Ed Sheeran’s third album, ‘÷’, has smashed records by becoming the first album to reach over 500K sales in a week in the UK. With more than 672K album sales worldwide and 312K of those being sold within the first week in the UK alone, Sheeran is a modern day record seller. To understand how Ed Sheeran as an artist fits this criteria we need to take a look back into history when vinyl was the dominant force in recorded music. At that time many artists found success not only because they had great songs but because they were also the best at promoting their product. If we take a look at Ed Sheeran’s career trajectory it isn’t hard to see why he is currently one of the most successful recording artists today…
Ed Sheeran Becomes a Recording Artist
Ed Sheeran’s career as a recording artist really began when he was signed to the EMI record label. His first album, ‘+’, was released in 2011 and featured tracks such as ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ and ‘Give Me a Reason’. It reached Gold Status in the UK, which means it sold over 100,000 copies. His second album, ‘x’, released in 2014 and reached Platinum status in the UK, selling over 300,000 copies. The release of ‘x’ also saw Sheeran reaching greater success in the US. His single, ‘Sing’, was released as a free download prior to the album release and managed to reach No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also reached No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot Digital Songs and Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, making it the first song to top all three charts simultaneously since Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ in 1987.
Ed Sheeran’s Breakthrough Year: 2013
While both his first and second albums saw Sheeran’s commercial success grow, it was his third album, ‘÷’, that really saw him break through to a wider audience. In the UK, ‘÷’ sold over 312K copies in its first week, making it the fastest-selling album of the year and the fastest-selling album by a male artist. It also broke an 80-year-old record set by The Beatles for the most consecutive weeks at the top of the UK albums chart by a solo artist. The album’s success wasn’t solely due to Sheeran’s growing popularity. It also saw him re-branding himself as an artist. He changed his image and how he presented himself to the public by cutting his long curly locks and upgrading his style. He also started to play music festivals in the UK and the US, where he made an appearance at the Coachella Festival in California. He also went on his ‘x’ Tour of the UK and parts of Europe.
2014 Marks the Rise of Collaborations for Ed Sheeran
While Sheeran’s first and second albums featured him as the sole artist, his third album saw him reach out to other artists to create new collaborations and unique soundscapes. He featured acts such as Justin Bieber, Eminem, Sean Mendes and the rising star, Stormzy. The release of his single, ‘Thinking Out Loud’, saw Sheeran reaching No. 1 on 16 charts around the world, including the UK, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, Spain and Switzerland. It also became the first song to simultaneously top the US Hot 100, Hot R&B and Hot Adult Contemporary charts since Sia’s ‘Cheap Thrills’ in August 2016.
2015: The Year that Changed Everything for Ed Sheeran
2015 saw Sheeran break even more records and create even more success for himself. It was the year that saw his third album reach No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts, making him the first artist in history to have an album debut at No. 1 on both charts with each of his three studio albums. He was also the first artist to have two albums that sold 1 million copies within a single calendar year. The 2015 BRIT Awards saw Sheeran become the first artist in the award show’s history to win in each of the three major categories (British Male Solo Artist, British Breakthrough Act and British Album of the Year). It was also the year that saw Sheeran break one of the most notorious records in music. The Guinness Book of World Records had listed the largest concert crowd in history as being 1,600 people who saw The Beatles play at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1965. The record had remained unbroken for 50 years until Sheeran decided to break it. In September 2015, he performed at a basketball stadium in San Francisco and was watched by an audience of more than 48,000 people.
It isn’t easy to create commercial success while remaining true to your artistic vision, but that is exactly what Ed Sheeran has done with his third album, ‘÷’. He has broken records and has become a modern day record seller by reaching a wider audience while staying true to his creative vision. He has managed to succeed commercially while staying true to his musical style, something that many artists have failed to do. Ed Sheeran has proved to be more than just a record seller; he has become a legacy artist whose work will be heard for years to come.