Adele to the rescue! Record companies hopeful for the future as major acts release new albums
The advent of online music in the late 1990s drastically affected the industry, but some believe it could be turning a corner
Adele’s long-awaited album is leading a flurry of major releases in the coming weeks that could determine whether 2015 marks a rebound for a slow-growing recorded music industry.
Two acts with ecstatic young followings, Justin Bieber and One Direction, will both put out albums on November 13, and more established chart-toppers Coldplay and Rihanna have hinted at releases in time for holiday shoppers.
Industry watchers expect Adele to be 2015’s crucial artist when 25, her first album in nearly five years, goes on sale globally on November 20.
The album’s first song, piano ballad Hello, has already smashed records, making the biggest US debut for a single since Candle in the Wind, Elton John’s 1997 tribute to Princess Diana.
The English singer’s previous album 21, which featured heartache anthem Someone Like You, was the top-selling album for two consecutive years in the US and, by a comfortable margin, the biggest album in Britain so far this century.
Adele, a rare artist with passionate fans across the age spectrum, has described 25 as a reflection on the now 27-year-old’s entrance into adulthood. True to her anti-rock star persona, Adele is rolling out the album through no-drama television appearances including a concert to be taped at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
The recording business, devastated by the advent of online music in the late 1990s, has stabilised in recent years, but has struggled to post net growth.
Online streaming and, on a smaller scale, vinyl have brought in new revenue but the number of blockbuster albums, traditionally a driver of the industry, has been dwindling.
Country-turned-pop sensation Taylor Swift’s 1989 was the only album released last year to go platinum in the United States, defined as selling more than one million copies - and industry watchers believe Adele may outdo her.
“I think it [Adele’s album] is certainly going to make a mark on the year, it’s going to make a mark on the fourth-quarter selling season, and I think it will make a mark on the way people look at the future of albums,” says James Donio, president of the Music Business Association, a US-based trade group.
“Granted, every artist isn’t Adele, every artist isn’t Taylor. They are exceptions, but they do underscore the fact that for the right artist at the right time, people do embrace a work of art [in] totality,” he said.
Only one album released in 2015 has gone platinum so far in the United States - Canadian rapper Drake’s mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
The US music industry’s profits were flat in the year’s first half, although several countries saw growth including Britain, Germany and Italy.
Adele’s return has risked overshadowing Bieber’s Purpose, the first album by the 21-year-old Canadian in three years during which he has drawn more attention for his personal travails than his music.
Hello quickly crushed the record for first-week streams set by Bieber for What Do You Mean?, his album’s first single that is notable for its smooth tropical-house beat.
Bieber previously sensed greater competition from One Direction, accusing the British boy band of releasing its new album on the same date to piggyback on his publicity. One Direction has churned out an album every holiday season without fail since 2011 after the young men won fame on television contest The X Factor.
But the band has said it will take a hiatus after Made in the A.M., their first album without founding member Zayn Malik, whose departure helped sully the group’s squeaky clean image.
Coldplay’s frontman, Chris Martin, said last year that the English rockers were recording an album titled A Head Full of Dreams that would be the finale for one of the defining bands of the 2000s.
While Coldplay has not confirmed the release date, it posted rainbow-coloured rings on its social media pages on November 3. Without commentary, posters with an identical image have appeared around London with the date December 4.
R&B superstar Rihanna has said that her first album in three years, Anti, will be out soon without specifying a date. The New York Post reported that Rihanna was finalising a US$25 million deal with South Korean electronics giant Samsung to market Anti, after rival Apple sponsored artists including U2 and Drake.
Rock legends Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are also planning releases in the shape of box sets of classic works with outtake tracks.
Another all-time great, David Bowie, is releasing only his second album of new material in the past decade, although it will come out in January.
Among other pre-holiday releases, Psy will put out his first album since the South Korean’s quirky viral hit Gangnam Style, while Canadian electropop artist Grimes will follow up on her breakthrough 2012 album Visions.
Former teen star Selena Gomez and Australian pop band 5 Seconds of Summer already put out albums in October that went to No 1 on the US Billboard chart.