analysis

Charts analysis: Calvin Harris & Sam Smith's Promises moves further away from Benny Blanco's Eastside at single chart summit

Calvin Harris & Sam Smith’s Promises lengthens its lead at the top of the singles chart, where its second week of supremacy see its consumption rise 1.85% to a best yet 62,958 units, including 47,251 from sales-equivalent streams.

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Charts analysis: Eminem holds off top rock Pauls - McCartney and Simon - to retain No.1 album

Only the fourth act to have four No.1 albums in the 2010s – the others are X Factor graduates Olly Murs and One Direction and X Factor judge Robbie Williams – Eminem retains pole position with Kamikaze, which suffers a comparatively small second week consumption decline of 35.12% to 35,761 units (including 18,094 from sales-equivalent streams), buoyed by its release on CD, which accounted for 11,254 sales. Egypt Station is Paul McCartney’s first new studio album since, well, New, opening at No.3 (15,303 sales). In fact, it is his fourth consecutive album to reach No.3, emulating his last two studio albums, Kisses On The Bottom (23,849 sales) in February 2012, and New (15,724 sales) in October 2013, and June 2016 compilation Pure McCartney (13,366 sales). It extends his overall album chart career since The Beatles' Please Please Me opened their account in 1963 to more than 55 years and - with Beatles albums factored in - is his 76th album chart entry in total, one for each year of his life. On Sunday (September 16), it will have been 41 years since Marc Bolan died in a car crash, a fortnight short of his 30th birthday. The charismatic singer, songwriter and guitarist was best-known as the linchpin of T. Rex, whose new 3 CD compilation Gold debuts this week at No.8 (6,518 sales). Although the ninth Top 10 album for T. Rex in total, it is the first since 1991, when The Ultimate Collection reached No.4. Including four solo releases, Gold is the 27th Top 75 album for Marc Bolan. At 76 years and three months, Paul McCartney is not the oldest person in the Top 10 this week – in fact, he’s not ever the oldest Paul in the Top 10, both honours falling to Paul Simon, whose new album, In The Blue Light, consists of new versions of some of his lesser-known songs, and earn him a No.10 debut (5,595 sales), a month before his 77th birthday. Albums that revisit catalogue in new versions rarely do as well as brand new material, so it is no surprise that In The Blue Light falls some way short of matching Simon’s last studio album, Stranger To Stranger, which debuted at No.1 (19,218 sales) in 2016, making him the oldest male soloist ever to top the chart. In The Blue Light is Simon’s 33rd Top 75 entry in all, a total that includes 15 as half of Simon & Garfunkel. In the top three for the 36th week in a row, the Motion Picture Cast Recording of The Greatest Showman advances 3-2 (16,227 sales) – but Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again ends a seven week run in the medal positions, retreating 2-4 (13,269 sales). The rest of the Top 10: Sweetener (4-5, 9,661 sales) by Ariana Grande, Staying At Tamara’s (7-6, 7,808 sales) by George Ezra, Scorpion (7-8, 7,596 sales) by Drake and Divide (11-9, 5,688 sales) by George Ezra. Second week slumps end the Top 10 careers of Joy As An Act Of Resistance (5-26, 2,668 sales) by Idles, Runaway (6-28, 2,488 sales) by Passenger, Bloom (10-57, 1,546 sales) by Troye Sivan and Let’s Go Sunshine (9-94, 1,112 sales) by Kooks. More than 26 years since their chart debut, Warwickshire space rockers Spiritualized rack up their ninth chart entry with eighth studio album, And Nothing Hurt, debuting at No.11 (5,050 sales). They were last on the chart in 2012 when their seventh studio album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light debuted and peaked at No.19. In fact, And Nothing Hurt is their highest charting set since Let It Come Down sold 26,844 copies on debut at No.3 exactly 17 years ago, becoming their only top three album. And Nothing Hurt is almost entirely the work of founder member Jason Pierce aka J Spaceman, and opens atop the vinyl album chart this week, with the format accounting for 1,920 of its sales. Experienced US metal band, Clutch from Maryland, released the first of their 12 studio albums some 25 years ago, and are still growing. Their ninth album, Strange Cousins From The West, was their first Top 100 entry, reaching No.95 in 2009, Follow-up Earth Rocker debuted and peaked at No.50 in 2013, while 2015 album Psychic Warfare upped the ante again. debuting and peaking at No.20 (4,720 sales). New album Book Of Bad Decisions does even better, opening at No.13 (4,091 sales) this week. Florida rockers Alter Bridge have made the Top 10 with each of their last three studio albums, but fall short of the top tier with their Live At The Royal Albert Hall set, on which they are accompanied by The Parallex Orchestra, debuting at No.18 (3,588 sales). Lenny Kravitz first made the chart in 1990, when his debut album, Let Love Rule, reached No.56. Every one of his studio albums since then has made the chart, though their peaks range from a high of No.1 (1993’s Are You Gonna Go My Way) to a low of No.75 (2011’s Black And White America). His 11th such set, Raise Vibration, consists of a dozen new Kravitz compositions, and debuts at No.19 (3,365 sales). Also new to the chart on another busy week are: Kingdoms In Colour (No.25, 2,674 sales), the second full length album by British electronic duo Maribou State whose 2015 debut Portraits sold 19,579 copies without charting; These Days (No.33, 2,414 sales), the 17th studio album by Yorkshire-born 67 year old singer/songwriter Paul Carrack, who famously fronted Ace, Squeeze and Mike & The Mechanics; Family Of Aliens (No.40, 2,129 sales), the third and highest charting album by London indie band Teleman; Keychains & Snowstorms (No.56 1,582 sales), an extensive new nine disc CD/DVD box set exploring the work of Soft Cell; Live At The Apollo (No.60, 1,517 sales), a 50th anniversary live set from prog. rock legends Yes; and The Masked One (No.69, 1,346 sales), the debut solo album by LD, who has charted twice previously as a member of London grime/hip-hop act 67. Swimming became rapper Mac Miller’s first Top 40 album when it reached No.37 five weeks ago, and re-enters at a new peak (No.17, 3,626 sales) following his death from a drug overdose last week. No.1 on debut in 1976, The Song Remains The Same captures Led Zeppelin at their peak in a 1973 Madison Square Gardens concert. Newly remastered and expanded in a variety of formats it re-enters the chart at No.38 (2,253 sales). Now That’s What I Call Music! 100 spends its seventh week atop the compilation chart, bouncing 2-1 on sales of 11,004 copies. Overall album sales are down 3.15% week-on-week at 1,617,546, 11.25% above same week 2017 sales of 1,453,946. Streaming accounted for 962,008 sales – 59.47% of the total. Sales of paid-for albums are down 7.56% week-on-week at 655,538, 13.22% below same week 2017 sales of 755,364.

Vinyl fantasy: Checking the pulse of a resurgent sector

Sales of vinyl albums jumped by close to one million units last year, and the format's resurgence continues apace. Here, Music Week gathers some of the sector's biggest players to find out where it goes next... What goes around comes around is a concept not lost on people whose business is vinyl. Their worlds revolve around it in a very physical sense. However, at a time when the format dismissed as obsolete in the 1990s has bucked the trends and outpaced some of its supposed digital replacements in terms of growth, the whisper of its own sales plateau and the fear of vinyl sales experiencing a slowing similar to those endured by other physical formats has never been far away. Indeed, when Music Week last took the pulse of the vinyl sector in 2017, those concerns had begun to accompany the chorus of approval around the format’s celebrated revival. Fortunately, 12 months on, while cautionary notes remain, the format seems still to be a long way from the run-out groove when it comes to the number of units sold. The BPI’s figures reveal that from 2016 to 2017 album sales on vinyl leapt from 3.23 million units to 4.1m, nearly double the among of LPs sold in 2015 (2.12m units). In May, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys sold 24,500 albums on vinyl in its first week of sale, making it the fastest-selling vinyl record of the last 25 years. “Pretty optimistic,” declares Karen Emanuel, CEO of vinyl, CD and DVD manufacturers Key Production, when she surveys the prospects for 12” and 7” records. “I thought we would see a plateau in vinyl before now and we haven’t. For us the format is still growing. Long may it continue.” It’s a feeling echoed by Vangel Vlaski, label manager at Proper Music Distribution. While acknowledging the percentage growth of new, official vinyl sales might be beginning to slow, the consumer’s appetite for the format is undimmed. “The vinyl ‘revival’ has been an amazing story for the whole industry, and the numbers affirm that this phenomenon continues,” he explains. “Although new release sales levels might not be reaching the year-on-year increases that we’ve grown accustomed to recently, we should consider the fact that it seems that the wheels are moving also on secondhand markets: Discogs, eBay, charity shops and other outlets. Vinyl is changing hands considerably more than any metrics can really show. We might not be witnessing the continuous exponential growth that provides great news headlines, but we are looking at format longevity as an increasing number of people are looking to start, or rebuild their collections. In my view, that’s a healthier situation to be in, as it ensures that the vinyl ‘revival’ is much more than just a fad.” PledgeMusic UK’s MD Paul Barton agrees vinyl’s reestablishment is built on solid, long-lasting grounds, as the artists his platform works with have fully embraced the plastic. “PledgeMusic is a fervent supporter of the vinyl format in all its forms. Fans love vinyl and it fits perfectly into our direct-to-fan remit,” he explains. “Where possible and appropriate, we are always encouraging artists that we are working with to include it in their PledgeMusic store. Coloured and signed vinyl in particular appeal hugely to fans and we are only seeing this grow more and more.” Encouragingly, he adds, this enthusiasm for vinyl has proved genre-crossing. “We just had brilliant results with Dannii Minogue and Because Music (London Records) selling out of a coloured double vinyl – Pink and Blue – bundled with a signed poster for the reissue of her Neon Nights album,” explains Barton, adding that vinyl physical quality has also spurred on a sub revival: that of the autograph in the age of selfies. “The signature is a huge driver for vinyl sales. The more the artist will sign, the more they will sell and we’ve recently seen great results across pre-orders for Orbital, The Kooks, The Wombats, Shed Seven, Gary Numan, The Damned and Therapy? among others. They have signed vast amounts of units, including large quantities of vinyl.” However, while these romantic attachments and superior aesthetics might have given vinyl a clear advantage over other paid-for competitor formats in the past, the last few years has seen the sector try to find its place in an increasingly profitable streaming landscape. Yet, while owning a handful of songs on giant plastic format might not be able to compete with nearly every record ever made held somewhere in ‘the cloud’, those working closely with vinyl have seen their instincts born out as the format has found a role where it complements and even benefits from music fans having all their favourite music at their fingertips. Some albums, it seems, people just have to own. “Someone said recently that we’re in an age of ‘Stroke it and stream it’,” says Barton. “They are very much correct. Fans are enjoying the physical contact with vinyl and box sets etc, but most, in big part, will opt to listen to the music of their choice via a streaming platform. They can very much work together.” Vlaski agrees the two different playback options are currently dovetailing nicely. “Records and streaming are two different aspects of the same thing,” he suggests. “More and more people are using streaming for convenience and to decide what vinyl to buy. Vinyl has a definitive lifestyle appeal, and can be seen as a luxury format of sorts. It can be identity-building for individuals and cultural bonding between groups of people. Also, the expense of vinyl means that listening in advance will help sales. We see streaming and vinyl as symbiotic. Multi-channel consumption is becoming the norm for the majority of people buying music. Vinyl gives you a more ‘deep dive’ experience, in terms of appreciation for the artist’s artwork, liner notes, booklet content etc.” Ensuring that vinyl can occupy this ‘quality’ status among musical formats has seen some interesting innovation across the sector. While the process of actually making a record is now almost a time-honoured craft. “The process hasn’t changed much at all, I think the fact that the format remains essentially unchanged is a big part of the attraction,” notes Chris Marksberry of Sound Performance, recently Record Store Day 2018’s official Vinyl Manufacturing Partner. “A great many of the presses operating around Europe are reconditioned from the ’70s and ’80s and the newer build machines are modelled on the old ones anyway.” That hasn’t stopped innovation across the sector with new colours for vinyl, innovative packaging, mastering at different speeds and holographic pressings among the stand-out experiments. Another innovation that continues to be successful is vinyl in supermarkets. Not only has their flirtation with stocking the LPs of big selling acts continued, but after claiming that “one in every 20 vinyl records sold in the UK is now purchased in a Sainsbury’s store”, Sainsbury’s even launched their own label last November, pressing a series of vinyl compilations curated by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley. Proper’s Vlaski welcomes this new retail home for records, with the odd caveat. “Supermarkets are part of the landscape and ease of availability is a positive contributing factor,” he notes. “Though there is a risk of prices being driven down as supermarkets exist in a very competitive environment. This inevitably influences customers to expect lower prices in other retailers – irrespective of type of release – and that is something that is very hard to compete with. It has created more sales but our focus is specialists who, by their nature, are genuinely committed to the format and its future, indeed, the future of all physical music.” Despite its obviously positive role in not just promoting record shops but the vinyl format itself, naysayers emerge every year around Record Store Day to complain how the manufacture of special editions increases already lengthy production lead times, which are increasingly necessary given the format’s new high-end, luxury status. “Standards these days are very high and although vinyl is a retro format, customers expect their pressings to be of a very high quality,” explains Marksberry. “It’s now a deluxe format rather than the mass consumer carrier of the ’70s, for instance, and the quality of today’s pressings has to reflect this. Capacity is still an issue, but more is being added all the time across Europe and the situation is getting better now rather than worse.” Yet, as with seemingly everything, the spectre of Brexit casts a shadow over this groove too. “Capacity is growing in Europe with the pressing plants adding new machines, but it is expensive to start up and run new factories,” says Emanuel, urging wider support for new UK-based presses. “So especially in light of Brexit, maybe grants in the UK to fund press plants here would help.” Vlaski agrees a more collective approach to expanding vinyl capacity is needed, as he believes the results would not just benefit the manufacturing sector but the labels and artists whose music they are pressing. “We need to be looking for an industry-wide solution for sure,” he declares of the capacity issue, though adds that, in the short term, music’s other stakeholders could be bolder in their support for the format. “But, in the meantime, people who have gained so much from the music industry should be doing more to get involved again at the manufacturing level. It is a vicious cycle where the cost of vinyl makes labels cautious on initial press, then repress can take months, by which time the demand might have declined.” PledgeMusic’s Barton also suggests that the lack of capacity could be discouraging newer artists from embracing the platform as wholeheartedly as they’d like. “Vinyl manufacture and supply is obviously a continuing problem for all. That is improving, but we should all be doing what we can to help in this area,” he explains. “One area we often receive enquiries about is the manufacture of smaller vinyl production runs, mainly from our emerging artists. Maybe more work is needed in this area.” Barton suggests that it is an investment worth making because, in his experience, increasing manufacturing capacity would be a win for the whole music industry, whatever the genre of music or the nature of artist they are working with. Still, as problems go, needing extra capacity to keep up with consumer demand is probably one that other parts of the music industry would envy and it ultimately underlines the fact that the physical sector remains a positive place right now. Vinyl might be the big success story, but many in the sector echo Karen Emanuel’s assertion that “CDs are still holding up more than we give them credit for”, and while the prospect of the dreaded plateau in terms of unit sales might still be out there, she also notes with interest that the amount of vinyl being pressed could increase still regardless. “Currently the growth appears to be in the amount of vinyl per release that we are pressing, which makes me think that more people are engaging with it, and there is still a lot of back catalogue to reissue. Bespoke packaging and boxsets are definitely a growth area.” Proper’s Vangel Vlaski is similarly upbeat, as long as capacity can be brought up to the right speed. “I’m absolutely optimistic,” he says of the future for vinyl. “The growth will be there if we can find a way to keep up with the demand for manufacture.” [Words: Paul Stokes]

Charts analysis: Calvin Harris & Sam Smith ascend to singles summit

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