In the streaming era, Elton John is arguably more popular than ever.
While he’s no longer a fixture in the singles chart (2005’s Electricity was his last Top 10 hit without an artist collaborator), his classic repertoire has taken up residency in the UK albums chart. With 189,752 sales in 2020, the Diamonds collection (UMC) was the biggest catalogue title from a solo artist last year.
Since its release three years ago, Diamonds has sold 679,846 copies (372,664 from streams) and it finished 2020 in ninth position on the overall albums chart, according to the Official Charts Company. Queen were the only catalogue act above Diamonds with their Greatest Hits (EMI) at No.8 in the biggest sellers of last year.
Elton John has 31,375,467 Spotify monthy listeners, which is helping to maintain consumption for Diamonds. The hits collection is set for another Top 20 finish this week.
Here, Orla Lee-Fisher, EVP of strategic marketing at Universal Music Group International, reveals how Sir Elton John became a streaming star…
How big a global success has Diamonds become?
“It's incredible. It obviously coincided with the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour and also Rocketman, so it's been a pretty incredible journey for the last few years. It still stays in the top of the charts most weeks as well, so it's an ongoing campaign with Diamonds and Elton's catalogue. It's something that we've consistently worked over the last three-and-a-half years. Then there’s the work he does with other artists, such as Gorillaz, and his autobiography coming out in paperback. We're always working at driving the catalogue and driving these great songs.”
Is there a new generation of fans now?
“Definitely. I think at the beginning of the Diamonds release, it was very physical. Then with all the activity that we undertook at that time, and going into Elton's 70th birthday, we had a huge focus on streaming across all our partners. We've continued that relationship that we forged in the last few years. Now it is predominantly a streaming, rather than physical, release. He obviously has his Rocket Hour that he does as part of his Apple Music partnership as well, so we have great relations with them. We just work on positioning and driving the catalogue through DSPs.”
Diamonds is the jewel in the crown and it will be consistently worked alongside all other campaigns that we do
Does it help that Elton John is active in the catalogue campaign?
“He is active! I don't know if there is a busier musician than Elton, he's worked so hard, he tours and he takes an active interest in new music. So to have someone like that, we obviously match it in terms of our staying power on working his catalogue as well.
“For the book [Me, the official autobiography] he appeared on The One Show, and that had a huge effect. The great joy of Elton is that anything he does works across all areas of his catalogue and repertoire. So with the book and the promotion, we work in tandem with all his other activity to complement what he's doing.”
What was the plan for the deluxe Jewel Box collection of rarities?
“Diamonds is the jewel in the crown and it will be consistently worked alongside all other campaigns that we do, so everything drives back to Diamonds. But with the Jewel Box, it was a chance to go back to his core audience. It's a collection of rarities and deep dives, but also when you listen to the songs they're like future classics, even though they pre-date a lot of the Diamonds catalogue. So that's exciting for us to add more into the catalogue for Elton as well.”
What’s in store for Elton John in 2021?
“There will be anniversaries – it’s the 50th anniversary of Madman Across The Water. We're about to enter 50th anniversaires of a lot of Elton's big tracks, we just had Your Song and [in 2021] we've got Tiny Dancer. There are always some big events that would be big for any artist. But for Elton, he's got multiple moments that we work to celebrate.”