Don't stop me now: How the Bo Rhap buzz is powering Queen to new heights

Don't stop me now: How the Bo Rhap buzz is powering Queen to new heights

The home entertainment release of Bohemian Rhapsody is expected to score big sales this week, following the success of the Freddie Mercury biopic at the Oscars. Rami Malek has now won the Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe for his performance.

Updated (March 14): The DVD, Blu-ray and 4K release of the movie sold 465,000 copies in its first week of physical release, not far behind The Greatest Showman's week one total of 497,000 in May 2018. But Bohemian Rhapsody has moved 853,000 copies across physical and digital downloads in its first four weeks, compared to The Greatest Showman's 845,500 in the equivalent four-week period.

As revealed in the latest issue of Music Week, the film has also helped deliver huge catalogue sales for Queen, including the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack album of rarities and live recordings from Live Aid. The album has sales to date of 295,221 according to the Official Charts Company and is set to go platinum this week.

Queen also made the IFPI global artist rankings at No.6 for 2018 without any new material. The band's catalogue campaign has secured Virgin EMI a Music Week Awards nomination. Here, EMI MD Clive Cawley takes Music Week inside the campaign for the band who want to live forever…

The Queen catalogue had sold 500,000 units from the launch of Bohemian Rhapsody in October until the end of last year. How’s the campaign going into 2019?

“It’s incredible, it just keeps on giving and the interesting thing is it’s not just the soundtrack. It’s the soundtrack [Bohemian Rhapsody] and the Platinum Collection, Greatest Hits, A Night at The Opera, The Works – all those five albums have just constantly been hanging around.”

It’s incredible they made the IFPI rankings for last year without an album of brand new songs…

“Yeah, and it’s not like they hadn’t sold any records before then. [Bohemian Rhapsody] has sold about 300,000 [in the UK], but it’s almost like an entire new discovery phase has come in on it, which is great for those albums and for them. The awards are incredible for [Rami Malek], it’s a full house isn’t it?”

It’s almost like an entire new discovery phase has come in on it

Clive Cawley

What does the global success of the film and soundtrack mean for the band?

“The film obviously had a lot of ups and downs and there were different actors - Sacha Baron Cohen was originally involved. So when it eventually came to fruition, I can only imagine they were over the moon with the result of it and how it was received. The way I would see it from the streaming perspective is, it is parents taking kids and kids coming away and starting to stream Queen. So it has reached a whole generation.”

Apparently, Spotify streaming of Queen is 70% from under- 35s….

“Yes, it’s massive. The flipside to that is they’re also bringing an older audience to streaming as well, which is great for everyone. It’s the most digitally downloaded film [Bohemian Rhapsody already made No. 1 in the OCC Official Film Chart based on downloads alone]. So they’ve managed to do the physical world, the streaming world and the digital world. It’s a dream project.”

How will Queen capitalise on this for the long-term?

“We always do serious, high-end catalogue releases and I think there a lot more of them to come. In terms of there ever being any new music, I don’t necessarily think we need it if we keep doing catalogue releases, constantly promoting Queen – and there’s an awful lot of sync going on. Their music is being used everywhere. They always were one of the biggest bands in the world, they’re just getting even higher up there now. I mean, who has sold more records than them?”

How can you maintain Queen as a strong streaming act without new material?

“It is about punctuating it with those catalogue reissues and constantly refreshing the streaming platforms. Giving people reasons to go back and listen to yet more Queen. Playlists are getting bigger [for Queen], Bohemian Rhapsody specifically and Love Of My Life as well. They’re getting all sorts of action. Those songs have been treated like they’re almost new releases.”

Are there further release plans for the catalogue?

“Not yet, but there will be. There’s definitely a conscious decision to give this the breathing space it needs, because it’s going to run and run. I still keep seeing it in local cinemas, just having Saturday matinees and things like that. In the Far East specifically it’s incredible how many people are going back, leaving, going back, seeing the queue and joining it and watching it again - repeat, repeat viewings!”

Has the support and involvement of Queen been important to the film’s success?

“Yeah, without them involved it would have been sort of a weird film. I think that them advocating it and being so involved in it has given it a stamp of authority. It has made it genuine and made it believable for what it is.”

To read the full Music Week report on Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody campaign, subscribers can click here. To subscribe and never miss a big industry story click here.

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