'Lana Del Rey is one of the world's greatest songwriters': Inside Polydor's ambitious LP campaign

'Lana Del Rey is one of the world's greatest songwriters': Inside Polydor's ambitious LP campaign

Polydor and Tap Music have made a big impact with Lana Del Rey’s ninth studio album, Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.

Not only did the LP debut at the summit to become her sixth chart-topper, it is officially the fastest-selling album of 2023 so far with a week one total of 41,925 (Official Charts Company). 

The significance of that sales total over the first seven days is that Did You Know… has secured the biggest opening for Lana Del Rey since sophomore album Ultraviolence in 2014. There aren’t many artists increasing sales compared to releases from almost a decade earlier - a period before streaming shifted consumption patterns and made it harder to rack up big unit numbers. What’s more, Del Rey has done it while maintaining a consistently low profile on the usual channels.

“I was lucky enough to get a preview of the album back in October 2022,” said Ben Mortimer, Polydor president. “Lana played it to us at her home in California, which as you can imagine was an absolute career highlight. I was floored. It was obvious she was working on something very special, and we’ve been preparing for the album ever since. She is one of the world’s greatest songwriters, and we’re very lucky to get to support her.”

The streaming success of the album would have secured Del Rey five Top 75 singles chart entries, but for OCC rules which limit primary artists to three tracks. The US star scored her 24th and 25th hit singles with Paris, Texas (No.48, 7,334 sales) and Candy Necklace (No.68, 5,816 sales), while A&W - which reached No.41 earlier this month - made a re-entry at No.45 (7,798 sales). 

Catalogue consumption is also strong for Lana Del Rey, who has 42.4 million monthly listeners on Spotify. The 2015 album, Honeymoon, is the latest to pass a billion streams on Spotify - her fifth LP to achieve that landmark. Last year, 2012 single Summertime Sadness from her breakthrough album, Born To Die, returned to the UK Top 50.

Here, Polydor’s co-MD Stephen Hallowes takes Music Week inside the new album campaign, shares insights on the growth in consumption and reflects on Lana Del Rey’s achievements as an acclaimed recording artist and songwriter…

How ambitious were you with this release in terms of week one? How has the recent sales growth helped to establish a strong fanbase for this release?

“Very ambitious – Lana has an extremely strong and consistent sales history in the UK in terms of both chart position and week one volume. In addition, we have seen a big growth in her already significant streaming audience over the last 18 months with lots of her songs having viral moments on TikTok, in particular on Summertime Sadness, which we really capitalised on last summer re-charting the single. And, as usual, she delivered an incredible record. So it felt like a big opportunity and the only acceptable outcome was a No.1 record with a significant volume.” 

Lana Del Rey is on a prolific run of well received albums - how does that volume of new music over the last few years help build momentum for a new release? Does such a regular release pattern help to maintain that close fan connection?

“100%. Lana is remarkably prolific, she’s put out nine albums in 12 years which is unusual, especially at the level of quality that she maintains.  That has definitely contributed to her audience remaining so loyal and engaged - and continuing to grow.”

Did You Know... had particularly strong week one sales - how did you set up the physical campaign in terms of pre-sales and vinyl options?  

“Lana worked with one of her consistent collaborators, Neil Krug, on all the visuals for the album, which were incredible, so we took advantage of that with a lot of different variants across vinyl, CD and cassette using alternative artwork/imagery. But it’s important to note that we didn’t have any other sales gimmicks on this campaign – no signed, no ticket bundle. We know the fans love to collect the different variants especially with alternate sleeves, but other than that the volume is just a reflection of the natural demand and heat around Lana at the moment.  

Lana Del Rey’s fan community is so passionate, the marketing becomes more about how we’re engaging with that core group of advocates

Stephen Hallowes

“Another example of this is the merch – Lana created an incredible range of merch for this album including necklaces, a pill case, a whistle, a racing jacket – really fun inventive items. We released these in drops throughout the pre-order window and the demand was incredible, and also drove a lot of incremental album pre-orders.”

Lana Del Rey has tended to be more mysterious and reticent than many artists - how do you work with that in terms of marketing? And how significant has her unofficial TikTok account been during this campaign?

“Lana took herself off social media for the most part a couple of years ago. She has an Instagram account called @honeymoon but it’s private so only a core group of her fans can access it (every now and then she’ll make it public for a few hours which drives her fans wild). And she and her siblings have a joint TikTok account called @familyheirlooms, which she occasionally pops up on, but not regularly. 

“Her fan community is so passionate, the marketing becomes less about what she’s broadcasting and more about how we’re engaging with that core group of advocates to reach the wider audience and maximise each moment. That allows her to maintain that aura of mystery. For example, TikTok has been a driving force behind the growth in her catalogue consumption over the last couple of years with different tracks going viral on a constant basis (#lanadelrey has 22 billion views on the platform), all without her needing to be particularly active there.” 

How have indie record shops, HMV and other retailers come on board for this campaign?

“We’ve worked closely with all the key physical retailers in the UK on the campaign. HMV have an exclusive CD/vinyl variant with an alternate cover, as do the indies, as do Amazon. We also worked closely with the indies in the UK to host listening parties for the album two days before release.  Over 40 stores participated and the response from fans was incredible with every store completely packed out and a huge amount of conversation on social media – a good example of the marketing strategy mentioned above.”

How significant has the streaming impact been for this album so far - has it been embraced as a body of work on the platforms?  

“The streaming has been incredibly strong. It’s been great to see the increased interest in the catalogue has translated to the new music from a streaming point of view. The album went straight to No.1 on Apple, all 16 tracks (including the interludes) charted in the Top 200 on Spotify on release, and the day one global Spotify streams for the album were the biggest of Lana’s career. In the UK, we did 7,800 adjusted units through consumption, which is more than double her last album.  

“It’s also incredible to see over 40% of her Spotify listeners under the age of 22 – a whole new generation of fans listening to her.  The less-is-more approach to content and marketing has meant we haven’t had specific partnerships with DSPs, but we’re lucky that everyone loves Lana and all the partners have given the album top tier support, both editorially and marketing-wise with outdoor [advertising].”

Maximising the catalogue has played such a huge part in the success of this new campaign

Stephen Hallowes

There are multiple features and a substantial track listing - how does that help the long-term campaign for this album? What are the plans for the rest of 2023? 

“We don’t think in terms of traditional single campaigns on Lana. We put three songs out upfront of release – not radio singles per se but each designed to showcase a different aspect of the album and drive conversation and fan excitement. Our DSP focus track in the week of release was Candy Necklace with Jon Batiste, so we’re working that song at streaming. But there are a number of other songs on the album already showing reactivity on streaming and TikTok, including A&W which Radio 1 have added this week. We’ll monitor this and then be reactive.  

“We have a lot more planned for 2023 but nothing I can reveal now, other than to say we’re excited to see Lana back in the UK again in June for Glastonbury!”

With six chart-topping albums, how important has Lana Del Rey become as a Polydor artist? What are the ambitions for the catalogue as she lands another No.1 record?

"As far as we’re concerned, Lana is one of the world’s greatest songwriters. She couldn’t be more important to the label and for us it’s a privilege to call her a Polydor artist, and to not only be putting out new records but also to be the stewards of this incredible catalogue. As I’ve mentioned, maximising the catalogue has played such a huge part in the success of this new campaign and so that’s something we’ll continue to be very focused on moving forward."

Subscribers can read our 2021 cover story with Lana Del Rey and her team here.


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