Charts Analysis: Lil Nas X scores debut No.1 single

After seven weeks at No.1, Someone You Loved is finally dethroned, its place at the singles chart summit being taken by Lil Nas X’s viral breakout Old Town Road. With consumption soaring 27.50% week-on-week to 80,314 units (including 75,363 from ...

Charts Analysis: BTS score first ever K-Pop No.1 album

South Korean K-Pop septet BTS make chart history, becoming the first act from the country to have a No.1 album, debuting atop the list with Map Of The Soul: Persona. Technically an EP, with seven tracks and a playing time of less than 26 minutes, it consists of new material rendered in Korean, English and Japanese, and is their fifth Top 75 entry, and their fourth Top 20 entry to date. With consumption of 26,498 units (including 4,531 from sales-equivalent streams) it earns the group - also known as Beyond The Scene, Bangtan Boys and Bulletproof Boy Scouts – the honour of becoming only the third chart-topping act to be born in Asia, the others being Anglo-Indians Cliff Richard and Engelbert Humperdinck. Psy blazed a trail for South Korean acts, topping the singles chart in 2012 with his viral phenomenon Gangnam Style, which has racked up sales of 1,451,681 (including sales-equivalent streams) to date. Despite a further singles chart excursion with Gentleman – which peaked at No.10 – Psy failed to make an impression on the album chart, where the very first South Korean-born act to have an impact was US-based Karen O, whose solo effort Crush Songs reached No.61 in 2014, following her earlier success fronting US trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who had four UK chart albums between 2003 and 2013. The only other South Korean acts to make the album chart are Pinkfong, whose Presents The Best Of Baby Shark reached No.29 in the wake of their Baby Shark singles success, and K-Pop girl group Blackpink, whose EP Kill This Love reached No.40 only last week. The Chemical Brothers’ ninth studio album in a chart career spanning almost 24 years - and their first release since Born In The Echoes topped the chart on sales of 18,056 units in 2015 – No Geography opens at No.4 on consumption of 9,809 units. It brings to an end their impressive run of six consecutive eligible studio No.1 albums. Their only studio albums hitherto not to reach No.1 are their 1995 debut Exit Planet Dust (No.9) and 2010 release Further, which didn’t chart at all because all formats furnished buyers with the opportunity to enter a ‘golden ticket’ competition, with 10 iPads and USB sticks as prizes, and competitions of this type are expressly forbidden by OCC chart rules. Despite not reaching No.1, Exit Planet Dust is Chemical Brothers’ second biggest-seller with to-date sales of 387,503, trailing only 1999 smash Surrender – home to the hits Hey Boy Hey Girl, Let Forever Be and Out Of Control – which has sold 620,190 copies. Since its inception 12 years ago, the 1950s and 1960s nostalgia series Dreamboats & Petticoats has been a phenomenal success, racking up 21 Top 10 entries, seven of them No.1s, on the compilation chart, while attracting consumption of nearly 4.4m units and spawning a West End musical. Although their multi-artist releases are massive, a 2011 release, comprising solely of material by Billy Fury, was less of a success, failing to chart and selling only 10,000 or so copies. Dreamboats & Petticoats Presents The Very Best Of Marty Wilde is another story, steaming to a No.7 debut (7,503 sales), to provide Wilde with his very first Top 10 album just four days after his 80th birthday. Although a very successful singles artist at the turn of the 1960s, Wilde’s only previous album chart appearance came in 2007, when The Greatest Hits: Born To Rock & Roll reached No.19. Dreamboats & Petticoats has 12 of his 13 hits between 1958 and 1962 – annoyingly skipping Hide & Seek – as well as new track Eddie and Abergavenny, a US No.47 hit for him in 1969 under the name of Shannon. Dublin post-punk band Fontaines DC have released a series of acclaimed and energetic singles without charting but their introductory long player, Dogrel (sic), speeds to a No.9 debut (7,197 sales) in the UK, while opening at No.4 in their native Ireland. 3,104 of its UK sales were on vinyl, enough for it to top that format’s chart. After two weeks at No.1, Billie Eilish’s debut full length release, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? falls to No.2 (19,049 sales). The rest of the Top 10: The Greatest Showman soundtrack (3-3, 10,788 sales), What A Time To Be Alive (4-5, 9,605 sales) by Tom Walker, Bohemian Rhapsody (6-6, 8,556 sales) by Queen, Staying At Tamara’s (5-8, 7,468 sales) by George Ezra and Free Spirit (2-10, 7,130 sales) by Khalid. Departing the Top 10: Thank U, Next (8-12, 6,359 sales) by Ariana Grande, Psychodrama (9-14, 5,591 sales) by Dave, Out Of The Blue (7-70, 1,623 sales) by Mike + The Mechanics and What’s It Like Over There (10-176, 872 sales) by Circa Waves. More than 12 years after her disastrous third solo album Life In Mono peaked at No.65, ‘Baby Spice’ Emma Bunton’s fourth, Happy Place, makes a much more respectable No.11 debut on sales of 6,674 copies. Bunton’s first solo album, A Girl Like Me, reached No.4 in 2001 and follow-up Free Me got to No.7 in 2004 – and it looked as though she might become the first of The Spice Girls to have three Top 10 albums when Life In Mono was No.4 in the first of this week’s sales flashes – but it missed out in the end, leaving her tied with Melanie C and Geri Horner (Halliwell), who have also had two Top 10 albums apiece. Victoria Beckham has had one and Mel B has had none. Also new to the Top 75 are: Utopia (No.13, 6,176 sales), the second album by London rap/drill talent M Huncho, whose 48 Hours reached No.68 exactly a year ago; New Age (No.17, 4,467 sales), a collaboration between London rappers/YouTube personalities KSI & Randolph; Ventura (No.27, 2,552 sales), the fourth album and second chart entry for eclectic urban music exponent Anderson Paak, with assists from Smokey Robinson, Brandy and Nate Dogg; Love Is All You Love (No.30, 2,326 sales), the fifth album and fourth chart entry from Southampton rockers Band Of Skulls; Present LSD (No.44, 1,966 sales) by superstar trio Labrinth, Sia & Diplo; Colours (No.50, 1,905 sales), the second album from Irish rock quintet Walking On Cars, whose 2016 debut Everything This Way reached No.26; and In The Court Of The Crimson Queen (No.74, 1,581 sales), a newly-expanded ‘reimagining’ of a 2008 Toyah release, that brings her eight chart entry in all, and her first since 1985. Record Store Day fell last Saturday (April 13) and helped facilitate Toyah’s debut, while limited vinyl editions also brought about re-entries for David Bowie’s 1973 No.1 covers set Pin Ups (No.31, 2,189 sales); Bob Dylan’s 1975 chart-topper Blood On The Tracks (No.43, 1,993 sales); and Pink Floyd’s 1968 No.9 album A Saucerful Of Secrets (No.46, 1,957 sales). Selling three times as many copies as the No.1 artist album, and marginally (0.60%) more than the rest of the Top 100 compilations combined, Now That’s What I Call Music! 102 strolls to a No.1 debut on the compilation chart. Its tally of 80,468 sales in the week is the lowest for a regular Now! release since Now! 33 sold 75,182 copies on debut in March 1996 but the highest by any album – artist or compilation – thus far this year. Now! 102 predecessor, Now! 101, sold 82,507 copies on its first full week on release last November, and has sold 369,552 copies to date – the lowest tally for a regular Now! album since Now! 33, which has sold 366,139 copies. The last six of the 46 tracks on Now! 102 are 1984 hits, which were previously on Now! 2, which simultaneously gained its first ever release on CD last week. No.1 on the combined album chart in March 1984, it now returns to the chart as a distant second to Now! 102, on sales of 7,628 copies. Meanwhile, Now!’s one-time big rival, The Hits Album - which ran from 1984 to 2004 - is  reintroduced with a trio of compilations, all of which make the Top 10: The Hits Album: The 70s Pop Album at No.4 (3,829 sales), The Hits Album: The 80s Album at No.5 (3,439 sales) and The Hits Album: The Car Album at No.7 (3,238 sales). The UK’s 12th annual Record Store Day (RSD) saw 561 limited edition singles and albums – the vast majority on vinyl, many garishly-coloured or picture discs - unleashed in around 240 participating stores. As usual, the result was an anxious time for genuine collectors, a bonanza for eBay, and had a temporary distorting effect on market statistics, as noted below. Overall album sales are up 10.00% week-on-week at 1,834,658, 11.43% above same week 2018 sales of 1,646,504. Sales-equivalent streams accounted for 1,104,589 sales, 60.21% of the total. Driven by RSD, sales of paid-for albums are up 36.15% week-on-week at 730,069, 5.84% above same week 2018 sales of 690,019. With the majority of 2019's RSD releases on vinyl, sales of that format jumped 146.53% week-on-week to 146,611 – 20.08% of paid-for sales, a 21st century record. However, only nine albums sold upwards of 1,000 copies on vinyl in the week, compared to 15 in the aftermath of RSD in 2018.

Knowing Me, Knowing Q1: Your guide to the first quarter

MARKET TRENDS Guess who’s back in the big time? A sluggish fourth quarter in 2018 – when consumption rose just 2% – suggested to some that the music business revival might be slowing down. But in Q1, the industry demonstrated more bouncebackability than Alan Partridge on This Time, to post an impressive 8.2% rise. Cashback! Of course, that rise was largely powered by audio streaming, with Stream Equivalent Albums up another 26.2% year-on-year to 26.56 million units, according to the BPI. Not only that, but our panel of commercial executives is more than happy with the growth in subscriber numbers behind that figure. “We look at them every month,” says Charles Wood, Sony Music UK VP of market planning & media. “We think we’re going to grow this year and next year, and maybe we’ll keep on growing for the next three or four years.” “Consumers are saying they want to pay for music streaming services because they’re a great experience,” claims BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor. “People see the benefits of the subscription tier compared to the free offerings, which is really positive. Now we need to see that dynamic start to apply in video as it does in audio.” The jury is still out on the impact being made by YouTube Music’s subscription service as it approaches its first anniversary, but competition is certainly healthy in the streaming sector. That was well-documented in our news section last week, and not even Partridge would say “Nice action!” about a streaming app, so let’s turn our attention to his beloved physical formats. Q4’s physical slump, when physical albums crashed by 21.2%, was over-shadowed by the carnage at HMV, although the chain only actually went into administration after Christmas. Q1 sales don’t look much better – physical albums were down 19.8%, with CDs slumping 22.9%, although vinyl reversed its Q4 decline (when it was down 5.5%) to climb 5% year-on-year. But, with HMV now back in business, and retaining more stores than most people thought possible last time Music Week ran the rule over the state of the sector, our panel sees a few rays of light peeping through the dark clouds. “With the turmoil that went on at HMV, the physical numbers are decent,” says David Hawkes, MD of Universal Music UK’s Commercial Division. “Certainly, the independent retail sector has had a storming Q1, they’ve picked up some of that lost business through HMV. “But I’m really hopeful that HMV’s new strategy will deliver some steady sales throughout the rest of the year and come good,” he adds. “It was great news that they’re keeping the majority of their stores open and giving the general public the opportunity to buy physical.” “One might have expected to see a rapid acceleration of the downward trend for CD and we haven’t really seen that,” says Taylor. “The industry worked very hard with the new owners of HMV to try and ensure continuity, keep as many stores open as possible and maintain stock levels, and they have done that pretty successfully. “Clearly there’s a long-term trend here that it would be foolish to deny, but the industry is trying to make sure it serves all the different types of music fan and we’ll continue doing that.” Many labels stopped servicing HMV until its new ownership was confirmed, while the compilation album release schedule almost ground to a halt in early 2019, so important is the chain to that sector. Yet vinyl sales still grew in Q1 and, with last weekend’s Record Store Day sure to give the format its annual shot in the arm, it’s “way too early to be writing the obituary of physical music”. Not my words, Lynn, but the words of Derek Allen, Warner Music UK’s SVP, commercial. “The vinyl market’s very healthy and still growing, albeit by smaller amounts,” adds Allen. “There’s more focus being put on that by the existing players in the market that service physical. I know that’s part of HMV’s strategy going forward and that seems to make sense. Amazon are still very much a big player in that space, the indie sector is still doing well, and Record Store Day always gives the physical market and the independent sector a huge boost. So I wouldn’t like to say it’s in rude health in a declining market, but it seems stable.” And now HMV is back on track – and according to new owner Doug Putman’s Music Week cover story last week, he doesn’t expect the chain “to ever go out of business” – the industry is rallying round to make sure it stays that way. “Suppliers across the piece have been hugely supportive of the HMV business from a financial perspective,” stresses Hawkes. “Doug Putman has structured supplier and landlord terms in such a way that it safeguards their future at least for the foreseeable. That’s very smart. Landlords have come to the party as well in terms of restructuring leases, which gives them every opportunity to succeed.” “We’re doing absolutely everything we can to support them,” adds Wood. “One of the most important things we can do is release fantastic music that gets people excited and gets them going to the shops on a Friday.” Which gives us the perfect cue for a Partridge-style segue into… TALENT Alan Partridge would probably describe The Greatest Showman (Atlantic) as “the soundtrack La La Land could have been”. Execs from record labels other than Warner Music frustrated by its success might come up with something less printable. And Derek Allen has actually run out of things to say about the sales juggernaut, which was the No.1 selling album for the fifth quarter in a row, simply saying he’s “amazed” by its continued blockbuster status. Showman sold 263,141 copies in the quarter, according to the Official Charts Company and Warner placed three other albums in the Q1 Top 10: Jess Glynne’s Always In Between (Atlantic, 79,317 sales); Fleetwood Mac’s 50 Years – Don’t Stop compilation (Rhino, 66,889); and Ed Sheeran’s perennial ÷ (Asylum/Atlantic, 65,210). It also delivered the quarter’s biggest-selling single, in the form of Ava Max’s breakout hit Sweet But Psycho (Atlantic, 663,333 sales), although that was its only Top 10 seller. “It’s a quieter quarter,” concedes Allen. “It pales a bit based on what we’ve done in previous quarters but we still had the biggest selling album and the biggest track in the market, so we’re doing something right! It’s just the rest of the schedule isn’t coming through yet.” Universal, meanwhile, continued its recent resurgence. It too racked up four of the Top 10 albums: the highest-selling 2019 release thus far, Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next (Island, 163,230); plus Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody Original Soundtrack (Virgin EMI, 131,860); the A Star Is Born soundtrack (Polydor, 117,663); and Queen’s The Platinum Collection (Virgin EMI, 76,915). Singles-wise, it was dominant, with seven of the Top 10 tracks: Ariana Grande’s 7 Rings and Thank U, Next (Island, 615,740/402,705); Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved (Virgin EMI, 526,253); Post Malone’s Wow and Sunflower (Republic, 494,763/390,770); Sam Smith & Normani’s Dancing With A Stranger (Capitol, 465,424) and Mabel’s Don’t Call Me Up (Polydor, 407,570) all making quite the impression. “It’s really, really encouraging, “ says Hawkes. “Without a doubt, breaking new talent has been a challenge. But with the right quality of record it can resonate with the UK public and, with Lewis and Mabel, it’s not only in the UK, they’re travelling as well. “Albums-wise, Bohemian Rhapsody has been an opportune moment to take Queen to a younger demographic on streaming services. Ariana has been phenomenal and A Star Is Born just continues to motor. “We’ll take those, but it’s really important for us to see Billie Eilish in the Top 20 [with her Don’t Smile At Me EP], we expect her to be one of, if not the biggest-selling debut artists this year. And we have to mention Dave [at No.18 with Psychodrama]. We’re working very closely with the team that manage Dave over at Neighbourhood, they have their own small team but we’ve certainly contributed from a strategic and tactical perspective in delivering that album. It’s a fantastic partnership and that album’s not going away.” All that success leaves relatively slim pickings for Sony Music, although its big Q1 successes all have a distinctly British flavour, in a quarter when UK artists scored almost as many No.1 albums (six) as they did in the whole of 2018 (eight). On the singles chart, Calvin Harris & Rag‘N’Bone Man’s Giant (Columbia, 545,482) and Mark Ronson Feat. Miley Cyrus’ Nothing Breaks Like A Heart (Columbia, 402,615) held the Sony end up. While the major’s Top 10 LP sellers were George Ezra’s Staying At Tamara’s (Columbia, 144,549) and, most significantly, Tom Walker’s What A Time To Be Alive (Relentless, 81,005), on track to be a big UK breakout after last year’s barren spell. “It looks like we’re getting Tom Walker away,” says Charles Wood. “And we’re really excited about a number of other contenders. There have maybe been years when there’s just been one or two, but there are five or six acts we really think stand a chance. That’s what you want. And I’m not knocking it, but fingers crossed Showman slows down a bit now…” But hang on a minute, does Derek Allen have a Showman sequel up his sleeve? “I don’t know,” chortles Allen. “But someone must be having a conversation about that somewhere…” As Alan would say: go on, give us a second Showman, you swine… MARKET SHARES Unlike Alan, Universal Music never exactly hit rock bottom, gorging on Toblerone and driving to Dundee in its bare feet. Indeed, it’s remained No.1 on pretty much every metric for as long as anyone can remember. But, while we had become used to seeing that share squeezed in successive quarters, it’s now under-going a serious renaissance. In Q1, Universal was up across every metric, bar one; posting an impressive 36.8% share on All Albums AES (up from 34.8% last year) and 36.7% on Artist Albums AES (up from 34.2%). It rose 2.2 points on Track Streams (37.4%), 1.8 on Track Sales (35.9%), 3.2 on Artist Album Sales (34.3%) and 0.9 on All Album Sales (35.1%). Universal’s dominance extended to record company level, with three of the Top 4 on both All Albums AES and Artist Albums AES Universal labels. Ted Cockle’s Virgin EMI topped both with 10.1% and 10.2% respectively, and also triumphed in Track Streams (10.5%) and Artist Album Sales (9.2%), while David Dollimore’s RCA was No.1 on Track Sales for Sony (10.8%) and Nicola Tuer’s Sony Music Commercial Group topped Compilation Album Sales (34.7%) and All Album Sales (11.6%). David Hawkes, meanwhile, is pretty happy. “We’re continuing where we left off in Q4,” he declares. “The narrative doesn’t change a great deal. It’s about strength in depth, UK and international, heritage and new, across artist albums and singles. So we’re extremely happy with our market share performance, but we’re not going to rest on our laurels, we’ll keep driving ahead and see if we can improve that further.” If that sounds potentially ominous for the competition, there was one metric where Universal dropped points: Compilation Album Sales, where its (still impressive) 38.9% share was down 5.2 points on Q1 2018. “We didn’t release anything while it was unclear what was going to happen with HMV,” notes Hawkes. “That had a big impact. And The Greatest Showman Reimagined wasn’t around last year, but was the second biggest seller of Q1, so we’re seeing some of that market share move to Warner. What was encouraging for us was to see our new Country Forever album come out and do double digits in a tough market. There is still mileage in the compilation market, but it’s much more challenging than it was even 12 months ago.” The success of Showman Reimagined saw Warner’s Compilations share rise almost three percentage points to 8.5%. Unlike the other majors, Warner only dabbles in the comps sector and, despite this success, that seems unlikely to change. “That album was phenomenally successful for all the obvious reasons,” says Allen. “But it’s not a change in policy on our side, it was just a creative A&R decision that manifested itself as a compilation. That’s a tough market, it’s going through tough times and I personally can’t see it coming out of the other side of that. But soundtracks are a different kettle of fish, that seems to be a big opportunity…” Despite the on-going success of the Showman parent album, Warner was down on every other metric; drifting down to 17.5% from 18.6% on its preferred Artist Albums AES metric, and to 17.1% from 18.3% on All Albums AES. It did manage to hang on to the No.2 spot in Artist Album Sales, despite dropping its share from 21.3% to 18.9%. “Our last three or four conversations have been off the back of pretty amazing results,” points out Allen. “So we were due a quiet quarter. It’s purely schedule driven, there’s nothing there that would give me too much concern. If that was a consistent message or performance over the last year or so, I might be coming back with a different commentary, but it was inevitable at some point that a quieter schedule would impact in terms of market share. But we’re pretty confident of what we’ve got coming up, that will address that and you’ll see that in future quarters.” Sony also had a quiet quarter. It posted a 21.4% share on its preferred All Albums AES metric, down from 22.7% last year, and 20.7% (down from 21.8%) on Artist Albums AES. It was down slightly on every other metric as well, apart from Compilation Album Sales, where it increased its share to 36.1% from 35.4% to leave it breathing down Universal’s neck, although it too is adjusting to the some of the sector’s challenges. “HMV is still with us and we’ve got a good base of supermarkets,” says Wood. “It’s about putting out the right record at the right time, rather than the one a week that we used to do.” Wood also identifies some notable shifts in the wider market. “In past years, we did very well in Q1, just because of our traditionally strong Q4 release schedule,” he says. “But the market appears to have changed much more quickly in Q1 than it has done in past years, and this is something we’re going to see going forward. There’s less carry-over. Q4 records aimed at a broader and perhaps older demographic aren’t going to kick around as much. “But we’ve got some decent things coming up,” he adds. “And I’m sure that’s going to turn our share around towards mid-year.” Who will have the last laugh? Needless to say, we’ll be back in three months time to find out…

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