The studio cast recording of The Hunchback of Notre Dame rings the bell at No. 1 on the Cast Albums chart dated Feb. 13 with 10,000 copies sold in the week ending Jan. 28, according to Nielsen Music. The set, which was released Jan. 22 on Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, also makes a striking debut at No. 17 on Top Album Sales and No. 47 on the overall Billboard 200 chart.
In the past year, the only cast album to sell more than Hunchback in a single week has been the blockbuster Hamilton original Broadway cast recording. And it’s Hamilton that Hunchback knocks out of the No. 1 slot on Cast Albums after a 17-week run atop the list (it’s been No. 1 every week of its release). Hamilton slips to No. 2 with 7,000 sold (down 11 percent).
Hunchback — with music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, respectively — is based on the Victor Hugo novel and the songs heard in the 1996 Walt Disney animated film of the same name. The new album features many members of the show’s cast that played in its California and New Jersey stagings in 2014 and 2015, respectively, including Michael Arden, Patrick Page and Ciara Renée.
However, because the new album’s choir largely consists of performers not associated with any prior production (and its orchestra has been expanded too), it is billed as a studio cast recording. (A traditional cast recording is a representation of a specific production, while a studio cast isn’t tied to, or necessarily a reflection of, a single production.)
Hunchback (which has never been staged on Broadway) is one of a handful of non-Broadway cast recordings to reach No. 1 on Cast Albums. Notably, it is also the first studio cast album to top the list. The Top Cast Albums chart began on Jan. 14, 2006.
Ghostlight president Kurt Deutsch notes how Hunchback’s success continues their relationship with Disney: “As with Newsies, our previous collaboration with Disney, Hunchback contains songs from an associated feature film, the fan base of which is as passionate as it is broad… We are thrilled to have preserved the definitive recording of it.”
Hunchback’s album release had a long awareness campaign that started last July, when it was announced a cast recording was in the works. While its initial release date of Nov. 20 was eventually shifted to Jan. 22, there was a significant Web-driven promotional rollout that was staged in the six weeks leading up to its bow, focused on pre-orders.
“Our online advertising campaign was aggressive during the pre-order period,” says Greg Brunswick, VP of Operations & Creative Affairs at Ghostlight, who notes that the longer lead time “allowed for a more strategically layered, momentum-building setup.” He compared its campaign to that of a pop album, which can have months of advance promotion. Comparatively, he says, traditional cast albums are “recorded and turned around extremely quickly due to the show running with nightly audience demand, and because the music is an essential marketing tool for the show.”
Among Hunchback’s pre-release promotions were a series of instant gratification tracks and video teasers, in addition to press support from Sirius/XM, Entertainment Weekly, BuzzFeed, Playbill, Broadway.com and Broadway World.