The Curious Case of Adele

By Ojie Imoloame:

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I sat in my hotel room yesterday after a long day of work and an evening of all the aqua delights that Abuja has to offer. Then I saw the headlines ‘Adele’s ’25’ Shatters Records’. Billboard is reporting that according to Nielsen Music, Adele’s ’25’ has sold over 3 million units in its first week. She has broken the 15 year old NSYNC 2.42 million units first week sales. I was pleased for her, but pleased that there is hope after all.

Why do I say I am pleased for hope? For the last 2-3 decades, there has been a steady decline of record sales in the music industry. This has been attributed to the internet age. File sharing websites making these records easily available for free. Revenue streams for artists are currently from touring engagements, endorsements, merchandising and other name/image licensing agreements and not so much from sales of the records that make them famous. To the point that a publicist said that releasing a record is just a mere promotional tool for other opportunities. Thus, giving rise to 360 degree record deals; whereby the record label agrees to provide financial and other support for the artist, including advances, touring and promotional support in exchange for a cut from the other income streams other than sale of records.

This decline of record sales also gave rise to streaming. Spotify, Apple Music and others have all taken advantage of the ’empty demand’ of recorded music. That is, a desire to listen to the song without the willingness to pay for it. These platforms allow listeners have access to a vast catalogue of music for a monthly flat fee.

However, it appears that sales are just fine. For the record, Adele’s last album ’21’ was certified Diamond by the RIAA in America for sales and/or shipments of 10million units and it looks like she will replicate those numbers with this record.

In my humble opinion, the decline of record sales is attributed to value. I did not understand the concept of value till I commenced my working life. Anytime I purchase something with my money, I always ask myself if I received value for the purchase or was it just a waste of money? Value of a good or service is the ability of that service to meet the needs or wants, measured by the customers’ willingness to pay for it. Simply put, the album buying public demand value for their money, hence record sales have been on decline. In my opinion, they are not interested in purchasing ‘chewing gum’ music. I call it this because like a chewing gum where you chew from sweet to sour and dispose shortly after likewise the current state of music. You listen to it, dance to it, but when it gets sour like an expired chewing gum, it get disposed off and as Jay-Z says ‘ on to the next one’.

But Adele’s music has proven to be far from that. I can honestly sit down and listen to ’21’ all over again, and it would be like the first time, likewise ’19’. I cannot speak for people, but for me, I am drawn to her willingness to be honest and vulnerable in her music. Her lyrics are not about some club or weave or hair, it does not even have the sole aim of being a hit record or summer jam. It is just a honest story about hers or someone’s life that is being told. Not to mention, her singing is really good, so, all in one, you find yourself with a good deal or value for money.

I always ask myself if any of the current hit songs or albums would be relevant 5 or 10 years from now. I can easily jam to the music from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and some part of 90’s, when Urban/ RnB was at its core. But, the current state of music, I have no clue where it is headed.

Congrats to her and also to her label. I can only imagine how Rob Stringer (President of Columbia Records) feels now. My advise to A&R’s is to search for artists that will have vast longevity and not produce chewing gum music. I understand the demands on the label boss are to produce hits. But, a lot of money is invested to develop artists. What’s the point in investing in an artist that has limited viability? That’s a wasted investment in my opinion. I believe the focus should be to invest in an artist that will have a prolonged staying power of 20 years plus. Just a thought..

I leave you with ‘Hello‘.


Image: BBC

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