You wait years for a 100,000 weekly album sale and then two come along in a fortnight.
Ed Sheeran’s = (Asylum/Atlantic) has just landed with 139,107 sales. It follows the return of Coldplay, who opened with 101,045 copies of Music Of The Spheres (Parlophone) a fortnight ago. That result was up on the 80,974 first week sales for the band’s Everyday Life album two years ago.
Parlophone’s current Coldplay campaign has seen the band embrace TikTok and score their biggest hit since 2017 with BTS collaboration My Universe (No.3 peak, 167,861 sales to date). The single hit No.1 in the US.
Parlophone has been under new leadership for a couple of years with co-presidents Mark Mitchell and Nick Burgess. The label has combined success with album artists such as Iron Maiden, Coldplay, The Snuts and Gorillaz with streaming and viral TikTok smashes from S1mba, Masked Wolf and Ashnikko.
The label has steered PinkPantheress to a Top 20 placing with last month’s debut mixtape To Hell With It (7,047 sales to date). The breakthrough star is now primed to do big business in 2022.
As Coldplay climbed back up the albums chart to No.4 with Music Of The Spheres (122,597 sales to date), Mark Mitchell and Nick Burgess open up about the campaign, the BTS collaboration and the rare feat of topping 100k week one sales...
What was key to that impressive Coldplay result in week one?
Mark Mitchell: “We had two clear standalone singles before going into the album, whereas with Everyday Life I think our first single was a matter of weeks before the album. Everyday Life was much more of an album project, whereas with Music Of The Spheres we had Higher Power in May and then My Universe going into the album.”
Did the 100,000-plus sales surprise you, or could you sense the momentum in that opening week?
MM: “We don't take anything for granted. There was an elephant in the room with that 100,000 number, which we both really, really wanted. But until it looked like it was possible, we weren't sure it was going to happen at all. So few records actually achieve that volume nowadays and there's a reason for that, so you have to throw everything at it. We not only had to make sure our fanbase were very aware, but we had to reach out to new areas. We spent a long time with our partners on the streaming platforms, as well as the traditional physical audience, and then did some ticket bundles and it all came together. Even halfway through the week, we weren't sure we were going to do it. So that Friday, it was great.”
Nick Burgess: “We're really proud of the achievement of the label on this one. It was a challenge that we did set at the beginning as a potential opportunity. We were really focused as a label, and I think everyone at the label did an incredible job of making sure that every possible person who could be aware of that record was aware of it. We did a great job of presenting it to the world. Coldplay were incredible and the management really helped us deliver that number.”
And they had a No.1 single in the US too with My Universe…
MM: “Yeah, which was brilliant. In the UK, we were Top 3. They’re both incredible headlines [for the album and single]. We did about 25% more [in week one] on this record. For any artist to do 25% more than on their previous album in a declining market is an incredible achievement.”
Coldplay are always open to new collaborations. How did the single with BTS come about?
NB: “Chris is really open-minded, he just loves new music. The first time I heard My Universe, I got sent a demo and Chris was saying, ‘I want BTS on this’ - he had a vision for the song. I think he just felt that their vocals would be perfect to carry the song and the message of the lyrics about a very global, unified world. He always has a vision for who he wants for his collaborations, he’s very open-minded and doesn't get set in his ways. He's always looking for new, exciting artists to collaborate with.”
MM: “He's always interested in things that aren't naturally bedfellows…”
NB: “Yeah, Chris likes Coldplay to constantly live outside of their comfort zone, he likes being unpredictable - that's just my read of it. He likes people to not expect what they get from Coldplay, and it keeps people excited. His big thing is always growing new audiences, constantly finding people on this planet that aren't necessarily aware of Coldplay. So he likes to find [artists] that can help with that.”
There aren’t any obvious business synergies with BTS and their label. How did Coldplay secure the collaboration?
NB: “Chris was a fan. He called them up and said, ‘Can we do a collaboration?’. He knew they were fans, I believe, and he just got in touch. Chris flew to Seoul and met them. He recorded the vocals on the song, he sent them the song and they loved it. It was very artist-to-artist; Chris had a vision and he executed it perfectly.”
There’s also the collaboration with Selena Gomez on Let Somebody Go...
NB: “Yeah, he's known Selena for quite some time. Again, he sent her the song, she loved it and cut the vocals. It was very natural. He just knew that her vocal was right for the song and that she would capture the emotion. I think he's a fan of her artistry.”
Coldplay are being selective in terms of promotion. How will you maintain consumption for the album?
MM: “They're a true global act and there's promo to be done everywhere, so we have to be very selective and pick out what's right. They are coming back to the UK for a bit more activity and then we'll go with another single early in the new year. We've got the tour [of UK stadiums in August 2022], we’ve now got six sold-out Wembley Stadium [shows], two at Hampden Park, there are some incredible numbers there. So we will carry it through until the tour dates and then we'll look at what's [next].”
With such huge ticket sales, you must have high hopes for the campaign into next year?
MM: “Yeah, and we certainly want to have new music in play as often as possible. Just keeping music out there, be it on radio or streaming, is really important throughout all the live shows.”
Does the recent deal renewal with Warner Music give you further confidence for this campaign?
MM: “That's testament to having a great relationship. We work so closely with them, the whole team have a close- knit relationship with Coldplay and their management. It's far from just Nick and I, it's a really deep relationship. It’s very trusting and we understand how each other works. It’s really difficult to create those relationships nowadays, so we’re really honoured to be their label - and long may it last.”
Subscribers can click here for our interview with Parlophone head of marketing Anya Du Sauzay on TikTok and more.