Charts analysis: Taylor Swift scores seventh No.1 album

Exactly 12 years and one month since the original charted at No.5, Taylor Swift's note-for-note re-recording of her second album Fearless obliterates her nearest competition, meaning we have yet another new No.1 album. The extraordinary circumstances of its creation mean ...

Charts analysis: Lil Nas X reaches new weekly sales peak

Despite a midweek hiccup which saw the single become briefly unavailable on some platforms Monetero (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X strolls effortlessly to a third straight week at the top of the charts. The single leaps to another new sales peak, up 3.3% on the week to 64,140 (including 62,504 from 8.4m streams). It means the gap between first and second place widens although Peaches still holds firm at No.2 for Justin Bieber, Daniel Caesar and Giveon as the single posts a further 45,725 sales. It is the fifth different song of this title to make the British charts, and by far and away the highest charting. The biggest new hit of the week is Rapstar, a narrative on the highs and lows of fame which propels Polo G into the Top 3 for the second time in the space of a month. Hard on the heels of his turn on the KSI hit Patience the single matches the No.3 peak of its predecessor with 44,169 sales, Polo G's sixth chart hit in all. The Top 5 is completed by Joel Corry's Bed rising to a new peak of No.4 (37,019 sales) to become his third Top 5 single in a row, and Wellerman by Nathan Evans which now appears holed beneath the waterline and sinks to No.5 (36,241) to finally end an unbroken 11-week run in the Top 3. Late to the party, the tracks not appearing online until late on Saturday, Dave still charts in some style with a brace of metal-themed singles. Leading the charge is the minimalistic Titanium, which slams straight in at No.9 (25,897 sales) to hand the rapper his seventh Top 10 hit single. Slightly lower down at No.33 (14,660 sales) is Mercury whose dual artist credit hands a chart debut to emerging singer-songwriter Kamal. Both tracks are standalone releases, at least for now, and become Dave's 22nd and 23rd chart entries respectively. Following her second album Hot Pink, Doja Cat moves on to her first completely new material since her breakthrough release. Kiss Me More takes its bow as the first release from her forthcoming third album Planet Her and further cements her reputation as creator of guaranteed smash hits. A return to the disco-soul vibe of her breakthrough hit Say So, the track becomes her highest debuting hit to date as it lands at No.10 (24,804 sales) to become the eighth chart hit and second Top 10 for both Doja and her co-performer SZA. Departing the Top 10 are Your Love (9PM) by ATB/Topic/A7S and Don't Play by Anne-Marie/KSI/Digital Farm Animals, which falls to Nos.13 and 17 respectively while Latest Trends by A1 & J1 dives to No.28 following a relegation to ACR status. Newly arrived in the Top 20 is Ferrari Horses from D-Block Europe and Raye which leaps to a new peak of No.16 (21,563 sales).  The arrival of Fearless (Taylor's Version) at the top of the albums chart means Taylor Swift enjoys a flurry of singles entries too. Perhaps inevitably much of the attention focused on one of the previously unheard "From The Vault" cuts from the re-recorded album, meaning its most popular track is Mr Perfectly Fine, which lands at No.30 (15,659 sales). It is joined by Love Story (Taylor’s Version) which rebounds to No.45 (10,984 sales) and You Belong With Me (Taylor’s Version), the reworking of the track which was originally her second Top 40 hit when it peaked at No.30 in October 2009 arriving at No.52 (9,650). Five further cuts from the album commanded enough sales to land Top 75 positions, but chart rules restricting the singer to three concurrent hits mean all are ineligible. Copious hard work has so far failed to propel Rag'N'Bone Man's All You Ever Wanted properly into the Top 30, but the build-up to his new album steps up a gear as its second single Anywhere Away From Here leapfrogs it to No.32 (14,738 sales). A duet with Pink, the intense ballad is the one man gospel choir's sixth chart hit and a landmark 40th for his co-star, her highest charting single since Walk Me Home reached the Top 10 over two years ago.  Five further brand new hits round off a busy singles week. They are Way To Long from Nathan Dawe, Anne-Marie and Mostack (No.42, 11,225 sales), Shy Away from Twenty-One Pilots (No.56, 8,563 sales), Lingo from Deno ft JI & Chunkz (No.57, 8,315 sales), Starstruck from Years & Years (No.64, 7,849 sales) and Versus by SL & Millionz (No.69, 7,113 sales). A gentle rise in sales takes the singles market to 22,755,806, up 0.58% week on week. But paid sales wither still further, down 3.08% to another new digital era low of just 385,805 units. Subscribers can click here for all the latest charts.  

On a mission: Big Dada steps up to transform the music industry

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues, the music industry is sharpening its focus on diversity and equality, but no-one is doing so quite like Big Dada. As the cherished indie launches its new era, Music Week meets label heads Victoria Cappelletti and Alex Ives to investigate their plans to bring about seismic change for artists and executives at all levels...  WORDS: Anna Fielding Earlier this year, Big Dada did something new. The label has always been experimental, filling its release schedule with original artists, including Roots Manuva, Kae Tempest and Mercury Prize-winning albums by Speech Debelle and Young Fathers. But on January 25, the label, a subsidiary of Ninja Tune, decided they wouldn’t just support innovation, they would be the change themselves. According to a new mission statement Big Dada has relaunched “as a label run by black, POC & minority ethnic people for black, POC & minority ethnic artists”. It’s a move that could impact the music industry and beyond. “Following Black Lives Matter, we all gathered to discuss what we thought could be changed,” says Victoria Cappelletti, who is one of Big Dada’s two label heads and the international marketing manager for Ninja Tune. “Big Dada is, historically, a label that has released really important records from black and POC artists in the UK. So we decided to relaunch the label in a way that would allow black and POC staff to become executives, as well as being able to champion young artists.”  Currently, only 19.9% of executive roles in the British music industry are held by Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, according to last year’s UK Music Diversity Report. For staff at all levels, the figure is 22.3%. Organisations such as the Black Music Coalition and projects like the PRS Foundation’s Power Up are undertaking work to make the music industry a more equal place, but no individual label has made the kind of move Big Dada has. Alex Ives, Cappelletti’s fellow label head and Ninja’s head of physical distribution, expands further.  “For us, as a big label, it’s about looking at some of the structural issues, not just as they affect the music industry, but globally,” he says.  Ives is part of the Black Music Coalition’s independent arm, and he says the organisation is working on “some very interesting and potentially impactful” activity for 2021. Yet while he and Cappelletti agree that such initiatives are crucial, they’re yet to be convinced by wider industry activity. “There is so much to be done, and it will take a lot of time and effort,” says Cappelletti. “Sadly, we will surely realise that some of the initiatives so far were either partly or fully performative and meaningless, but hopefully the process will have reached more people and will motivate a majority to work towards effective change.” Ives says it’s hard to tell exactly what has changed so far.  “I have always been somewhat sceptical of the big, public posts of support for BLM from companies, as the proof will really be seen with time,” he states. “I have not seen many initiatives that have really made me think there is meaningful change happening – that’s not to say there isn’t, I’ve just not seen much. I hope it’s happening behind the scenes.” Big Dada, then, is stepping out as a force for change. Ives is calling for the “cross-pollination of ideas between majors, indies and other companies” so that education and building towards new standards takes place across the whole industry. Cappelletti agrees wholeheartedly.  “Although it’s difficult to think it took a whole civil rights movement for it to rise, it’s reassuring and empowering to know this community exists,” she says. “It is there for professionals and executives like us from now on. Young people starting their careers know they have a community of like-minded individuals behind them.” The label’s team, working across London and Los Angeles, are just as passionate (see box, right). Project manager Ashley Yun says the industry needs a shake-up and wants Big Dada to, “build an ecosystem where people are genuinely in this to help each other, put out great music and do what we love without being held back by out-of-date standards.”  What they are trying to do with Big Dada, says Ives, is create upward mobility by putting employees in roles where they can make decisions and gain experience, to bring about long-term change. Within the world of indie labels, Ives believes, there are entry-level jobs, but then the funnel rapidly narrows: there are fewer senior roles, making progression difficult.  “Say company A has three executives, but they are the three people who started the company,” he says. “That creates a barrier.”  With Big Dada, Ives continues, “You can come in and learn your chops in a real-life situation. It’s not a training programme, it’s real, you can make decisions, and you can affect a campaign.”  The aim is to create opportunities for growth.  “Part of the joy of an indie can be that the label has the same ethos it had 25 years ago, but it’s also what can make change slower,” Ives says. “You could have everyone at the top quit and replace them with a bunch of new people, but that’s not really what people want. It isn’t just about promoting, it’s about creating structures of support.”  Ninja Tune employs around 70 people, with 17 of them working at least some of the time on Big Dada. There are six execs, including Cappelletti and Ives, who have “hands-on campaign experience”, including social media and A&R. The others come from areas such as accounts and publishing.  “If we have an accountant who wants to learn project management, then that’s great, they can start here,” says Ives.  The hope is that staff will use their experiences to move on to senior roles in the wider industry. Cappelletti and Ives describe their own roles as “a thrilling opportunity”, but acknowledge that they are experienced, relative to many.  Cappelletti started out in her native France, before taking various PR roles in the UK. She was drawn to Ninja “because working in the international department means doing everything, marketing, promotion, distribution… I’ve learned so much from my colleagues along the way.”  Ives has worked at Ninja Tune “for nearly nine years” he says, checking the date on his computer. He started out at Brighton-based indie FatCat, where he and another intern took care of 12” subsidiary Palmist (“all these DIY punk garage bands who weren’t quite big enough for the main label”). He joined Ninja Tune as a digital assistant and worked his way up to his current role. Both acknowledge the opportunities and experiences created by others: the new iteration of Big Dada is their chance to pay it forward to the next generation.   Set up in 1997, the label has always skewed towards hip-hop, the hip-hop-influenced and electronica. Founder Will Ashon, then a journalist, convinced Ninja Tune boss Peter Quicke to release Misanthropic by Alpha Prhyme, a collaboration between DJ Luke Vibert and MC Juice Aleem. “It was just an experiment,” Ashon told The Guardian in 2009. It worked and Big Dada started to grow.  Although its roster was varied, the label gained a reputation for acclaimed releases by artists who wanted to talk about the world beyond dancefloors and love affairs. Roots Manuva’s Run Come Save Me made the Mercury Prize shortlist in 2002 and Ty’s Upwards followed in 2004. In 2009, Speech Debelle’s Speech Therapy won outright. Although there was a contretemps between artist and label over its promotion, they reunited for 2012’s Freedom Of Speech. By 2014, Kae Tempest (then known as Kate Tempest) was nominated for Everybody Down and Edinburgh band Young Fathers won with their debut Dead. Such critical attention was impressive.  “I think it’s the ability to find artists that are doing something groundbreaking, that are really able to express themselves,” says Cappelletti. “But that doesn’t have to be out there, to be obvious, it can be subtle.”  A groundbreaking artist, she says, can remain groundbreaking when they are five years out of the underground if their creativity and right to self-expression are championed by the label. A label should “do something that is tailored and sensitive to the artist’s world and just add some industry expertise to it.”  Roots Manuva (real name Rodney Smith) has been with Big Dada since his debut Brand New Second Hand in 1999. He tells Music Week the label has always been there to push and challenge him.  “They encourage artists to take risks,” he says. “It’s never been a situation of chasing trends and it has been a mechanism for helping artists make their own decisions. The relaunch is an inspirational move on their part, and perhaps we will see not only creative but executive innovation.” Big Dada’s next release will come from Yaya Bey, who makes lo-fi hip-hop and R&B. Brooklyn’s Bey is the daughter of Queens hip-hop artist Grand Daddy IU, a contemporary of Biz Markie.  “She was the one we all favoured,” says Cappelletti, recalling when Big Dada’s staff gathered to talk about new signings. “First, it was all about her music, always music first, but then we got in touch and found out about her background, her story. She’s an amazing visual artist, that added so much. But she’s also a free artist, which is what makes her interesting in my opinion.” Bey is enjoying her blossoming relationship with the label, which she describes as “a safe space”. “I feel honoured to be part of this,” she says. “I hope more labels are motivated to follow because black and brown people do so much for music. If there were more efforts like this, we could finally get exposure and maybe even living wages via visibility for more black and brown artists.”  Beyond Bey, Big Dada are keeping quiet about new signings, but Ives and Cappelletti are adamant that the label will be “a special home for a new generation of talent”.  Cappelletti envisions a wave of emerging acts who are “unafraid of showcasing who they are,” while Ives assures that new signings “will never be a statistic, a box being ticked or a quota being filled”. As always, the goal is credible, sustained success. “We are aiming at building artists’ profiles and introducing them to new, wider audiences,” says Cappelletti. “We’ll absolutely continue to build on previous Big Dada successes and aim to reach goals such as the Mercury Prize, but the most important thing is making sure our artists grow in the way they want to.” And with the full support of Ninja Tune infrastructure across digital sales and distribution, marketing, PR and international, Big Dada stands to make an impact. The pandemic hasn’t slowed them down, and both label heads say that D2c – driven by its thriving webstore – streaming and a consistent release schedule have been crucial. “There is clearly still a desire for fans to connect with artists through things like livestreams and Q&As, so harnessing that to push new releases directly to fans online has proven a key strategy,” says Cappelletti. Big Dada’s hefty catalogue offers another boost.  “We’re privileged to be able to work with that history and we’ll be celebrating it with represses and anniversary pieces,” says Ives. “There’s a responsibility to champion that.” Will Ashon, who left in 2014, laid those foundations. When news of the relaunch broke, he tweeted his excitement. “That was touching,” says Ives. “He was at Big Dada when I started at Ninja, so I had the privilege of working with him.”  The relationship between Ninja Tune and Big Dada is independent in terms of creative decisions, but, Ives says, “We’re fully plugged into everything an artist signed to Ninja would get. It’s like a sibling, living in the same house, but supporting a different football team.”  Which football team is Big Dada’s?  “Arsenal,” Ives rapidly replies.  “It’s a good thing that I also support them,” says Cappelletti, with a slight shrug. “Otherwise it’d be an issue.” The two label heads have a great deal of common ground and take a similar joy in the nuts and bolts of getting music to the public. For Cappelletti, there’s a fascination with consumption: “In Japan, they are very into physical, but the Netherlands is all about streaming.” Ives loves chatting to record shop staff, sharing a passion for the same music.  This practical idealism extends to other areas of the relaunch. The website now offers a range of resources, covering everything from lawyers to mental health.  “It’s about building connections,” says Ives. “Not every artist wants to be signed. There are many options for artists who want to be independent and it’s a very empowering way of working. But we want to be able to help people answer some of the questions they might have.”  The site will also house editorial, highlighting new acts.  “Sometimes labels will say, ‘Oh there’s something happening over here,’ and will cherry pick one artist from a scene,” says Ives. “But I’d like to think we can work with these labels and be part of that community.”  “I like that we are offering guidance to people,” says Cappelletti. “Black, POC and ethnic minority people are living through really challenging times. What happened last summer was mentally challenging, and then trying to make it in the music industry, as an artist or as a professional of any kind… It’s important that advice is available.”  Cappelletti and Ives have a lot of love for their part of the industry and want to share that good fortune.  “I have to believe in it, it’s my whole life,” says Ives. “It’s that exactly,” says Cappelletti. “There’s a huge passion involved in independent labels. No one does it for money or fame, right? It’s about the love for music.”

Centre Stage: Mark Davyd

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