This always happens when a famous musician dies...
That's precisely the case with Prince, the mega-successful singer, songwriter, and music producer who died at the age of 57 on April 21.
According to Nielsen Music, Prince’s albums and songs (including song downloads) have sold over 4 million copies in the U.S. since his untimely passing.
Just to put that massive number into perspective, Prince’s music sold comparably little the week prior to his death: just 5,000 albums and 14,000 song downloads in the week ending April 15.
We saw a similar phenomenon play out when Michael Jackson died in 2009 and James Brown passed away in 2006.
So why do people do this?
For starters, they're big fans of the person's music and do it as a way of honoring his or her life. Now that the individual is gone, they can no longer look forward to seeing them live in concert or at awards shows on TV. They have to make do with songs and music videos, which they don't mind shelling out money for. Psychologically, it's as if they're taking a little piece of the musician with them.
Upon Michael Jackson's death, I remember feeling compelled to purchase two of his countless hits: Black or White and Billy Jean. I felt it was the last I could do to honor a legend who gave so much to the industry. There's a reason he was known as the "King of Pop," and I doubt there will ever be someone as talented as him in music ever again.
Those who are especially likely to do this probably grew up on the late musician's music. My coworker Alan was in disbelief when he'd learned of Prince's death. He attended one of Prince's concerts many years ago and says it was one of the best he has ever been to.
Another reason people buy a recently deceased singer's albums and songs in droves is because what I like to call the bandwagon effect. People have this compulsion to want to do what everyone else is doing. They don't want to feel left out. That's why you see so many people become "bandwagon" fans of local teams that start to play well after one or more lousy seasons. No one wants to go to the games when the team is playing miserably; everyone wants to be there, however, to see the upstart team in the playoffs. It's yet another prime example of the so-called herd mentality.
In this case, people don't want to be left in the cold while everyone is being swept by Prince fever. It also makes for a good conversation in at home, in school, and at work.
It's ironic how a record company would stand to gain so much from a musician's death. Posthumous sales aside, I think it's a testament to the wide appeal that so many musicians have on the public. Even though they're no longer with us, they're outlived by their captivating voice, which stays with us for a lifetime.