Inside the BRITs 2017 Album Of The Year nominees: David Bowie, Blackstar

Inside the BRITs 2017 Album Of The Year nominees: David Bowie, Blackstar

With the 2017 BRIT Awards almost upon us, Music Week is taking an in-depth look at this year’s BRITs Album Of The Year nominees.

Up for the coveted award this year are David Bowie’s Blackstar, Kano’s Made In The Manor, Skepta’s Konnichiwa, Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate and The 1975’s I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It.

Here, Ken Marshall, senior marketing director, Sony Music UK talks us through the campaign behind Bowie’s Blackstar.

Label: RCA
Peak chart position: No.1
Sales to date: 422,773

“To work on Blackstar was quite something really. Obviously, with the events that happened it was difficult but, as someone who works in marketing, it was a dream to work with. You had all these incredible visuals to work with. 

“Bowie’s management and Jonathan Barnbrook, his creative director, approved everything. Bowie had visibility of what everyone was doing, he was very engaged and interested, not directly with us, but through his management and Jonathan. 

“The time was right for this record. He’d come back with The Next Day, then had the very successful V&A exhibition. When you see all that stuff in one place you go, Oh my God, you really did do everything and influence across film and fashion and art and music. So people had really embraced him again, he was back in the public consciousness and showed he was as relevant as ever. 

“And then it was just a great record. It was challenging initially – I remember the first time I heard it, there was a playback at Sony, and it took us all by surprise. But once people spent time with it... There was nothing lazy about it. It would have been very easy for him to make a ‘David Bowie’ record, but he was still pushing it all the way. 

“His death, two days after the release, was nothing I’d ever experienced before and hopefully I won’t experience anything like it again. It was just a very sad day. The initial reaction was, What do we do, do we stop everything, do we pull all the marketing, what’s the right thing to do here? And, initially, we did put a stop on everything, but the word back was, You would have been marketing this record if this hadn’t happened. David was very aware of everyone’s plans, he would’ve wanted this record to be successful, so keep doing what you do. 

“We’re at around 420,000 sales now, which is very respectable for anything. But it’s very nice that, over a year after release, it’s still getting attention with the BRITs nominations, and Jonathan won the Design Museum’s Beazley Design Of The Year award for the artwork. The Mercury Prize was quite a moment as was the Lazarus show opening here as well. 

“The BRITs is a nice rounding-off for the campaign. It would be wonderful if it won, just to recognise what a great body of work it is. I wouldn’t say it would give closure on everything, but it is the end of the campaign when we get there. I don’t think it’s going to boost sales that much because the story of what’s happened with this record is way bigger than any prize or award. It’s just wonderful that, after all this time, it’s still getting recognised. Hopefully, it’s a sign of a future classic, that people will look back on this record and view it as one of his best.” 

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