clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Adele Sells More Music Than Anyone Ever, and Gives It Away, Too

Funny how that works.

The Tonight Show via YouTube
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Look. It’s the day before Thanksgiving. You are already checked out, or you are en route to being checked out. But you have a couple minutes to watch Adele with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, and I have a minute to post it. Also, unlike Adele’s new album, it is free:

Great, right?

Since we are still here:

  • If you are looking for big lessons in Adele’s success selling more albums in the last week than anyone, ever, don’t. She’s the definition of anomaly.
  • If you still insist on looking for lessons, you might head in this direction: We live in a pop music, track-and-hook world, but Adele lives in her own world, and it turns out lots of other people do, too. And an educated hunch is that many of those people are women, and/or older* than the people who camp out at Spotify and YouTube, and many of those people are happy to pay for a thing they like if it is convenient, which buying songs from iTunes (or even at an actual store!) can be.
  • Similarly, it seems off-key to invest much energy in the Adele vs. streaming debate: Yes, Adele has the ability — both contractually and clout-wise — to hold her stuff back from Spotify and Apple Music. No, there aren’t many more artists like her. (Again. Anomaly.) So you may see this again, occasionally. But not very often.
  • And if you insist on having the Adele vs. streaming debate: Why get so worked up about it? Adele’s move is inconvenient for Spotify and Apple Music users, because it means they can’t easily find all of her new album in one place. But you certainly can’t argue that it’s hard to find Adele’s music right now. It’s harder to avoid it.
  • And if you have a problem with the notion of restraining media to certain “windows” and certain times in order to maximize sales, then that’s a fine argument to make. But you have to make it on December 18, too.

*I’m not saying that everyone who bought Adele’s album is not young. But I am saying that half of the people who bought Adele’s new album bought it on CD.

This article originally appeared on