Everyone wants to be my baby – now that’s what I call marketing
ARIOUS ARTISTS are doing very well for themselves. For the first time, sales of compilation albums have overtaken artist albums. Traditionally a niche market that is shunned by both the musical purist and the two-albums- a-year buyer, compilation albums have had a huge leap in sales, and it’s all down to the care and attention now taken in how they are curated.
The big success story here, released in January, has been Be My Baby, a three-cd box set of classic 1960s girl groups and singers. There’s not a filler in sight, just The Supremes, The Crystals, Dusty, Aretha et al doing their wondrous thing. Selling in the hundreds of thousands and one of the rare compilation albums to outsell the mighty Now That What’s I Call . . . series, Be My Baby’s popularity is down to its price and its track-listing.
If you shop around you can get it for ¤10 (and that’s for 70 songs). The track-listing appeals because, apart from the songs you’d expect, there are also a bunch of lesserknown tracks and some that rarely turn up on compilations from the era, such as Nothing But a Heartache by The Flirtations.
According to the team behind Be My Baby, the success of any compilation is down to “the concept/the artwork/the tracklisting/the price and the timing of the release”. This one ticks all those boxes.
On the timing question, it’s no coincidence that all of today’s big-selling female stars (Adele, Beyoncé etc) are dropping the names of these 1960s women in almost every interview they do. The potential for a sequel is also important, and Be My Baby 2 is being prepared even as we speak.
Among other big sellers are the Dreamboats and Petticoats series. The most unexpected success story of the past few years is now on its fifth release. The first Dreamboats album (jukebox classics from the 1950s and 1960s) sold millions and spent three years in or around the top of the compilation charts. It even spawned a hit live stage show. Another compilationselling in huge amounts is American Anthems. Loaded with tried and trusted hairrock anthems, it is now onto
its second collection, with a third due later this year.
The clever marketing behind these albums – whereby they don’t even bother fiddling around with traditional music media coverage, but just shove an ad on prime-time TV – ensures that even people who don’t normally go anywhere near a record shop are buying albums.
If the normal artist album is seeing its sales migrate to the compilation album, then it’s all the fault of itunes. Once people were freed up to pick and choose only the two or three songs they wanted off an artist’s 12-track album, there were always going to be retail consequences. But he compilation album gets around this by having such a tight track-listing that customers want the full release. And because of the highly competitive pricing, compilations are seen as a “value” release.
It may distress some that a title such as Now That’s What I Call Running! (a compilation from the Now! stable aimed at the joggers’ market) can and does outsell “worthy” albums, but you just can’t argue with putting out 60 wellknown songs – most of them chart hits – for around ¤12.
In the past, the sector never really sold digitally, but if you still think the compilation album is only there as a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day present, the current figures show that it’s the 18-25 demographic who are boosting the digital sales. Now That’s What I Call Running! achieved almost 50 per cent of its sales digitally.
For anyone still clinging to the notion that ownership of a TVadvertised compilation album automatically gets you expelled from the “real music fan” club, just take a listen to Be My Baby – one of the best-assembled releases of this or any other year.
Compilation queens: The Supremes