who already own a physical or download copy of the album but have since taken to streaming services. And ÷ hasn’t done badly for Sheeran’s + either, with the album currently residing at No.6 in this week’s albums chart, according to the midweeks. This shows how streaming is opening up complete new avenues for catalogue when a powerful new release spikes interest in an artist.
With Sheeran's now confirmed Glastonbury headline slot likely to provide a timely boost come the summer and the success of ÷ set to run and run, it looks like all three Sheeran albums could be permanent fixtures on the charts for many weeks to come...