The 2016 In-Memoriam Music Business is Sadly, Booming

The deaths of so many music stars in 2016 has fueled sales of what’s being called the “In Memoriam” music business:

  • George Michael’s death on Christmas Day sparked a 12,000% increase in sales
  • Prince album sales surged 16,000% after his death
  • David Bowie streams on Spotify were up 2700% after his death
  • Leonard Cohen’s sales/streams increased by 400% following his death

The kicker in all of this is that the artists’ very deaths often remind us, to varying degrees, that our own time to experience all that life has to offer is limited.

This last point came home to me personally: When Prince died in April at age 57, I was knocked out of my complacency about how much time we have to do things. I booked Round 2 of my Nat Geo Around The World Trip immediately thereafter. I didn’t want to miss something that I had dreamed about my whole life. It made me come face to face with my own mortality in a very real way.

Read more below on who specifically drives after-death sales – and the different behaviors between existing and new fans.

Leif Brandes, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Warwick Business School, studied this phenomenon and identified who is likely to be a purchaser as well as the overall emotions around the death of a famous person:

There are two subsets of consumers who drive up after-death sales:

  1. Those motivated by nostalgia and
  2. Those made curious by the publicity that commonly surrounds the loss of a famous person.

The study also identifies differences in behaviors among new vs. existing fans in the aftermath of an artist’s death:

  • New fans are more likely to buy items about which they did not know before the artist’s death. They are also more likely to buy items, because they want to finally own the artist’s best work.
  • Existing fans show stronger emotional reactions to news about an artist’s death and are more often reminded about their own mortality.

Link to full study here.

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