Music Industry

We Need to Talk About the New Adele Album

Adele’s here to save the music industry.

Her 25 album, the most anticipated new record in forever, is set for released November 16. Will it be popular enough to jerk the recorded music world out of its downward spiral? Will we see people buying more CDs and full digital albums?  Will it be enough to reverse the year-over-year decline in overall music sales?

No pressure, right?

So far, things are off to a good start. As I write this, the video for first single, “Hello,” has been viewed 69,453,001 times on YouTube, putting it on track to hit 100 million inside a week. When the song came out last week, it generated something like 1,600 tweets minute. The memes started almost immediately. And everyone is talking about Adele’s flip phone. (For more stunning stats, go here.)

But let’s look a further down the road: will 25 be the last great hurrah of the album era? Will there ever be a new release this big ever again? Given the evolution of the music industry, I don’t think so. Neither does MIDIA Research.

The much anticipated Adele album ‘25’ will go on sale on November 20thand its lead single ‘Hello’ hit the airwaves and Vevo today, with Adele doing an impressive number of near-simultaneous radio interviews in support. With ’21’ having been such an event culturally and commercially (it has sold 30 million copies) expectations are understandably high for ‘25’. While the odds are in favour of it being a success the world has changed a lot since ‘21’s release in 2011.   While we are a long, long way from music sales being a thing of the past (they’ll still represent 50% of recorded music revenue in 2020) there is no doubt that the glory days of blockbuster albums are on their way. Could it just be that ‘25’ will be one of the last greats of the album era?

By the end of 2015 music sales revenue (i.e. downloads and physical sales) will be more than a quarter down on 2011 levels. Streaming revenue will have tripled over the same period, adding close to the same revenue that sales lost. That’s good news at a market level but problematic for album sales. Given that music subscribers are the industry’s super fans that shift leaves a big gap in album sales.

The industry’s attempt to compensate with ‘album equivalent sales’ in charts is a fudge that does more to make charts a reflection of streaming era ‘airplay’ than it does sales. The growing focus on genetically modified pop music by major labels is another temporary work around that will also ultimately fail to address the underlying issues.

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 37897 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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