Nine singles in the top ten; 14 singles in the top 15; every single in the top 20; Ed Sheeran’s latest album has proven phenomenally successful. Having burst onto the music scene in 2011 with “The A Team”, his popularity has remained high, yet no one could have predicted this level of success from his third album. So, how does an artist achieve such chart domination?
It all started with a risk. It would have been easy for Ed to fall into obscurity after the year-long hiatus he took, removing himself from all social media and the music industry’s limelight. However, his use of the AIDA theory (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) has brought him back to the forefront of the music industry, and proven to be the backbone of his latest album’s astonishing success.
Ed has consistently employed marketing practices in his music, such as utilising bright colours to make his albums stand out and using symbols as short album titles to make them easier to remember. His latest album was no different. It started with a picture and colour scheme change on social media; both being solely the colour blue. As it was his first social media interaction for exactly a year, it certainly drew ‘attention’.
Then on 1st January 2017, Ed released a short video of him holding a piece of card with the words “New music coming Friday”. The next day, he released another short video of a colon fading over a hyphen, momentarily forming a division symbol. After his two previous albums, ‘+’ and ‘×’, people recognised this symbolism as meaning a new album was soon to be released, piquing their ‘interest’.
Ed then continued to tease fans over the next few days, releasing four further videos, with two containing lyrics but no music, and two containing music with no lyrics. Each video was around ten seconds long but created fan anticipation and ‘desire’ to hear the new songs in full.
On 6th January 2017, this desire evolved into ‘action’. Upon release, the singles “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill” were streamed 13 million times in their first 24 hours, a Spotify record, and both went on to enter the UK Singles Chart at number one and two respectively.
Sheeran in the media
However, Ed continued to feed the public and media ‘interest’, using more than just the radio airtime his two singles were already receiving. He continued to use Twitter to promote the already released singles, for example by sharing teasers for their music videos, and shared images of paper cuttings containing the other names of the tracks on his forthcoming album. He then went on to renew the ‘desire’ for his music by performing a new version of his single “Shape of You” with the rapper Stormzy at the Brit Awards the week before his album was due for release. However, his media dominance stems from more than just his abilities as a musician, but from a certain down-to-earth charm and genuinely “nice guy” image he possesses.
Ed appears to have a different anecdote for each press interview, revealing new stories, helping to endear him to a wide audience. As a result, he receives daily press coverage for each new tale. Some of the stories might suggest his ability to appear down-to-earth is surprising, like when talking to The Guardian about hitting Justin Bieber in the face with a golf club or Absolute Radio about the sword incident with James Blunt. However, he regards himself as, and is perceived as, a normal Suffolk guy, and much of his media coverage comes back to him performing genuinely nice acts. Whether talking about him taking a year out of the music industry to travel with his girlfriend and properly get to know her, him performing on The One Show for a couple who had chosen one of his songs as their first dance, or sharing personal stories about the relationships that led to the songs “Thinking Out Loud” and “Photograph”, there is a high level of authenticity to him, which endears him to an expansive audience.
Again, after all this media attention, ‘action’ was sure to follow, and led to ÷ becoming the third fastest selling UK album in history, and the fastest by a male solo artist. His use of traditional media and social media to increase his profile after a year out, and reconfirm the genuine view audiences had of him, was the catalyst to this phenomenal success. Here at Westgate Communications, we can’t guarantee you’ll get the fastest selling album of all time, however with a “Photograph” here and some “Thinking Out Loud” there, our “A Team” will be sure to support your commercial aims and can help to raise your personal profile!