This week, Lana Del Rey released her ninth straight top 10 album on the Billboard 200, with Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd debuting at No. 3 on the chart. But it was the manner of that debut that caught the eye: of the 115,000 equivalent album units the record racked up in its first week, 58,500 units were vinyl — the biggest vinyl sales week of the year so far and the best of her career, with it also available on CD and cassette. And the remainder of the sum equated to some 36.14 million on-demand streams, the biggest streaming week of her career, to boot.
That success was no accident: the singer has always sold well at the vinyl format, according to her label Interscope Geffen A&M, and the label and her management team at TAP prioritized the format, as well as the other sales variants, in order to have them available the day the album came out, resulting in the big sales week. And that strategy helps earn Interscope Geffen A&M chief revenue officer and global head of streaming and strategy Gary Kelly earn the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
Here, Kelly breaks down what went into the big vinyl and sales week for Lana Del Rey, as well as how that major streaming activity helped play into the overall success of the album. “We always like to begin with what the demands of the fans are,” Kelly says. “This is what you see here, so every music product we created was based on our insights for what the fans would want to own.”
This week, Lana Del Rey’s Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with 115,000 equivalent album units, with vinyl making up 58,500 units — the best vinyl sales week of the year so far and best of her career. What key decision did you make to help make that happen?
Lana has been at the forefront of the vinyl resurgence, so our strategy was based on years of historical data and her overall growth with the Gen Z audience, who we know love vinyl to listen to and also to show their fandom. The Interscope revenue team worked closely with [her management team] Ben [Mawson], Ed [Millett] and Wendy [Ong] at TAP Management to ensure the album was delivered in time to ensure we had the master and the packaging in time to deliver for street date.
The album had six vinyl variants, with several exclusives available in different stores. How did you develop that strategy and how did you see it pay off?
On previous releases we had productive campaigns with partners like Target, indie retail, Amazon and Urban Outfitters. We looked at that historical data to determine the best path for Lana’s new project.
Have production delays for vinyl gotten easier, or does it still require long lead times? And how did you navigate that?
The supply chain issues that we experienced at the height of the pandemic are improving and we were able to manage inventory to ensure that we had plenty of the vinyl. Long lead times however still exist, but Universal Music Logistics has done a good job turning around reorders quickly. That helped tremendously, as some of the initial allocations sold out and we had to re-run additional inventory that arrived in time for street date. That would not have been possible in 2021 or 2022.
The album was also released through nine different CD variants, and also five different cassette versions. Why lean so much into those formats?
We always like to begin with what the demands of the fans are. This is what you see here, so every music product we created was based on our insights for what the fans would want to own.
The debut also marked the biggest streaming week in Lana Del Rey’s career. How did the streaming and sales strategies dovetail and feed off each other?
Lana having the largest streaming week of her career is tied to her making a brilliant album. She is a true artist and she pushes boundaries with every new project. New fans and audiences are catching up to her. That said, we look at streaming and sales audiences as having overlap, so when we launched the preorder and first single in December, we were driving pre-sales, but also driving fans to listen on the DSPs.
We had Lana in our Santa Monica recording studios in January and while listening to the album, there was a general feel from the marketing, digital and revenue teams that “A&W” would be the ideal song to release to further connect the streaming audience and pre-sales. It worked perfectly as the song reacted incredibly well with fans across the world and drove a substantial number of preorders. In fact, preorders jumped around 20%, which is unusual given that we had already amassed thousands of preorders because they had been available for almost three months by that point.
The album also reached No. 1 in the U.K., Australia and several other countries around the world. What was the global strategy with regards to this release?
We worked with Ben Mortimer, Stephen Hallows and the rest of the Polydor team to craft an in-depth global strategy with the UMG teams across the world. The Interscope international team did a great job working with the local affiliates to ensure the best plans were in place and executed. The results show how deeply connected we were with all of them between DSP campaigns, physical partner campaigns along with our direct relationship with fans across the world with our D2C strategy.
Do you see the future of physical sales as being more merch item or niche consumer product?
Most of the physical music products are built for segments of the fans that want to own something from their favorite artist to show off their fandom. That said, I do not see these as niche as much as reflective of what these fans want. Will those tastes change in the coming years? That most likely will be the case and we will want to adjust what we, and the artist, create to match fan interests and preferences.