Adding to the loss of so many music icons throughout 2016, the recent death of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen highlights the impact that the passing of an artist can have on music sales and streaming. Canadian fans paid tribute to Cohen not only by consuming music from across his catalogue, but by engaging with music from related artists’ repertoires as well.
News of Cohen’s passing in early November immediately spurred sales. One week after his death, nine Cohen albums were on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart, including two in the top five. His latest album, You Want It Darker, released in late September, debuted at No. 1 and then fell to No. 3 until the week Cohen passed away, at which point it re-claimed the No. 1 spot. According to Nielsen Music Connect, total consumption* of You Want It Darker increased more than 200% the first week after Cohen’s death, and songs from that album were streamed more than 800,000 times—over 150,000 more than the total number of streams the album had in its first three weeks of release combined.
But fans weren’t just buying and streaming the new album, they also went back to the classics. Interest in Cohen’s catalogue spiked across the board over the previous week, with total album sales up 320%, digital tracks up 546% and streams up 489%. Cohen’s hits collection, The Essential Leonard Cohen, leapt from No. 56 to No. 4 on the charts, with close to 9,000 total consumption units the week after Cohen’s passing. This collection had the highest digital song sales, the fourth-highest album sales, and the ninth-highest audio on-demand stream total for the week. Cohen’s classic song “Hallelujah” landed at No. 4 on the digital songs chart and in the top 20 on the streaming songs chart.
Given Cohen’s acclaim as a poet and songwriter, his fans include many fellow artists who recorded his songs. Cover versions of Cohen’s songs saw big increases as well, including Pentatonix (+123% digital song sales, +93% streaming), Jeff Buckley (+445% digital, +203% streaming), k.d. lang (+611% digital, +610% streaming) and Rufus Wainwright (+800% digital, +305% streaming). Even Jennifer Warnes’ 1987 album of Leonard Cohen songs, Famous Blue Raincoat, entered the Billboard Canadian Album chart at No. 195.
*Total consumption measurement includes track equivalent album sales (10 downloads = 1 album sale) and streaming equivalent album sales (1,500 streams = 1 album sale).
Nielsen Music Connect Canadian sales and streaming data comparison from chart weeks Nov. 10, 2016 and Nov. 17, 2016. Nielsen Music Connect measures sales, streaming, airplay and social data, and powers the official Billboard charts.