INSIGHT: Is Adele’s £90M Contract The Last Super Deal For Artists?


Adele is reportedly to sign a £90million record deal — the biggest ever handed to a British musician. The 28-year-old Skyfall singer’s Sony Music contract tops the £80million EMI paid Robbie Williams in 2002. It is also the most valuable for a woman, eclipsing Whitney Houston’s £70million from Arista in 2001.

First of all, it should be seen as the latest success for a super-successful artist – or in other words, a much sought-after product. Adele is one of the few big European stars able to appeal to people and fans worldwide, something that has become increasingly difficult as a result of the digitalization of music, the explosion of choice when it comes to music and the ensuing development of new niche markets.

The deal will nearly double her fortune overnight to a staggering £175million. The Someone Like You singer — who is said to be set to sign the contract in the coming weeks — is already worth £85million, according to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List. But that will rocket when the Grammy winner puts pen to paper. A Sony Source  added: “Adele’s deal with her original label XL expired and we’d an existing relationship with her in America. “The deal is being worked on by our Columbia label in the US, but is worth £90million and gives Sony the rights to release her future music exclusively around the world.”

Adele is countering that trend, and that’s why she enjoys a high market value and a very special status in the music industry. The deal also shows that even nowadays, music and art continue to have a high value. After all, a singer could hardly be so successful if her fans weren’t buying her records and thereby increasing demand. Adele is known for her very special approach toward music marketing, and has firmly put her foot down against the online streaming culture. Is she a particularly headstrong artist in her refusal to let herself be controlled by the laws of the market?

Music marketing is always an important decision for artists. In any case, I think we need to get rid of the idea that, in a completely digital world, everything needs to be available for everybody, everywhere. The scale of the deal for 28-yearold Adele, from Tottenham, North London, is remarkable in an era when piracy and streaming services have diminished album sales. Adele’s deal was negotiated by her manager Jonathan Dickens, the newspaper reported. A music source said: “Jonathan’s been putting it together for a couple of years. He was very aware of her worth in the market and stood firm to push for the £90million.”

When you look at Adele’s sales volumes, you’ll see that she focuses on traditional media – CDs, for example. And when she says that, to a great extent, she plans to stay away from streaming platforms in favor of a more traditional approach, that’s completely legitimate. That restrictive approach is nothing new. The same trend exists in TV, where digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime make exclusive offers for series and TV content. And it’s the same with music, when artists decide to restrict themselves to certain specialty channels. It makes sense, as the strongest demand comes from there. To what extent should this be seen as a return to CDs or records, away from digital streaming? Does that say something about Adele, who at 28 is still a relatively young artist?

No, it doesn’t really say anything about Adele, but about ourselves – as music consumers and fans. We need to say goodbye to the idea that developments always follow a clear direction. Records became CDs, and now CDs are developing into something intangible, such as music streams and the like. I think it’s important not to measure the value of music in terms of its form. Adele will always be Adele, no matter how we experience her music. The decision of how to listen to music should be left to consumers.
It’s up to the artists and the music business to offer music in the form in which people want it. It doesn’t make sense to claim that digital is always cool, or that CDs and records are incredibly old-fashioned. There’s a wide range of different offers out there, allowing fans and music lovers to make their own choices.


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