Pop Culture

Sales of 'Blackstar,' David Bowie's Final Album, Soar

Sales of David Bowie's last album — released two days before his death from cancer — soared on Monday along with downloads of his greatest hits, testimony to the powerful appeal of a pioneer in pop culture and the music business.

Streaming giant Spotify said streams of Bowie's music were up 2,700 percent on Monday, while the Official Charts Company in the U.K. said Bowie's "Blackstar" album was headed to the top spot on the charts with sales of 43,000 since its Friday release.

Image: A Japanese fan takes a photo of posters depicting British rock star David Bowie's last album "Blackstar" displayed at a music retailer in Tokyo
A Japanese fan takes a photo of posters depicting British rock star David Bowie's last album "Blackstar." TORU HANAI / Reuters

Bowie, who produced hits such as "Ziggy Stardust" during a career featuring daringly androgynous displays of sexuality and glittering costumes, died at age 69 on Sunday.

He was the first recording artist to sell bonds, known as 'Bowie Bonds,' against his intellectual property and backed by future earnings of his music.

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The bonds, which are now paid off, were bought by Prudential Insurance in 1997 for $55 million, and let Bowie retain ownership of his work rather than selling the copyright.

The model, constructed by investor David Pullman, was later adopted by artists such as James Brown and the Isley Brothers.

In an interview on Monday, Pullman estimated that Bowie's estate could be valued upward of $100 million, in part because Bowie owned 100 percent of his music.

"He was smart enough to have confidence in himself. Most artists sell themselves short, and they don't hold out for the rights," Pullman said. "He was able to retain his legacy. His songs were his baby."

Image: Well-wishers flock to Bowie mural in Brixton following the singer's death
Bowie fans bring flowers to a tribute mural for late British singer David Bowie in his birthplace Brixton, London, on Tuesday. FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA / EPA

The move also spared Bowie taxes he would have faced had he sold the rights, Pullman said.

"The real annuity for an artist's estate is owning copyright and catalog. That's the revenue stream," said Bill Werde, chief executive of entertainment agency Fenton and former editor of music trade publication Billboard.

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Still, he said, Bowie bonds were not all about money. "This was more about Bowie's blood, sweat and tears, and the idea that someone else owned part of it never sat right with him," Werde added.