The Rolling Stones have confirmed details of their first album of original material in 18 years.
Launched at Hackney Empire via YouTube with a Q&A conducted by Jimmy Fallon, Hackney Diamonds is set for release on October 20. The single Angry is the first track from the LP.
As well as a guest appearance from Lady Gaga, Hackney Diamonds also features former band member Bill Wyman and the late Charlie Watts on a track recorded in 2019.
The new Stones album is likely to be one of the biggest releases of Q4. However, the ultimate prize for the Rolling Stones and Universal Music is set to be a significant long-term catalogue boost for the band.
Even before the announcement of Hackney Diamonds, there have been key developments on the streaming front for the Stones. At the beginning of 2023, the band launched an official TikTok account, enabling creators around the world to access their full music catalogue for the first time.
In terms of releases, the major step was to bring a comprehensive catalogue title to streaming audiences. Forty Licks was released for the first time on both vinyl and DSPs in July including Dolby Atmos versions. It was originally released in 2002 to mark the Stones’ 40th anniversary and featured 36 classics, including Gimme Shelter, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Paint It Black and Jumpin’ Jack Flash, alongside four new songs.
As revealed in Music Week’s charts analysis by Alan Jones last month, Forty Licks was released digitally in 2006 before being deleted in 2008. With previous sales of 1,135,650, it returned to the chart in August for the first time since 2006, re-entering at No.39 on consumption of 2,771 units (Official Charts Company) – 794 vinyl four-packs, 1 CD, 48 digital downloads and 1,927 sales-equivalent streams.
Since then, the compilation has maintained its position in the Top 75. Even ahead of the full announcement on Hackney Diamonds, Forty Licks’ consumption was up a modest 3.4% week-on-week in the latest Midweek sales flash up to the end of Tuesday (September 5). But with a full Stones campaign in swing from Polydor and catalogue division Universal Music Recordings, expect Forty Licks to establish itself as another of the true perennials in the streaming era.
Of course, there will be a huge Q4 focus on new album Hackney Diamonds, particularly on physical formats. When the band released covers set Blue & Lonesome in 2016, it finished the year at No.17 overall, despite only appearing at the tail end of Q4 in December. In a very different kind of market seven years ago, Blue & Lonesome opened at No.1 with sales of 105,830 (95,484 physical, 9,150 downloads and 1,196 from streams). It has gone on to sell 358,564 copies in the UK.
Under OCC chart rules, labels can nominate a compilation album to register all the streams of the featured tracks when fans listen on their platform of choice. In the recent past, the Stones’ various collections – including Forty Licks, Hot Rocks and Singles Collection: The London Years – have shared the streams. But now the label’s focus is very much on Forty Licks as the designated compilation.
That’s important to establish the album in the upper reaches of the chart, in order to help further build its streaming presence. While the Stones have 25.3 million monthly Spotify listeners, before Forty Licks returned to DSPs the band had not been among those UK Top 40 streaming perennials by the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, ABBA, Queen, Bob Marley & The Wailers, The Beatles and David Bowie.
At the midway point of 2023, the Rolling Stones did not have an album in the overall Top 200 for the first six months. For the full year 2022, they made the Top 200 with Hot Rocks – 1964-71 at No.187 (48,249 sales).
As you’d expect, their catalogue is strong in terms of consumption of individual titles. The Stones scored another No.1 with the reissue of Goats Head Soup in 2020. As well as compilations including Hot Rocks and Honk, their biggest sellers in 2022 included studio album Sticky Fingers, which moved 25,606 copies last year. Classic LP Exile On Main Street sold 7,058 copies.
But there’s now a renewed focus on a hits collection to complement the release of a brand new album. The goal now will be to take Forty Licks much nearer the top so it's competing with the likes of Elton John’s Diamonds (No.7 overall last year with 208,779 sales), Fleetwood Mac’s 50 Years – Don’t Stop (No.8, 208,053 sales), ABBA’s Gold: Greatest Hits (No.10, 197,844 sales) and Queen’s Greatest Hits (No.11, 193,111). Elton John, Queen and ABBA are also with the team at Universal Music Recordings, while Warner Music catalogue division Rhino has powered Fleetwood Mac’s streaming campaign.
Elton John and his management team spoke to Music Week last year about the long-term plan they put in place to conquer the streaming world, which began in 2017 with the Diamonds compilation. While the Stones have collaborated with Lady Gaga, Elton John teamed with Dua Lipa in a similar move to reach a younger audience.
An obvious comparison for the Stones is the success of the new ABBA Voyage album and avatar concert, which helped to boost the consumption of ABBA Gold. The Stones continue to tour in real life, of course, including playing BST Hyde Park in 2022.
During the YouTube event at Hackney Empire, Keith Richards revealed that one earlier title for the new record was Smash And Grab. More than 60 years after they formed, the Stones are preparing to make an assault on the charts with both new songs and classic hits.
PHOTO: Mark Seliger