The reunion of Take That with Robbie Williams is dominating the tabloids in the U.K. today (July 16) and the news has gone global, too. Take That and Robbie Williams are trending on Twitter, with Germans, Spaniards and the French getting just as excited as British fans about the first album as a five-piece since 1995's "Nobody Else."
The reunion made TV news thanks to supplied footage of the group back together, 20 years after their first TV appearance.
Any acrimony between the group resulting from Williams' exit had long gone, but the reunion began in earnest last September in New York. All five members then got involved in writing and recording six songs that formed the basis for the as-yet-untitled album, to be released by Polydor/Universal in November 2010.
Inevitably, speculation has turned to a tour and U.K. tabloid the Sun says promoter SJM is putting together a stadium tour that will include dates at Wembley Stadium, the City Of Manchester Stadium, Murrayfield in Edinburgh and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
A spokesman for Take That says nothing has been confirmed.
But live plans are certainly being discussed and details will probably emerge in a couple of months. With over 80 million albums sold between Williams and Take That, according to the statement announcing the reunion, they could easily sell out stadiums and even complement regional shows with a London O2 arena residency.
Take That played 20 U.K. and Ireland stadiums in summer 2009 - with all 1,109,160 tickets sold-out, as the double-page SJM Concerts advert in Billboard pointed out (Billboard, July 25, 2009).
The act, which split in 1996, has released two albums since reforming as a four-piece in 2006.
Williams has not toured his current album, "Reality Killed the Video Star" (Virgin), and his last big U.K. shows included five nights at the 65,000-capacity Milton Keynes Bowl in September 2006. So live demand for the reunion should be huge.
Sales for the new Take That album, produced by Stuart Price, will also be massive - and it is a strong bet for the year's biggest seller. Take That's 2008 set "The Circus" (Polydor) sold 1 million in three weeks in the U.K. in December 2008.
But Williams' "Reality Killed the Video Star" has also sold well since its release nine months ago and has sold 1 million copies in the U.K., according to a statement. As predicted, a reunion this year became much more likely once Williams' sales had bounced back after the experimental "Rudebox" from 2006.
Williams is supposedly free from his lucrative EMI contract signed in 2002, so the appearance on a Universal record as part of Take That probably did not pose any contractual issues. A greatest hits set from Williams, "In And Out Of Consciousness - The Greatest Hits 1990 - 2010," is released Oct. 4 by EMI.
Of course, many would expect Williams to move on from EMI and a tie-up with Universal might make sense for his solo career. But despite the recent turmoil at EMI, Billboard.biz understands that Williams' management is happy with how the major has handled the campaign for "Reality Killed the Video Star."
Neither EMI nor Robbie Williams' spokesman responded to requests for comment on the end of his EMI deal, or how the promotion of two major releases involving the artist would be coordinated.
However, all the signs are that both majors are being grown up. While Universal may have snagged the services of Williams for a Take That album, his EMI hits set includes a new single, "Shame," which is a duet written and recorded with Take That's Gary Barlow.
Williams' hits set will come out in October a month or so ahead of the Take That album, so he will be able promote his record before moving on to the Take That campaign. And both releases should complement each other at retail: expect U.K. retailers to bundle them together at an offer price for the Christmas gifting market.