Think you need streams to land a hit album? Think again

Think you need streams to land a hit album? Think again

As the industry hails the streaming boom that drove significant growth for the biz in 2016, Music Week analysis of OCC figures reveals that some of last year’s biggest albums were, in fact, built almost entirely on physical sales.

In the wake of Drake’s 15-week stint on top of the UK singles chart – a stint supported almost entirely by streams – it seemed you’d be about as likely to score a hit record without a strong showing on streaming services as Bradley Walsh would be of dropping the second biggest selling UK debut of 2016…

Drake's album Views became the first record to surpass one billion streams, with the likes of Justin Bieber and The Weeknd following suit and breaking the billion barrier after also become major hits on streaming platforms.

Just last week the BPI posted its year-end figures, showing that a total of 44.9 billion audio streams took place over the year, up 67.5% on 2015 and now accounting for 36.4% of all UK music consumption. ERA (Entertainment Retailers Association) also published its end of year findings, identifying streaming as the key driver in establishing music as the fastest growing entertainment sector ahead of games and video.

Yet in spite of streaming’s seemingly inexorable rise, some of 2016’s biggest hitters were propelled up the charts with barely a stream to their name.

Let's start with last year's surprise breakthrough duo Michael Ball and Alfie Boe. The classical pair's collaborative record Together proved to be 2016’s top selling album from a (technically) debut act, shifting a combined total of 532,947 copies to date. How many of those were from streaming? A mere 854.

And what about Chasing Dreams, the new record from TV's Bradley Walsh? Well, aside from becoming the second highest selling UK debut of 2016 to date - yes, you heard it right - it has also notched up total sales of 117,162. Just 147 came from streams.

Meanwhile, the success of comeback king Rick Astley’s No.1 album 50, was driven almost exclusively by physical sales, with only 3,692 of its 259,600 sales generated by streaming.

Other notable hits that delivered impressive sales figures without streaming included Elvis Presley compilation The Wonder Of You (total sales 474,345, streams 3,045), Michael Buble’s Nobody But Me (total sales 304,558, streams 4,268), Alexander Armstrong’s Upon A Different Shore (total sales 162,570, streams 192) and Rolling Stones’ Blue & Lonesome (total sales 275,375, streams 2,538).

While many of the aforementioned albums are likely to appeal to music fans of a certain age group, their ability to not just survive but thrive outside of the streaming realm is not something to be sniffed at. And it’s entirely possible that releases of this ilk will become increasingly appealing to labels in light of the hyper-competitive streaming market. In the absence of any breakthrough acts in 2016, it’s hardly surprising that labels are throwing their weight behind heritage acts and established names. Especially when they are serving up sales like those mentioned above.

So of course, the focus for most labels this year will be to deliver a major new act to compete on the world stage. But in the meantime, don’t be surprised to see a few more Balls, Boes, Walshes and Astleys stealing a chase up the charts in 2017.

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