Polydor execs on the Rolling Stones' 'audacious' No.1 campaign as Hackney Diamonds tops 72,000 sales

Polydor execs on the Rolling Stones' 'audacious' No.1 campaign as Hackney Diamonds tops 72,000 sales

The Rolling Stones outsold the rest of the Top 8 combined to secure a 14th No.1 album with Hackney Diamonds. 

The band’s first album of original material since 2005 secured the third biggest opening of the year with sales of 72,204 (including 64,606 physical copies, 4,373 downloads and 3,225 sales-equivalent streams), according to the Official Charts Company. Only Lewis Capaldi and Ed Sheeran have sold more in seven days so far in 2023, although Taylor Swift's 1989 (Taylor's Version) is already building towards a big opening week.

The chart result means that the Rolling Stones have 11 No.1 studio albums, which puts them level with The Beatles, Robbie Williams and Bruce Springsteen as the acts with the most chart-topping studio LPs. When taking into account other collections, including greatest hits, reissues and live albums, the Rolling Stones and Robbie Williams are on 14 No.1 albums, just behind The Beatles with 16.

As revealed in Alan Jones' charts analysis, the Rolling Stones are the only group to have new No.1 albums in six different decades (1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2010s, 2020s). The Stones already held that record for a newly-recorded hit in the singles chart across six different decades, established in September when Angry, the first single from Hackney Diamonds, reached No.34. It re-enters the chart this week at No.73 (5,377 sales). 

“When you’re given an opportunity to work with a band so ingrained in the history of British music, there’s a pressure to deliver,” Polydor president Ben Mortimer told Music Week. “Not just professionally, but personally. No one wants to let the Stones down. 

“Everyone at Polydor felt the same, and delivered an audacious, modern campaign. I’m really proud of this moment for the label.” 

“The Rolling Stones are the most legendary rock band in the world and to work on an album of this magnitude is an absolute honour,” added Polydor co-MD Stephen Hallowes. “The whole Polydor team, as well as their brilliant management team, everyone at Universal around the world and first and foremost the band themselves, have worked tirelessly to deliver a global campaign that has felt modern and exciting, as well as huge in scale and ambition from the first tease right the way through to this very well deserved No.1. And this is just the start of the campaign for this incredible album.”

Hackney Diamonds is the seventh No.1 album for Polydor so far this year, following chart-topping results for The Courteeners, Lana Del Rey, Boygenius, Ellie Goulding, Cian Ducrot and Olivia Rodrigo. The label was on top this week on the All Music - All Albums market shares with 11.2%.

Hackney Diamonds sold 27,371 copies on vinyl – the biggest week one total on that format for any act in 2023 so far. In fact, it’s the biggest seven-day total on the format since Taylor Swift’s Midnights moved 61,948 vinyl units and Arctic Monkeys’ The Car shifted 37,866 in the same week almost exactly a year ago. Hackney Diamonds’ vinyl total was not far off that of another big comeback album, ABBA’s Voyage, which had 29,891 vinyl sales (out of a total of 203,909) in its opening week in November 2021.

The Stones’ album was strong across both physical and streaming, with the rock veterans able to make the Top 20 most-streamed albums of the past week. CD sales were particularly impressive with a total of 36,179 units on that format.

The campaign launched in August with a teaser ad in the Hackney Gazette (“Hackney Diamonds… Our friendly team promises you satisfaction”), which got picked up online. The band followed that with a big launch event at Hackney Empire streamed globally via YouTube, global merch activations in pop-up stores and a high-profile partnership with FC Barcelona and Spotify featuring the iconic tongue & lips logo.

There’s plenty more to come, including a one-hour TV documentary, The Stones: Still Rolling, produced by Fulwell 73 and Mercury Studios (broadcast details to be confirmed).

Here, to celebrate the return of the Rolling Stones to the albums summit, we’ve gathered more Polydor execs to scrutinise the campaign and look ahead to further success in Q4 and beyond…

You had a big week one result with not a long run-up to release from the announcement. How did you bring it all together for a big opening? And how will you maintain momentum in Q4?

Fred Stuart, head of digital creative & artist development: “With the titling of the record and London heritage, we decided early on we wanted to start local and build out. The ad in the Hackney Gazette was as localised as you could get, but next thing you know it becomes global news. This built towards the livestream [of the album launch at Hackney Empire] which reached fans worldwide and, most importantly, placed the band at the centre of the campaign. It set the right tone from the start. They have been so present and brought so much energy.

“A large portion of our planning was always focused around the long-tail of the album. We could have front-loaded this campaign but purposefully held back. We had complete confidence in the record connecting for a very successful week one with the right select moves. A lot of the long-tail planning is also about finding new youth audiences for the record, which takes time and focus. Still to come are great activations with Snapchat and Roblox, a full short-form content series we’ve been working very hard on, and of course, the [Fulwell 73] documentary.”

Ali Tant, head of marketing: “To echo Fred, the campaign has been meticulously planned out so it didn’t ever feel static. Nobody is putting their feet up. We’ve got a lot more to come through Q4 to keep shining a light on Hackney Diamonds.”

Polydor delivered an audacious, modern campaign – I’m really proud of this moment for the label

Ben Mortimer

What were the key partnerships in place in terms of DSPs?

Paddy McLean head of streaming: “Every partner has come to the table in a huge way for the Stones. From YouTube helping us get millions of eyeballs on the launch with their incredible Hackney Empire partnership, to Apple diving into each individual band member's experience of making the new record, to Amazon’s huge global catalogue driver – and an upcoming bespoke Stones x Alexa animation – through to Spotify’s show-stopping FC Barcelona partnership. By far the biggest partnership I’ve ever worked on with Spotify at Polydor, the opportunity to see the Stones iconic tongue on FC Barca’s kit – the first band to feature – is truly next level!"

Given the quality and depth of the album, what are the long-term streaming opportunities into 2024 for this album in terms of key tracks? 

Paddy McLean: “While this week is about celebrating the huge streaming milestones the band are achieving, we’re of course plotting the 2024 streaming strategy already, which hopefully will include an incredible global remix activation, across both new and old records. We’ll of course have more singles from this album, but we’re also going to watch closely to see how the young generations interact with the album, and what favourites they choose to share off this incredible record.”

Ali Tant: “The streaming data this week has been incredibly encouraging. Each partner is seeing daily audience peaks and daily streaming peaks. We’ve seen steady audience growth through the entire year, but release day especially was something special. Whilst I’ve been delighted with the UK streaming, globally there have been some astonishing results, including eight of the 12 tracks from the album in the Spotify Top 50 in Netherlands.”

How did you come up with a campaign that nods to the Stones' past glories as well as embracing the future with new music?

Semera Khan (creative director): “I wanted the visual to be as exciting as the record was, and as they’re literally the most iconic looking band in existence, it made sense to lean into featuring the band, but I wanted to do it in a clever, original way. Plus the track required a ferocious performance in the video… you can’t ignore the swagger of those guitar riffs!”

The video starring Sydney Sweeney has had a great reaction - how important has that been in bringing in a new, young audience? 

Semera Khan: “Super-important, everyone should get to hear this record. Sydney is having her own moment as an actor and it was great to be able to bring both worlds together to create something classic but also modern. Her audience have been highly reactive to the music as well as the video, which is superb to see.”

They went to No1 with Goats Head Soup in 2020, what did you learn from that campaign? Who is the Stones’ audience in 2023?

Fred Stuart: “We approached Goats Head Soup with the same energy as a new record. It’s such an important one for fans. The fandom goes deep and they love storytelling. The temptation is to make everything broad with the Stones as we know there’s such mass awareness, but actually you have to start small, local, niche (an ad in the Hackney Gazette!). Really engage the super fans and grow from there. Also we learnt that when you present new, younger audiences with the right creative, the Stones really are a timeless prospect – for Goats Head Soup we had the Scarlet video with Paul Mescal, the beautiful visuals for Criss Cross, and a very modern creative across socials. This stuff really worked and it was important this new album campaign shared that energy. Everything had to feel modern and vibrant, looking forward not back.”

Ali Tant: “What we’ve always tried to do with The Stones, whether it’s catalogue or now the new release. is stay contemporary and stay tasteful. The Stones brand has always looked forward, this is why the band have existed at the level they have for 61 years. That is the mantra that we’ve always operated, whether we’re working a reissue from 1973 or Hackney Diamonds from 2023.”

Forty Licks was released to streaming this year - how has the new album announcement boosted that release? 

Ali Tant: “Most of the top streaming tracks which feature on Forty Licks are, on average, up around 20% on consumption globally following the release of Hackney Diamonds. The band’s monthly listeners on Spotify have grown 12% in the period into the release of the album. We’ve also seen strong performance on the band’s YouTube channel with nearly 100m video views, a 68% increase in consumption there based on the period leading into Hackney Diamonds.”

What are the long-term objectives for the band in terms of this album and catalogue working together? Can Forty Licks become a regular chart fixture?

Ali Tant: “Really, it’s about how we can continue to find new and innovative ways to allow fans to discover and fall in love with the band, whilst ensuring we’re rewarding the band’s core audience. Nobody has the rich history and catalogue the Stones do, and our job is to ensure that generations continue to discover that.”

Read more on the blockbuster Rolling Stones campaign.

PHOTO: Kevin Mazur 


TEAM Rolling Stones

Hackney Diamonds

Peak Position: No.1

Label: Polydor

Management: Joyce Smyth (Rolling Stones)
Management: Jane Rose (Keith Richards)
Management: Dave Trafford (RS Record Liaison)
EVP Strategic Global Marketing: Orla Lee-Fisher (UMG)
Co-Managing Directors: Stephen Hallowes & Jodie Cammidge (Polydor)
Marketing & Campaign Strategy: Ali Tant (Polydor)
Digital Marketing & Content Strategy: Fred Stuart (Polydor)
Creative Direction: Semera Khan (Polydor)
International Marketing: Victoria Fonfe (UMG International)
Marketing Assistant: Mackinlay Ingham (Polydor)
Digital Assistants: Milly Wensley & Isaac Harrison (Polydor)
Creative Content: Emily Jeffery (Polydor)
Creator Strategy: Danny Ingham (Polydor) / Louisa Chengo (UMG International)
Head of Social: Sarah Dando (Rolling Stones) 
TikTok & Shortform: Harry Moore & Harriet Brown (PACT Digital)
Physical Formatting: Will Wells (Polydor)
Streaming: Paddy McLean / Ajani Caro (Polydor)
CRM Strategy: Connor Male (Polydor)
National Press: Bernard Doherty, Matt Charbonneau & Cate McGivern (LD Communications)
National Radio: Laurence Pinkus (Polydor)
Regional Radio: Gavin Hughes (Fanatic PR)
TV: Claire Stacey (Polydor)
A&R Administration: Paul Walmsley (Polydor)
Sales: Ray Primett (Polydor)
D2C: Jack Hardman (Polydor)
Merch & Merch Partnerships: Ben Coe & David Boyne (Bravado)
VP Commercial Affairs: Alex Myers (UMG)
Physical Production: Jim McGuinness (UMG)


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