How streaming powered SZA's SOS to become one of the biggest albums of 2023 so far

How streaming powered SZA's SOS to become one of the biggest albums of 2023 so far

RCA UK executives have spoken to Music Week about the chart breakthrough for SZA.

Despite only being available as a digital release, the American R&B artist’s second album SOS is one of the biggest of the year to date. It has also spent two months at No.1 in the US.

“SZA has cemented herself as a global star with SOS,” said Sej Jheeta, RCA marketing manager/A&R

SZA has now confirmed UK tour dates in June, including two nights at the O2 Arena (June 17-18). Produced by Live Nation, the tour features Raye as support artist. 

According to Official Charts Company data, SZA’s SOS was the third biggest album in Q1 with sales of 87,571. Total sales of the album, released in December 2022, now stand at 132,881. A vinyl and CD release of the album is confirmed for late May.

Based on streaming alone, SOS was the second biggest album of the quarter. SZA can also claim the biggest current album release and studio LP on DSPs in Q1, as her only rival was The Weeknd’s The Highlights collection, which was released over two years ago.

SOS has taken SZA to new heights in the UK, which is now her third biggest market. Jheeta noted that “media support has been extremely strong”.

Since its release in December by RCA with Top Dawg Entertainment, the LP has spent three weeks at No.2 in the UK and has only just exited the Top 10 this month.

Although Kill Bill has been the standout hit of the campaign, multiple songs have made an impact across streaming platforms, as well as TikTok.

A performance at Wireless festival last year heightened anticipation for the album, but SZA has yet to make a promo trip.

“Without having the artist over in the UK, our aim was to make sure we had a wide array of touchpoints for fans and potential fans to discover and engage with SZA,” said Luke Smith, digital marketing manager at RCA. “These covered a range of objectives from brand awareness, to encouraging participation and consumption.”

The campaign included a release day listening party for fans, featuring merch giveaways and a branded photo booth. SZA’s manager Terrence “Punch” Henderson from Top Dawg dialled into the event and spoke to fans about the record.

“Our initial digital strategy was based around making sure SZA remained at the top of the cultural conversation, and we worked with a range of key UK cultural tastemakers and social media blog pages to support this and follow up on the organic conversation taking place online,” added Smith.

Kill Bill features in more than 2.4 million video creations on TikTok. RCA commissioned agencies and creators to help amplify both the original track and sped-up version on the platform.

“This also allowed us to incorporate this UGC content into our paid digital strategy to keep the feel of the campaign as seamless, organic and fan-led as possible,” said Smith.

SOS broke the Spotify record for biggest single day streams of an R&B album, and all 23 tracks entered its UK Top 200. SZA, who is published by UMPG, has 67m monthly Spotify listeners.

With speculation about SOS going back to 2019, Smith said fans were primed for the LP.

“Upon release, we saw organic momentum quickly grow across various songs from the project, and UGC and fan-led conversation became a key focus,” he told Music Week.

According to Official Charts Company data, Kill Bill is the third biggest single of the year to date with chart sales of 521,162 in 2023 based on more than 64m streams. It has sales to date of 601,442.

“Kill Bill’s explosion on both TikTok and the singles charts has seen SZA now break into the mainstream pop space, broadening her audience hugely and gaining exposure with a more hits- driven consumer, as well as a younger fanbase,” Jheeta told Music Week.

Kill Bill peaked at No.1 on the DSP’s global chart. It has amassed more than 785m streams on the platform.

Peaking at No.16 on the airplay chart, it is her biggest UK radio hit to date. SZA secured playlists at BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, Kiss, Kiss Fresh, Capital FM and Capital Xtra.

Radio 1 has been a long-term supporter, including SOS tracks Good Days (630,132 sales) in early 2021, followed by I Hate U (246,665) and Shirt (227,628) last year.

The track Snooze began to make a singles chart impact in February. Smith said RCA would “support the organic momentum taking place online whilst working with the US to ensure our strategy is aligned with the global plan”.

Released in an expanded version in 2022, SZA’s 2017 debut CTRL peaked at No.45 (228,161 sales to date). The star, who has been on a US arena run, looks set to drop new music amid expectations for a deluxe and physical edition.

“SOS shows no signs of slowing down and will definitely be one of the most impactful releases of 2023,” said Jheeta. “Our long-term ambitions are to maximise the long tail of this project, delivering more hit singles and ensuring SZA has the best platform and foundation in this market for even bigger successes going forward.”


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