How The Rolling Stones Are Being Marketed To A New Generation

24 October 2023 | 3:40 pm | Christie Eliezer

The Rolling Stones' first album of new material in 18 years, 'Hackney Diamonds', is in the midst of an ambitiously massive marketing campaign.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones (Credit: Kevin Mazur)

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The publicity machine shifted into gear long before Hackney Diamonds, The Rolling Stones’ first album of new studio material in 18 years, dropped on October 20.

But it has also given their record companies Polydor and Universal Music the chance to pitch the band of 80-year olds with wrinkles and arthritis to a younger audience and spotlight one of rock music’s best back catalogues.

In an interview with London-based trade magazine Music Week, Polydor UK’s head of marketing Ali Tant outlined how the company set up the release of Hackney Diamonds. The official kick-off was on September 6 at a media bash at the Hackney Empire in East London which was livestreamed on the Stones' YouTube channel.

During the Q&A, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood talked about the London origin of the album title.

Jagger: “It’s like when you get your windscreen broken on Saturday night in Hackney and all the bits go on the street, that’s Hackney Diamonds.

Richards: “We went from Hit And Run, Smash And Grab, and somehow we came up with Hackney Diamonds – it is a London band.”

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But Jagger was insistent with Polydor/Universal Music that the press conference not be a “London-only” event. So American TV star Jimmy Fallon (with a social media following in the millions) was flown in to host, and 70 percent of the audience was made up of international media.

Polydor had partnered with YouTube three months before to be partners. “The launch was everything that we wanted and more,” Tant said. The livestream was watched by188,000 people, that figure rising to 2 million within the first 24 hours.

“The main views outside of the UK came from the US, Germany, Japan, France, South Korea, Brazil. Off the back of the launch, within 48 hours we had 10 percent growth on subscribers to the YouTube channel.”

Each major retailer got exclusive product. Tokyo got a Stones-themed record store, the second in the world after the first opened in 2020 in London.

Getting Angry

The broadcast was followed by the premiere of the video of lead-off single Angry, shot in Los Angeles and featuring The White Lotus actress Sydney Sweeney. It has so far generated 16 million views. Angry has become a Top 40 hit in 12 countries (their first in the UK since 2005), with 60 percent of listens coming from streaming. Music Week reported that they are the first act to have a newly-recorded hit song over six different decades.

To reach a wider new (read: younger) market, the single was included on the soundtrack for football-themed video game EA Sports FC 24, which reached 11.3 million players in its first week. The muscular slab of guitar-rock was slipped in with tracks by Stormzy, Jack Harlow, Major Lazar, Baby Keem with Kendrick Lamar, Karol G, Ninho (feat. Central Cee), Lovejoy, The Blessed Madonna and Ashnikko, as well as breakout artists as The Last Dinner Party, Obongjayar and KayCyy.

Through the band’s partnership with Spotify, the Stones’ iconic tongue-and-lips logo is featured on a special El Clásico shirt for FC Barcelona’s men squad when they play on October 28 to beam to millions of fans around the world, and then by Barça Femení during their home match on November 5.

“It’s an honour to feature the legendary Rolling Stones on the legendary FC Barcelona shirt,” said Marc Hazan, VP of Partnerships at Spotify. “Only Spotify could bring the Rolling Stones to the global stage of El Clásico—one of the few stages they haven’t played!”

There will be 1,899 jerseys available, inspired by the club’s founding year, on sale from the club’s website.

On October 19, Paint It Black, the most streamed Stones song on Spotify, joined the platform’s Billions Club after surpassing one billion streams. Second most streamed is the ballad She’s A Rainbow.

Dropping on October 20 was the new album’s second single, the gospel-tinged Sweet Sounds Of Heaven, featuring Lady Gaga alongside Stevie Wonder on Fender Rhodes, Moog and piano.

On the night before its release, the Stones played a surprise 25-minute club show in New York at Racket NYC before a crowd of 500 who’d arrived for just a listening party. For the encore, Gaga joined them for Heaven, making headlines around the world.

A reviewer reported: “On the album it verges on overblown, but it’s a different story seeing her and Jagger duetting, smiling and egging each other on”.

Monster Sellers

There is no doubt that some of the Stones albums have been monster sellers. According to data from ChartMasters, their best seller has been Sticky Fingers which found homes with 22.13 million fans around the world. It is, incidentally, one of seven long-players to reach #1 in Australia, alongside The Rolling Stones, Their Satanic Majesties Request, Goat’s Head Soup, Voodoo Lounge, Blues and Lonesome and GRRR!

Their second biggest all-time seller is Let It Bleed (21.60m) then Aftermath (20.17m), Some Girls (18.66m), Tattoo You (16.57m), Out Of Our Heads (16.43m), Beggars Banquet (15.96m), Goat’s Head Soup (12.31m), Exile On Main St (11.12m) and  Emotional Rescue rounding off the Top 10 with 6.9m.

However a Liberty Games study this year showed that of classic rock artists most listened to in 2022, the Stones only ranked eight. Top of the list were Queen (1.86 billion), followed by AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses with 1.33 billion each, then Bon Jovi, Metallica, Nirvana and The Beatles before Jagger and his cohorts.

The singer made it clear he wanted sales of Hackney Diamonds to stretch out over two years, so there are initiatives to be dropped over the next months. One of these is a one-hour TV documentary The Stones: Still Rolling by Fulwell 73 (the team behind The Kardashians’ big deal with Hulu) and Mercury Studios, which last week was being pitched to global buyers at Mipcom in Cannes, France.

Streaming Stones

The publicity around Hackney Diamonds has seen Polydor/Universal launch a campaign to trigger off streaming numbers for the Stones’ back catalogue. They have sold six million songs digitally since January 2006, but five other artists have sold more of their back catalogue.

Ali Tant said in Music Week: “There is huge room for growth and I truly feel the quality of this album gives them a huge opportunity to do that. Alongside the new album we’re constantly looking for new initiatives to help grow catalogue streaming.”

It started in the northern summer when hits album 40 Licks from 2002 (when it sold seven million copies and reached #3 in Australia) was released for the first time on streaming platforms, as well as a lavish, limited edition four-disc, 180-gram black vinyl and a reimagined Dolby Atmos version.

Generally regarded as the most representative of their compilations, its 2.5 hours of music included five Australian #1s: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Paint It Black, Honky Tonk Women, Angie and Start Me Up. Peaking at #2 were Jumpin’ Jack Flash, The Last Time, Red Rooster, Get Off My Cloud and As Tears Go By. Entering the Top Five were Brown Sugar, Heart Of Stone, Fortune Teller, We Love You and Sympathy For The Devil.