Compilation album sales are up.
That’s not a sentence it’s been possible to write in recent years, as the sector suffered a prolonged slump. But a rule change by the Official Charts Company to move film soundtracks to the compilations rundown – first revealed in Music Week – has had an immediate impact.
The year-to-date compilation sales are up 3.4% compared to 2019, according to the OCC. In contrast, all album sales are down 2.3% for the year to date.
The compilation sector had been struggling in sales terms, because streams were not previously counted in OCC figures. Also, big film soundtracks were often registered in the artist album chart, in order to help them build profile.
“We want to draw a clearer distinction between cast recordings and artist albums,” said BPI and BRIT Awards chief executive Geoff Taylor. “One of the purposes of the [artist] chart is to help new talent break through.”
Frozen 2 was the No.1 compilation last week, with 6,352 sales. The total included 1,762 physical sales and 4,176 sales-equivalent streams. It follows the move last year to incorporate streams to the compilations chart where tracks constitute new, previously unreleased material.
In fact, Frozen 2 was always in the compilation chart, though its streams have undoubtedly helped this year. What’s further boosted the sector in the first few weeks of 2020 has been the streaming sales from soundtracks that were shifted to the compilations chart, including The Greatest Showman (No.3, 4,348 sales), A Star Is Born (No.11, 1,543 sales) and Moana (No.13, 1,359 sales).
We want to draw a clearer distinction between cast recordings and artist albums
Labels have backed the rule change for OST albums. And while those sales will be removed from the main chart, the hope is that it will allow more artists to flourish and benefit from the higher profile.
“It shouldn’t have any impact whatsoever on the performance of the soundtracks that have been doing so well in recent times,” said David Hawkes, commercial and creative services division MD at Universal Music UK. “Way back when, retailers used to put compilations or collections in a different part of the store to artists. It doesn’t happen any more, whether you’re a grocer or a specialist they’re effectively in the same space.
“We do know that retail profile can help deliver incremental sales, and that won’t change just because collections or soundtracks have moved into a compilations chart. I can only see upside in the extra profile, support and headlines that artists should be able to achieve."
A breakdown of the sales shows that physical compilation sales are still plummeting, down 21.5% year-on-year. But 112,101 streaming ‘sales’ so far in 2020 from soundtracks and multi-artist compilations, such as Travis Scott’s Jackboys, have helped to lift the sector for the first three weeks of the year.
While the boost for compilations may be welcome, the impact on the Now brand remains to be seen. Now has ruled the compilations chart, though with declining sales. Reaching No.1 is perhaps more important for an artist’s profile than it is for a Now LP, but the brand has been able to rely on shoppers finding it prominently racked in pole position.
Now 104 is currently being held off the summit by Frozen 2, though it has previously reached No.1.
Now draws its repertoire from other original sources, so under the revised OCC rules they still don’t register streaming ‘sales’ in the way that soundtracks do.
So, if Now 105 is held off No.1 in the compilations chart by the Top Gun: Maverick OST in the summer, expect another row to kick off about where soundtracks belong.
Subscribers can read the full story with label execs on the soundtracks shift to compilations here.