Controversy #4: The Splash Strategy Illusion Part 2
In 1993, after enjoying years of huge catalog sales from their studio albums, EMI regenerated Red and Blue compilations. By then, the last Top 10 compilation in the US was 1976 set Rock N’ Roll Music. If someone wanted to pick a greatest hits album, it had to go after old LPs and Cassettes which were the only items available for many years. After creating such a background, it isn’t surprising that Red and Blue CD releases got shipped at a combined 5,5 million units within’ a couple of months. The same happened with Live at the BBC in 1994, the first live album issued in CD, some 17 years after the previous similar set, Live at the Hollywood Bowl, that was not released in CD format until much later.
With One, they did it again. The 1-CD compilation was long awaited creating a terrific wave of hype upon release.
Then came the digital era. While all artists moved to the new format as it happened two decades earlier with CD releases, thus being all a non-event, EMI did it the other way for the Beatles catalog. From the start of legal downloads in 2003 to the band availability in 2010, billions of tracks got downloaded. Why waiting until 2010 then? To force the buying of full high-priced albums and to strongly boost the 2009 albums remasters, making it a major event. Had people from all over the World been cherry-picking their main hits for years, their impact would have been much lower. Once again, compilations got reissued after studio albums – Red and Blue in 2010, One in 2011 – to fully maximize sales, first selling several studio albums then publishing the cash-in material.
Digital release was a event too, scheduled in November. Obviously, it was no coincidence. If pre-Christmas days are the hottest of the year for physical sales, downloads biggest time-frame is the couple of weeks after Christmas thanks to all teens spending the iTunes gift card they received that day. Thus, by issuing the Beatles catalog in November, EMI granted them a huge promotion just in time for Christmas purchases. This decision made sure consumers bought both remastered CDs and iTunes cards as gifts, boosting sales in both avenues.
Five years later on December 24 2015, for the exact same reason, EMI sent the Beatles catalog on all Streaming platforms. As offering a subscription isn’t an habit as iTunes cards were, they waited for Christmas purchases to be completed before revealing the catalog in streaming. They did so in 2015 since the break point that saw estimated streaming revenues getting bigger than estimated sales lost due to that availability got reached, after which they joined all other artists in those services.
All those successions of demand retention and hyped offer create the illusion of insane domination due to concentrated sales with various charts records, pushing uneducated chart followers to inflate their results and sales. It looks like a similar event – CD releases, remasters, download availability, streaming availability etc. – for the Beatles always outperformed insanely the results of other acts. If we get into details of each act, we would notice this is just not true. Results are undoubtedly way more visible thanks to perfectly timed and sized marketing campaigns, but not necessarily much bigger.