It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ’n’ roll in 2019.
Gone are the days when a rock album could achieve the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart on the strength of record sales alone. Instead, rock acts have turned to their tours to get the boost, adding a CD to every ticket sold to help inflate their ranking.
The bundling strategy is particularly effective in rock ’n’ roll, since many rock albums lack viral hit singles whose millions of streams can carry an album to No. 1, like Drake found with “God’s Plan” last year.
Bands such as Vampire Weekend and the Raconteurs have outperformed established rockers like Bruce Springsteen this year thanks in part to the bundle, which can often mean additional fees for concert tickets for consumers and a physical copy of a CD they may never open. But for rockers, handing out CDs with concert tickets can be what they need for a No. 1 album ranking, a distinction that still carries a high premium in the industry. The bragging rights and marketing opportunities that come with the top spot can make a crucial difference.
“The charts are a form of marketing,” said Merck Mercuriadis, a longtime music executive and founder of music investment company Hipgnosis Songs Fund. “If you’re able to say ‘I’m Jack White, and in 2019 I’m still having No. 1 albums,’ that’s a major statement to the industry.”
Rock albums used to dominate the Billboard 200 chart, but now they struggle to hit No. 1. That has led some artists to bundle albums with concert tickets, in hopes to lift their Billboard rankings.
Note: Genre categories are based on a Wall Street Journal analysis of Spotify genres attached to each artist.
Sources: Billboard (albums); Spotify (genres)