Five years after the passing of David Bowie, his music continues to resonate with long-term fans and a new generation on streaming services.
As Warner Music’s catalogue division Rhino continues its David Bowie campaign in 2021, Music Week has spoken to director of catalogue marketing Stuart Wheeley about the enduring appeal of the iconic artist. The label will be marking further anniversaries for Bowie in the months ahead.
According to Music Week research based on Official Charts Company data, David Bowie sold 282,300 albums in the UK in 2020 across classic catalogue, reissues on vinyl and CD, and new releases targeted at the fanbase.
A coloured vinyl 45th anniversary edition of Station To Station is the latest Bowie album to make a chart impact. The 1976 LP is chasing a Top 20 finish this week.
David Bowie’s posthumous collection Legacy led the way in 2020 with sales last year of 109,359 (85,230 from streams and 19,087 physical copies). It was at No.35 in the year's overall album sales. Legacy has sales to date of 587,824 (including 272,733 from streams) and is helping to drive DSP consumption for Bowie, who has 15,632,767 monthly Spotify listeners.
Legacy returned to the Top 20 earlier this month as the BBC marked the fifth anniversary of David Bowie’s death with a simulcast tribute on BBC Radio 6 Music and Radio 4.
As well as physical sales for new Bowie product, such as the retitled edition of The Man Who Sold The World, his classic albums are performing consistently well on DSPs.
The biggest-selling David Bowie studio album last year was The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972), which moved 23,725 copies (13,470 from streams and 9,372 physical). It has post-1994 OCC sales of 680,150.
Hunky Dory (1971) was the second biggest studio album of 2020 for Bowie, with sales of 14,561 (and post-1994 sales of 519,094). Let’s Dance (1983) – co-produced by Bowie and Nile Rodgers – racked up 8,353 sales last year and has a post-1994 tally of 147,655.
Here, Stuart Wheeley opens up about Rhino’s catalogue campaign for David Bowie…
David Bowie's Legacy collection returned the Top 20 around the fifth anniversary of his death, does that underline the enduring appeal of his songs?
“Yes absolutely. David and his music are still so culturally relevant, and these moments are important vehicles for us to drive consumption. For this particular anniversary, we released two brand new ’90s unreleased recordings, Mother and Tryin To Get To Heaven (John Lennon and Bob Dylan covers), both to streaming platforms, and as part of limited edition 7” single. Engaging the fans while working with DSPs to support the anniversary is crucial, but with new music we were also able to take tracks to radio, and build upon the media coverage to maximise the reach.”
We are very fortunate to have a great relationship with David Bowie’s estate, and a fantastic A&R team who continue to create quality products
How significant was Bowie's streaming performance in 2020? How will you build on the streaming growth for his music?
“As soon as we went into lockdown last year, we implemented a number of streaming strategies, including delivering streaming-only products to keep the fanbase engaged. We saw a solid year-on-year growth last year, but we are planning this year to top that.
“As part of the birthday campaign this year, we released David’s catalogue to TikTok for the first time. This is one of the many ways we are looking to reach a younger, but ultimately new audience. Giving people an easy entry point to his catalogue is key. Contextualising his music, and telling those amazing stories via multiple platforms and mediums, is one of the many initiatives we will be continuing to work on.”
What are the further plans for David Bowie’s catalogue?
“We are very fortunate to have a great relationship with his estate, and a fantastic A&R team who continue to create quality products that are always well received. The six Brilliant Live Adventures albums, in particular, have been part of a new style of campaign for us; releasing one strictly limited edition album per month for six months as D2C-only exclusives. It’s a great way to deliver something unique and interesting to a specific community within his huge fanbase.
“It’s certainly going to be another busy year this year as we celebrate a number of key anniversaries on the way towards what would have been David’s 75th birthday in 12 months’ time.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Jimmy King/David Bowie Estate