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The Aftershow: Paul Heaton

On tour with Jacqui Abbott and riding high in the charts with his new compilation, The Last King Of Pop, Paul Heaton is one of Britain’s finest songwriters. Here, the renowned football fanatic and former Housemartins and Beautiful South tunesmith ...

Hitmakers: The songwriting secrets of The Cardigans' My Favourite Game

The Cardigans’ 1998 smash My Favourite Game debuted a tougher, more electronic sound and broke the super Swedes in America. Singer and co-writer Nina Persson remembers an alternative rock classic – and an iconic video… I wasn’t a very happy person when I wrote My Favourite Game, but it was an exciting time. We were recording Gran Turismo in a big studio in the countryside packed with Pro Tools gear, computers and keyboards. We’d never worked with that before, so we just started to make a record with Pro Tools, having no fucking clue how to use it! The whole production of the record was just Pro Tools abuse, which was pretty fun. We had to hire somebody to come in and clean the files at the end. It took months because we had messed things up so badly – but the results were good! The move into darker and harder atmospheres was definitely conscious, but we wouldn’t have done such an electronic sounding record if it hadn’t been for the equipment being there. Peter [Svensson, Cardigans guitarist/co-writer] had just started to be inspired by Depeche Mode. I had my own room in the attic, where I sat and recorded vocals. When it came to My Favourite Game I remember sitting up there writing the lyrics and having quite a good flow. All the songs of ours that were most successful, the hits of any kind, were all quite easy to write. That’s the character of the songs, they’re more natural or something, they come easy. I think I was single then, so it wasn’t [written about] a real life situation. Most of the songs that I’ve written about relationships are fictional. I’m not sure where the ‘Losing my favourite game’ phrase came from. I was listening to a lot of Sheryl Crow, her song My Favourite Mistake came out around that time so maybe that was ringing somewhere in my mind. Or Peter would sing random words that sounded good musically with the melody he was writing. So it could be left over from what I overheard him singing when he introduced the melody. I never really thought it would be a hit when we wrote it. It was only when I was on the set for the video that we shot for the song, standing there in the Mojave Desert with helicopters filming above and car crashes and stuff, I realised, ‘People must be believing in this song’. At the time I think there were only two videos that had been more costly or something: one Bush video and one Michael Jackson one. After that, I think budgets went down, people realised you can’t blow that much fucking money on a rock video! Filming it was actually really hard work. It was so hot, people were feeding me these anti-dehydration tablets. I was sort of the only one working, because all the guys had to do was sit in a van and be hit by the car driven by me! But it was also really fun because it was such a crazy set. I had this stuntwoman driving the car around so it was fun to have that experience. The video got banned in Europe – because I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt! I also had my head chopped off in some versions at the end, so that’s really funny that that’s what MTV didn’t like! I’m very proud of it as a record, I like it very much. We’ve been playing it live again recently and it makes me feel sympathetic with the young me and the young us. We’re all in a way better place now, life tends to get a little better. It was a hard time when we made the record but it’s nice to play it again, just because all these colours and emotions still exist in me. That’s not the case for all our old songs. When we play [1995 single] Carnival, I’ve matured enough that I can do it and not feel ridiculous, but it really feels like I’m doing a cover version of someone else’s song. But My Favourite Game is a song where I felt like myself when I wrote it, and I still recognise myself in it. Writer’s Notes Publishers Stockholm Songs/Universal Music Publishing Group Writers Nina Persson, Peter Svensson Release Date 05.10.98 Record Label Stockholm/Polydor Total UK Sales (OCC) 343,094

'The difficult part of any campaigns is sustained sales': Music Week's 2018 market analysis

Music consumption grew for the fourth consecutive year in 2018, as streaming powered the biz to new heights. But will dark clouds on the physical horizon derail the industry in 2019? Music Week analyses the data and identifies the key trends to bring you the full picture… MARKET TRENDS Four years of the same thing doesn’t always work out well, as the current occupant of the White House proves on a daily basis. But four consecutive years of growth have undoubtedly helped make the UK music biz great again. Indeed, according to the BPI, music consumption has grown 22% since the biz’s low point in 2014, although even an AES (Album Equivalent Sales) total of 142.9 million units puts things a long way off their peak. And, like any administration, 2018 had its ups and downs. Streaming powered a 5.7% AES growth – less than last year’s stellar 9.5% rise, but still impressive given the lack of a megablockbuster album release to compare to Ed Sheeran’s all-conquering ÷. Audio streams rose 33.5% to 90.9 million Streaming Equivalent Albums – inevitably a slower rate of increase than last year, due to the rapidly expanding base. That was more than enough to make up for the vinyl revival finally seeming to top out (up just 1.6% year-on-year, to a still handy 4.2m units) and downloads heading to the format graveyard with dizzying haste (Track Equivalent Albums slumped 25.7%, Digital Albums by 26.3%). They’re in danger of being joined on the critical list by CDs, unusually resilient in 2017 off the back of Sheeran and Rag‘N’Bone Man, but down 23.1% in 2018 and with a whole heap more bad news to come, should HMV disappear from our High Streets. “We still sold 32 million CDs in 2018, which is about 1.5 per household, so it’s still a very popular consumer product,” stresses BPI CEO Geoff Taylor. “There’s still a fanbase of consumers who want to own and collect physical product alongside discovery on music streaming services.” “We always knew that physical was going to have a tough time, particularly coming off the back of such a strong year last year, with big physical releases in the market,” says Derek Allen, Warner Music UK’s SVP, commercial. “All it would take is, if Adele or any of the other major players with a strong physical following drops into the market, that picture could change again quite quickly.” And if HMV doesn’t survive? “Obviously, these things are very hard to predict,” says Charles Wood, Sony Music UK’s VP of market planning & media. “Maybe it would move some consumers to streaming quicker than they would have moved without this.” And so, despite the bricks-and-mortar doom-and-gloom, when looking at the broader business, digital optimism remains the watchword of our panel. “There have been extremely positive moves in the streaming market across all partners,” says David Hawkes, MD of Universal Music UK’s Commercial Division. “It’s nice to see more competition than there ever has been, with partners such as Amazon, Apple and YouTube entering the market and adding competition to Spotify. The subscriber count is higher than we had forecast come the end of 2018.” “Six, seven years ago the music industry was considered to be a basket case,” chortles Allen. “Now it’s being held up as the model for how a business transforms itself, which always amuses me. We’ve got a healthy, competitive market with a lot of active Digital Service Providers pushing their offer.” “The music business is a much happier place to be working, after years of decline,” agrees Wood. “We’re getting a market now where we have a number of streaming services that each service different consumer segments and offer something slightly different.” Wood highlights the surge in older demographics getting an Alexa device in their Christmas stockings as proof that the streaming revolution is a long way off running out of steam. So can we, like Trump, contemplate an unlikely four more years? “I couldn’t say definitively that would be the case but it does feel like we’re in a healthy position,” says Allen. “I would hope that the growth levels we’re seeing at the moment could carry on, certainly in the near future.” Alright then, we’ll say it: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! TALENT In a year relatively bereft of superstar attractions, it’s oddly fitting that the biggest-selling album was the soundtrack to a movie about a search for superstar attractions. Even Warner Music’s expectations for The Greatest Showman (Atlantic) were fairly modest initially, but it sold an incredible 1,621,905 copies in 2018, according to the Official Charts Company, more than double its nearest competitor, George Ezra’s Staying At Tamara’s (Columbia), with 691,332. Universal did not have anything that sold on that scale, yet still provided five of the Top 10 biggest sellers. Another soundtrack, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Polydor), topped its charts with 374,476 and was joined in the top tier by Drake’s Scorpion (Cash Money/Republic/Island, 300,100 sales), Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys (Republic/Island, 281,644), the A Star Is Born soundtrack (Interscope/Polydor, 271,635) and Eminem’s Kamikaze (Interscope/Polydor, 232,420). And, while that might make it look like hip-hop and soundtracks were where it was at, David Hawkes hails the major’s “strength in depth”. “There’s a really good mix of product actually if you go outside the Top 10,” he says. “In the Top 20 we have a good share but, as you go down and look at our share of titles in the Top 40, 60, 100, Universal’s really punching above its weight. “Universal very rarely relies on one runaway hit,” he adds. “It’s generally strength in depth. Urban and soundtracks have done well, but look at what Decca have achieved with Rod Stewart and Andrea Bocelli.” Warner, meanwhile, has become the home of the runaway hit album, with The Greatest Showman joined in the Top 10 sellers by Sheeran’s ÷ (Asylum/Atlantic, another 510,305 copies sold, presumably to people who spent 2017 living on the bloody moon), Michael Bublé’s Love (Reprise/Warner Bros, 263,538) and Dua Lipa’s Dua Lipa (Warner Bros, 251,280). “It’s fair to say that The Greatest Showman out-performed expectations,” says Derek Allen, drily. “The bit that we have done well is to keep that train going all the way through the year. It blasted out of the blocks and then we realised we had something we would try and keep going – and we took it back to No.1 at the end of the year against some fairly stiff competition from the other majors.” Some canny Q4 marketing, as well as Sing-A-Long and Reimagined versions boosted sales, with Warner targeting the Christmas No.1 from as far back as the middle of the year. “It’s not the easiest thing to do with a project,” says Allen. “Longevity is the tough part now. It’s a relatively well-trodden path to crash an album into the charts high; the difficult bit is keeping it there and getting that sustained level of sales over a long period. We’ve been quite good at that recently.” Sony had a stellar 2017 but found 2018 much harder territory, with Ezra its only Top 10 album, although it also has a share in Take That’s album Odyssey (Polydor/Sony Commercial Group), which ended up at No.11. “Undoubtedly, we didn’t have the wealth of releases that we had in 2017,” says Charles Wood. “But we set the bar with George Ezra and, tracks-wise, with Calvin Harris. Staying At Tamara’s is a record with great singles and a very, very likeable artist who appeals to my eight-year-old and my mother. In a market where there are fewer buyers of records, you need that breadth of appeal. It’s harder to do it in a niche now.” Sony fared better on the singles chart, with One Kiss (Columbia/Warner Bros, 1,573,239 sales), Harris’ duet with Dua Lipa, the year’s No.1. Ezra’s Shotgun and Paradise also made the Top 10. Universal provided the year’s singles runner-up with Drake’s God’s Plan (Cash Money/Republic/Island, 1,565,964), while the rapper’s Nice For What and Ariana Grande’s No Tears Left To Cry (Republic/Island) also hit the Top 10. As well as Dua Lipa, meanwhile, Warner provided four more of the Top 10: The Greatest Showman’s This Is Me (Atlantic); These Days (Asylum/Atlantic) by Rudimental, Jess Glynne & Macklemore; Perfect (Asylum/Atlantic) by Ed Sheeran; and Portugal The Man’s sleeper hit Feel It Still (Atlantic). Warner also scored the only debut 2018 album by a UK artist in the Top 100, Anne-Marie’s Speak Your Mind (Asylum/Atlantic), at No.26 for the year, with 164,865 sales. The next highest was Jorja Smith’s Lost & Found (Famm), at No.107. “We’ve seen these peaks and troughs in the past where you have dips in terms of breaking new artists,” says Allen. “But, over the last three or four years, in tough markets, we’ve been consistently breaking UK talent, particularly female artists with Dua last year and Anne-Marie this year. It’s still our ambition to establish artists in the market as a long-term proposition and we’ll continue to do that.” “Breaking artists is probably the No.1 challenge right now, not just for Universal or our labels, but for everybody,” says Hawkes. “How do we get the attention of the consumer? These things take time, but there are artists out there that can become global stars, it’s just going to take longer to develop that talent and we hope we’ve got some of those within our ranks. “With the likes of Slowthai, Sam Fender, Lewis Capaldi, Grace Carter and Dermot Kennedy, we’ve got artists that have really got a great chance of breaking through and building careers.” Universal’s biggest UK breakout was Calum Scott’s Only Human (Capitol) at No.149, while Sony’s was Britain’s Got Talent stars The D-Day Darlings’ I’ll Remember You (Sony CG) at No.142. “2019 will be a time when probably we need to rethink our metrics,” says Wood. “It may well be that we will have artist successes that’ll just be selling a good amount of tracks. Or, if they are making full length albums, they’ll be consumed in a different way.” Time, perhaps, to give PT Barnum a call… MARKET SHARES The music business is not the only one contemplating its best performance in years. Universal Music, led by David Joseph in the UK, put in what David Hawkes describes as its best AES performance for three years. That saw them hit 36.1% (up 1.1 percentage points) on All Albums AES and 35.5% (up 1.4) on Artist Albums AES, and rise on every single key metric. Hawkes highlights in particular the 1.1-point rise in Compilation Albums Sales share, to a mighty 42.9%. “It’s extremely tough out there,” he says. “But UMOD have really pulled out all the stops and had a fantastic result, given what happened a couple of years ago with Ministry Of Sound [being acquired by] Sony. No one would have foreseen it, but against all expectations we have grown share, despite the acquisition. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely challenging, but put the right record out – look at MTV Rocks, Dreamboats And Petticoats – and it still has legs.” Jason Iley’s Sony, in contrast, was down on every metric, after a much lighter release schedule than in 2017. It dropped 2.7 points year-on-year to 21.9% on its preferred All Albums AES list, and 2.3 to 20.6% on Artist Albums AES. It did maintain its No.2 position, apart from on Artist Album Sales, where a 17.9% share (down 4 points) saw it finish behind Warner Music. Charles Wood vows to put that right in 2019, saying: “Clearly we would like to be No.1 if we could. It’s a challenge. But it’s a very promising impression of 2019 that we have at the moment.” Sony did perform better on tracks, dropping just 1.5% on Track Streams to 21.7%. “We probably had a stronger track release schedule than we had a traditional album schedule,” says Wood. But we all need to start picking apart our understanding of that. You can be in the mindset of 10 years ago, and think this is [all about] the hit singles we had. But catalogue is in there too.” Max Lousada’s Warner also had the daunting task of being measured against Ed Sheeran’s annus mirabilis but thanks to Showman, Bublé et al, ended up just 0.8 points down on its preferred Artist Albums AES measurement at 18.9%. It hit 17.9% (down just 0.4) on All Albums AES, after The Greatest Showman Reimagined gave them their biggest compilation album in years. The only metric it rose on was Track Sales (20.3%, up from 20.1% in 2017) but Derek Allen was more than happy with where they ended up. “From a Q4 perspective, we grew on both singles and albums and, for the year, we’re not far off flat for both,” he notes. “We would have taken that at the beginning of the year, coming off the back of the phenomenon that is Ed Sheeran. The performance was spread across a number of artists and there was a significant UK element to that as well, which is pleasing.” Label-wise, there were some big moves, but no change at the top. Ted Cockle’s Virgin EMI once again saw off all-comers to finish on top of All Albums AES (10.0%, up from 9.9% last year), Artist Albums AES (9.8%, up from 9.5%) and Artist Album Sales (8.6%, up from 8.1%). David Dollimore’s RCA stayed on top of Track Streams (10.4%, down from 11.1%) and Track Sales (10.9%, down from 12.3%). And Nicola Tuer’s Sony Music Commercial Group remained in charge of Compilation Album Sales (35.2%, down from 36.3%) and All Album Sales (13.2%, down from 14.1%). Below the No.1 spot though, there were significant gains for Tom March and Ben Mortimer’s Polydor, which came close to regaining its old No.1 crown, rising 1.2 points on Artist Albums AES (9.4%) and 1.3 on All Albums AES (8.7%). Island, where Louis Bloom took over from the legendary Darcus Beese in May, also saw increases across the metrics. Proof that a change in leadership doesn’t have to be bad news, should the American voters happen to be listening…

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