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How Adele Went from Nothing to a Global Superstar

How did Adele go from being an unknown to the world’s best-selling superstar singer in three albums? The BBC explains.

In little more than eight years, Adele has come from nowhere to establish herself as one of the world’s biggest entertainment brands, right up there with Grand Theft Auto, Star Wars, FIFA 2016, and Call of Duty. The proof was in the prizes on Wednesday night, when she walked away with a record-equalling four Brit Awards. Her success is a remarkable achievement – all the more impressive given that she is operating in a market that has roughly halved in size over the past decade.

It is a feat for which she has been been lauded, applauded and awarded across the globe. And called a “freak”, by Tim Ingham, the respected music journalist who runs the website Music Business Worldwide. She is not normal, he told me. At least, in terms of her achievements: “Breaking album sales records in 2016 is in and of itself a miracle.” That is a sentiment echoed by a high-ranking music exec who preferred not to be named. He called Adele “an anomaly”, “label-proof”, and a beacon “of hope for the industry”.

For a beleaguered and besieged music business Adele is living proof that money can still be made in an industry dominated and decimated by streaming and freeness. The bad news, according to Ingham, is that Adele is “the artist you cannot manufacture”. She’s a one-off. Which was apparent from the start.

Read on.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38562 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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