With the decline in album sales over the past couple of years, singers are feeling the pressure now more than ever to produce smash hits which they hope will emulate the success of Adele’s ‘21′, which has now surpassed global sales of twenty-six million copies. So, what can artists do to bridge the gap between studio albums, keep them in the media and on the charts and not looking as though they have dropped off of the face of the earth? Over the last couple of years, there seems to have been a revival of the Christmas genre, which has seen several recording artists, including Justin Bieber, Michael BublÃƒ© and Rod Stewart, ‘choosing’ releasing them.
By ‘choosing’, of course, I mean their record labels advocating to release them. (I’m pretty sure it was not Bieber’s idea!) As with any industry, the bottom line is always making money. Record labels are the financial force behind every singers artistic vision. While all artists dream of having their music played on radio and being available to download on iTunes, all record labels dream about the profit they will (hopefully) generate. And if the recent trend is anything to go by, then the Christmas album is able to do just that.
It has become a quick and easy route for artists to re-establish or maintain notability and relevance on the charts, and for record labels to recoup investments. It is low risk, production can be completed in a very short amount of time, promotion need only last from October to December and the theme is a no-brainer. It is a tried and tested formula which has worked for more than sixty years.
R&B songbird Mariah Carey is no stranger to the yuletide genre, and has released two Christmas albums during her twenty-three year career. Her first, ‘Merry Christmas’, was released in 1994, spawned the now classic Christmas chanson ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’, and has gone on to sell more than fifteen million copies worldwide. Since her debut four years prior, Carey had already cemented herself as one of the best selling artists in the industry, and she saw the album as a personal and musical connection to her belief in God.
Fair enough, right? So, what exactly led her to release her second Christmas album, ‘Merry Christmas II You’, in November 2010? Poor sales (by Carey standards) of her previous two studio albums, ‘E=MC²’ (2008) and ‘Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel’ (2009)? It would seem so, as Carey had planned for a remix album to Memoirs, titled ‘Angels Advocate’, to be released in early 2010, but the project was shelved. Marketed as a sequel to ‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Merry Christmas II You’ proved to be a success in the United States, topping the appropriately titled Holiday Albums chart and becoming the first Christmas album to hit the number one position the R&B/Hip-hop Albums chart. She even recorded an entirely new vocal for ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’, strategically called the ‘Extra Festive’ version.
The following year saw other artists trying their luck at the clearly winning formula. Bieber’s ‘Under the Mistletoe’ and BublÃƒ©’s ‘Christmas’ both came after multiple number one albums for each artist. Both Christmas albums sold in their millions, and both feature covers of Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’. Astonishingly, Carey features on her own song on Bieber’s even more strategically titled ‘Super Festive’ version. Furthermore, Bieber and BublÃƒ© have both gone on to have number one albums since these releases.
So, what exactly led their record companies to choose to release them? To put this into perspective, BublÃƒ©’s ‘Christmas’ has sold more than three million copies in the United States. The album costs $13.99 on the US iTunes store, so a bit of simply arithmetic (or a couple of buttons pressed on a calculator!) shows that ‘Christmas’ has generated sales of over $40,000.000. Yes, that is forty million dollars just in his domestic market. It would not come as a surprise to know that global sales probably stand at over $100,000.000, considering that UK sales tally at a little over £18,000.000 ($28,000.000). With large royalty cheques falling out of their christmas cards, it’s no wonder that Leona Lewis (on the recommendation of Simon Cowell), Kelly Clarkson and Mary J. Blige have decided to release Christmas albums this year! Perhaps the recession has affected a wider range of people than what we thought?