How Andrea Bocelli Went To Numero Uno

Photo courtesy of Andrea Bocelli
– Andrea Bocelli

More than several industry brows were raised when Andrea Bocelli’s new album, , bowed atop the charts, an impressive feat orchestrated here in the U.S. by a skilled team of industry pros. This included manager Scott Rodger (whose eclectic roster includes, Paul McCartney, Shania Twain and Marina and the Diamonds) of Maverick management; Universal Music Classics President Graham Parker and Verve Label Group President Danny Bennett for the release on the tenor’s longtime label Sugar Music through Decca Records. Universal Music Group SVP Marketing for Special Projects & Soundtracks Holly Adams and ID-PR’s Allison Elbl are commended for a deftly handled publicity campaign.

Considering Bocelli’s previous album, Cinema, a collection of classic movie songs that came out three years ago, sold merely 30,000 its first week, the success of Si, which debuted with 126,000 (a remarkable 123,000 in traditional album sales according to Billboard), is even more astonishing. The No. 1 ranking was the first ever in the U.S. for Bocelli – and only the second classical album to achieve the feat in the last 12 years, since Il Divo’s Ancora in 2006. The release also debuted atop the U.K.’s album chart, another first for Bocelli. 
“I was deeply moved by such a strong, unequivocal expression of affection from a great country that loved me from the start, and which, after a period of more than 20 years, I now consider my second homeland,” Bocelli told Pollstar in an exclusive interview. “I am proud to represent, once again, a small portion of the sound of the lives of many people, communicating a message of optimism, hope and love, which are the values that inspire the album.”
Part of the overall plan which has helped artists from Pink, Arcade Fire to LCD Soundsystem also debut at No. 1 included a concert ticket bundling plan offering the consumer the choice to opt in to receive a “free” copy of the new album, with the cost being absorbed into their purchase. Bocelli will embark on an eight-city U.S. tour starting Nov. 29 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, including shows at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (Dec. 1), two shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden (Dec. 12-13) and one at Boston TD Garden (Dec. 15) before returning in February for two dates at Metropolitan Opera House (Feb. 10, 17) and one at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla., (Feb. 14).  
“This record proves that Andrea Bocelli is the greatest living tenor in the world,” says Universal Music Classics President Parker, who took the job more than two years ago from running New York’s WQXR, the country’s most popular classical station. “Just as in every phase of his career, he’s found a connection with an audience.”
Using analytics derived from studying fan social media sites, Parker explains that, “We simply went back to what worked for him from the very beginning – brand-new, original songs sung in Italian and beautifully orchestrated.”
Sí is, in fact, Bocelli’s first album of all-original material since 2004’s Andrea, and, as he’s done in the past with the likes of Sarah Brightman, Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez, features performances with contemporary artists like Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Josh Groban and, most notably, his 21-year-old son Matteo.
The latter, who amazingly only began singing a few years ago, is featured with his father on “Fall on Me,” featuring a video that has garnered more than 25 million views since late September, charting on streaming playlists all over the world.
With a marketing plan that relied on new-school methods, there was also a flair for the traditional, including a Times Square billboard and a requisite appearance for Andrea and Matteo performing “Fall on Me” for late-night TV (“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”).
“It was a very clear goal of ours to go No.1 with this record,” explains Parker. “Part of our thinking revolved around how to position the album. Andrea had never reached that peak in his career, and we all felt he deserved it. And then once we heard the album, we were convinced because, in the end, it always comes down to the music.”
“If the artist isn’t world-class, and you’re not dealing with great music, all the marketing in the world can’t help,” says Verve’s Bennett, who perfected many of the techniques used with Andrea Bocelli’s new album on his own dad, the legendary Tony Bennett, introducing him to a younger generation through appearances on MTV and hooking him up with pop duet partners.
The Bocelli team also brought in noted rock producer Bob Ezrin, who helped polish the arrangements, adding modern touches like programming and rhythmic instruments from his work with the likes of Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel and KISS. 
“What Bob did was hone a new sound for him,” says Parker. “Andrea’s voice sounds so young and vibrant. And Andrea’s always worked with younger artists and musicians. This is just a continuation of him engaging with audiences of all ages.”
Added Scott Rodger: “It was important not to be predictable with the creative vision for the album. The original intention was to make a contemporary classical album that would appeal to the masses, even those people who perhaps would not be thought of as classical music fans.”
“There is a common misconception that opera and classical is only for old people,” said Parker. “That’s simply not true. It’s not just for those who attend operas or symphony halls.  This music can touch anybody at any age. Andrea’s ability to communicate a song or a message is powerful and real. You can hear it on this album.”
Ironically, old-world classical music has benefited from modern streaming dynamics, which has leveled the playing field when it comes to reaching an audience.
“We can put the record directly in the hands of the people,” says Bennett about reaching concert ticket buyers. He doesn’t apologize for orchestrating a month-long pre-sale that resulted in Bocelli’s chart-topping week.
“We have to go where the audience is, and bundling is a direct-to-consumer way of getting to that core Andrea Bocelli fan,” he explains. “We’re simply removing the middle man. We don’t need to rely on radio programmers or retail buyers any longer. 
You have to satisfy the public, and while Andrea’s back to doing what he does best, it’s up to us to do the rest. I’m really proud of what he’s delivered to us, and what our team has been able to do with it. The music leads, and the artist is the boss. When you have those in place, 80 percent of your work is done.”
“It’s probably one of the most strategic campaigns I’ve ever worked,” acknowledges Rodger.  
“Andrea’s voice is the driver here. He is in a league of his own and unmatched in his genre.”
And the final outcome of all that planning, hard work and execution pleased no one as much as Bocelli himself, who spoke to Pollstar of “the prophetic voice of my father, who, in the face of my difficulties breaking through in music, exhorted me to go to America,” then dedicated the album’s success to his memory. “He is credited with having been able to look beyond, and with teaching me those values that have guided me thus far.”