In the latest issue of Music Week, we take an in-depth look at the best-selling music release of 2018 so far. That release – on the off chance you have been living under a sound-proof rock, on another planet – is The Greatest Showman soundtrack.
Shifting 611,378 copies so far according to Official Charts Company data, its runaway success prompted Atlantic’s UK president Ben Cook to hail it as a “landmark moment”. The manner in which it has pulled off this feat is the subject of Music Week’s extensive breakdown of the soundtrack, tracing it from the minds of songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul – who tell Music Week how they negotiated some pretty terrifying deadlines to deliver the goods – to its inventive roll out in cinemas.
However, also lurking behind its blockbuster success – which seems fitting in more ways than one in this case – is the fact that it has skewed to a younger audience, highly unusual for a musical soundtrack of this kind thanks to streaming.
“If someone said you were going to sell half a million [soundtrack] records in the first quarter, then the expectation would be 80% of those would be physical,” Derek Allen, Warner Music UK SVP, commercial told Music Week. “But it’s more like half.”
Indeed, the 255,751 Q1 physical copies account for just 44% of Showman’s sales with 34% weighted towards streaming (198,438 streams of the album) and 22% downloads (127,109). With The Greatest Showman so far managing to stay on top of the album charts for 13 out of the past 15 weeks, the looming question is what is next?
Six months on from the music first coming out, Cook told Music Week that he plans to “continue to market the record through innovative ways throughout 2018” and if he manages to keep up that momentum on sales, you can expect to see Showman creeping towards Mamma Mia’s position as the current best-selling film soundtrack in the UK since the Official Charts Company took over in 1994, though The Bodyguard OST predates both and remains the global soundtrack best seller by some margin.
“We’ve still got a couple of big opportunities with the soundtrack still to come, and the digital release on TV,” said Warner’s Derek Allen. “And we’ve got the DVD release in mid-May. Historically, those have always been big opportunities for soundtracks as well. It feels like it could get another bump there.”
There may be other big opportunities ahead, too.
“In the next five years I’ll be very surprised if there isn’t a stage adapation that’s introduced,” Cineworld’s head of film Stuart Crane predicted. Watch this space.