30.01.10 Music Week 3
Susan Boyle success glosses over tough year internationally for UK talent
Brits abroad suffer 2009 setback
International By Ben Cardew
SUSAN BOYLE’S DEBUT ALBUM has achieved the highest annual global sales for a UK-signed act since Coldplay’s X&Y five years ago, but also shone a light on the continuing problems in making ground in the international music market.
Boyle’s Syco album I Dreamed A Dream, which topped the charts for six weeks in the US, sold 6.0m units outside the UK in 2009, despite being released in late November.
Top-10 UK artist albums globally 2009
Pos Artist Title / Label
1 SUSAN BOYLE I Dreamed A Dream Syco
2 U2 No Line On The Horizon Vertigo
3 MUSE The Resistance Helium 3/Warner Bros
4 ROBBIE WILLIAMS Reality Killed The Video Star Virgin
5 DEPECHE MODE Sounds Of The Universe Mute
6 LILY ALLEN It’s Not Me, It’s You Regal
7 ENYA The Very Best Of Enya Warner Bros
8 MIKA The Boy Who Knew Too Much Casablanca/Island UK
9 CAST OF MAMMA MIA Mamma Mia! Movie Soundtrack Polydor
10 LEONA LEWIS Echo Syco
Source: MW research/record company figures with few acts making an international breakthrough.
“It was a tougher year for us,” concedes Universal UK vice president of international marketing Hassan Choudhury. “We didn’t have our strongest release schedule.”
This figure comprehensively bests 2008’s highest UK seller internationally, Coldplay’s Viva la Vida, which sold 5.7m units outside of the UK in that calendar year. And it is only slightly shy of the 6.2m overseas sales that the same band’s 2005 album X&Y recorded.
It was also a very tough year for the market generally: US albums sales fell 12.7% last year to 373.9m units, their ninth consecutive fall, while Sony’s Shack says that it is now possible to secure a number one album in Germany with just 15,000 sales.
“People responded emotionally to this record,” explains Sony UK international vice president Dave Shack. “Commentators in the US were saying they hadn’t seen anything like this since Titanic. There is clearly life in the project yet – for example it has just topped the charts in Greece and Belgium for the first time, taking the global tally to 21 number one chart positions, and there is every chance that following a unique Oprah performance this week we will regain the summit in the US.
Equally troubling for the UK industry is the lack of new talent within the top-selling albums internationally: Susan Boyle aside, there were no debut artist albums within the 2009 top 10 of UK international sales, in comparison to three last year – Leona Lewis’s Spirit at four, Duffy’s Rockferry at five and Amy Macdonald’s This Is The Life at 10.
“All these signs lead me to dream that we could still aim for 10m albums globally and what an achievement in these times that would be.”
Duffy’s Rockferry is the second best-selling debut artist album on the 2009 list, with 556,000 units sold, followed by debuts from Amy Macdonald and Adele, both of which were released in 2008.
Yet this positive news for the UK music industry was dampened by the yawning gap between I Dreamed A Dream and the rest of the field, which demonstrates just how difficult it is to score big outside the domestic market.
There was a 3m-plus gap in sales between Boyle’s debut and the second-placed album on the list, No Line On The Horizon by UKsigned Irish act U2.
Apart from Susan Boyle, Sony
“It’s not that we tried in the US and failed with many acts, it’s that we haven’t tried yet...”
Music’s highestselling UK debut album released in 2009 internationally was Horehound by Anglo-American act The Dead Weather, which sold 84,000 ex-UK, while Universal’s was La Roux’s debut, which sold some
181,000 outside of the UK.
The U2 album sold 2.9m units internationally last year and, while still a respectable total, it falls way behind the second-placed album in 2008’s chart, the Mamma Mia soundtrack, which sold 3.9m units internationally that year.
It was also some 200,000 units behind 2008’s third biggest-selling UK album internationally, Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, underlining what was, by general consensus, a poor year for UK talent abroad
Choudhury says that the lack of debut talent in the poll is largely a result of the global economic downturn. “With the general economic climate last year, it was a tough year for everyone,” he explains. “There was a lot less risk-taking across the board. This has had an effect in terms of media, touring, marketing, promotion. The market couldn’t be as cavalier as it normally is.”
Shack says that economic pressures mean that bands also have to build up a very strong UK base before heading abroad. “We are keeping it until the right time,” he explains. “We want the UK to be as strong as possible first.”
Shack says that his launch plans for many UK acts – including Alexandra Burke and Paloma Faith – have been placed on hold until the busy Christmas period is over, which explains some absences from the list.
“It’s not that we tried in the US and failed with many acts, it’s that we haven’t tried yet,” he adds.
Shack also explains that, for all the UK market’s resilience, it was very hard to sell albums internationally in 2009. “If you were to compile the list looking at digital single sales, it would be very different,” he says.
EMI UK and Ireland president Andria Vidler agrees, pointing out that there are “lots and lots of different ways of connecting artist to their fans” and, as such, album sales are not the only barometer of UK achievement.
This shift is illustrated by the 2009 success of Jay Sean in the US. Although the singer topped the US singles chart with Down, selling 2.5m downloads, parent album All Or Nothing has shifted a respectable – if not chart-topping – 122,000 units there so far.
With most of the major world economies now out of recession – and the UK set to follow – 2010 has started more positively than 2009. For the UK music industry, too, promising fourth-quar-
Widening line on the horizon: there was a difference in sales of more than 3m between the top twoselling UK-signed artists globally ter 2009 album sales figures, the rocketing digital market and the Susan Boyle effect have all helped to put a spring in people’s steps.
Choudhury reflects this positivism. “We are going to be in a very good place by the end of the year,” he says. “We are very, very confident that Cheryl Cole will be a global superstar by the end of 2010.”
He also tips new albums from Scissor Sisters, Duffy, Jamiroquai, Keane, Take That, Kate Nash and Gabriella Cilmi (pictured) for global success in 2010.
Meanwhile, Vidler says she is confident that the new Gorillaz album Plastic Beach will be among the UK’s biggest sellers of 2010, as will Robbie Williams’ current album, and a new set from Corinne Bailey Rae.
“I still feel optimistic going forward,” concludes Shack. “We told people to stand down [from launching new acts internationally] over Christmas and save their money and now we are going for the push.” email@example.com
All set for 2010: UK-signed Australian Gabriella Cilmi is hoping for US success
THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC www.musicweek.com
ANALYSIS START OF A CENTURY Who topped the charts of the decade? MW examines the turnaround in 10 years of sales
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XL celebrating the first of a clutch of big releases as Vampire Weekend album tops US chart
Vampires get teeth stuck into US
Sales By Ben Cardew
XL IS SET FOR ITS BIGGEST YEAR TO DATE INTERNATIONALLY, with new albums from MIA and Adele to follow Vampire Weekend’s charttopping Contra.
The band’s second album comprehensively led the US albums chart last week, selling 124,000 copies to Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed A Dream’s 77,000.
The achievement means XL can chalk up the album as the label’s first self-released US number one: while the UK indie label scored a US number one album with the Prodigy’s Fat Of the Land in 1997, that was licensed through Maverick.
It is also the first time that a UK indie has topped the main US albums chart since 1991, when Virgin
Vampire bite: the XL-signed band stake a claim at the top of the US albums chart territories” such as France, Germany, Belgium and Norway.
“I was surprised,” says XL founder Richard Russell. “It has not been driven by a massive hit single. It’s a culmination of a massive amount of hard work that they have done and office did it together,” Russell says. “Imran worked here with me and it has been very much developed as a transatlantic team, which is a great thing to do. It is very gratifying that we are in a position to do that now.”
Contra was unusual in that it says Beardsworth. “In general we beat the market averages on digital.”
Contra was trailed by a free download of Horchata, while a second song, Cousins, has been serviced to radio and is on the Radio 1 A-list. The band return to the UK
our two best singles, haven’t done any major TV performances yet and the extensive touring doesn’t begin until next month. So there is a very long way we can go with this campaign.”
Added to this promising outlook will be new albums from two of the label’s biggest stars: MIA, who enjoyed a massive hit single in the US with Paper Planes, and Adele, who won two Grammy Awards in 2009.
MIA’s new album, which is licensed through Interscope in the US, is set for a summer release, while a new album from Adele, licensed through Columbia, is tentatively on the schedules for later in the year.
“Number ones are a funny thing, because they depend on what else is coming out,” reflects Russell, when asked if he thinks the label will have more American chart toppers in 2010. “But it is a really exciting year
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