While complete music sales numbers won’t be released until January, Nielsen is already noting that the large number of post-death sales spikes will benefit each of the companies.
“This was different from other years,” Dave Bakula, Nielsen senior vice president of industry insights, told The NY Post. “The news cycle is very viral. I’ve never seen a year like this before, the number of big- name artists passing away. The music industry is getting an extra boost from the celebration of artists’ lives.
All three major labels, Universal, Sony Music and Warner Music are beneficiaries, though Sony and Warner appear to have housed more deceased stars.
Three huge 1980s pop stars died this year – George Michael, Prince and David Bowie. We cannot discount rocker Glen Frey of the Eagles, Leonard “Hallelujah” Cohen or regional Mexican recording artist Juan Gabriel who experienced an increase in music sales of 846% in less than a week of his death.
As news of each artist’s death broke, fans clicked on YouTube and Spotify to stream and share their favorite songs, pushing decades-old hits, like “Purple Rain” and “Careless Whisper,” back into the charts.
George Michael, who died suddenly on Christmas day, was signed to Sony’s Epic label with his publishing rights held by Warner/Chappell. Spotify reported that streams spiked 3,158 percent globally on Dec. 25 compared with the prior Sunday.
Nielsen will release details of Michael’s sales later this week, but a quick check of Apple’s iTunes charts shows the late artist dominating top music videos. Five of his albums hit the Top 20, and 13 songs landed in the Top 100.
In the week of his death, streams of Prince songs rose 5,600 percent. His songs sold more than 1 million digital tracks on the day of his passing according to Nielsen. Digital album sales surpassed 200,000 units, an increase of 14,000 percent. Prince’s album sales in 2016 increased by 2 million to a total of 4 million over 2015, per Nielsen’s data
David Bowie’s recorded music rights are split between Warner Music and Sony, while Universal also had a handful of song rights. His “Blackstar” album, written in part about his imminent passing, was released on Jan. 10 and has sold 450,000 copies.
Ten of his albums hit Billboard Top 200 charts, and he had 17 of the Top 200 best-selling songs the week after he passed.
Leonard Cohen died less than two months ago, Cohen and his 14th studio album, “You Want It Darker,” was released by Sony’s Columbia. It tripled sales one week after his death and song sales of “Hallelujah” (including on-demand streaming) increased more than 1,000 percent.
Nielsen notes how technology today allows for a steeper spike in sales of artists when they die.
“If Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White passed away 10 years ago, you might have read about it in a paper and then waited until there was a store open,” Nielsen’s Dave Bakula says “Now, the news cycle travels extremely fast and you get more awareness. The instant gratification is there. You can buy it or stream it, and it magnifies the consumption.”
As a point of reference, Michael Jackson and his music has generated more revenue than any artist dead or alive since his death in 2009. His once bankrupt estate has generated more than $2B……doggone it Billie Jean!!!