Can one million Greatest Showman fans be wrong?
That’s the question being asked by some in the music industry, as the soundtrack passes the million mark and sparks a debate about whether it’s preventing other releases from breaking through.
Official confirmation will have to wait until this evening’s Official Charts midweek update, but the Atlantic-released soundtrack ticked past one million units at some point on Monday, confirming its status as the sales phenomenon of 2018.
The album has dominated 2018’s Albums Charts, to the extent that it has been No.1 for 21 of this year’s 28 chart weeks so far. More to the point, its tenure at the top has stopped a multitude of artists from reaching the top spot. Panic! At The Disco, Kanye West, Snow Patrol, James Bay, J Cole, Manic Street Preachers, UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey, Justin Timberlake, Craig David, Fall Out Boy and Camila Cabello have all had to settle for entering at No.2 as a result of the Hugh Jackman-starring unstoppable sales juggernaut.
This has led to mutterings within the music industry (and on Twitter most Friday evenings) that the album is now almost too successful. Some execs privately suggest the multi-artist album shouldn’t actually appear on the artist albums listing at all, but should be confined to the Compilations Chart, where some soundtrack albums, such as Guardians Of The Galaxy, do currently appear. But many other recent breakout soundtracks, such as La La Land and Moana, also appear on the artist chart.
Derek Allen is in the middle of that debate as SVP, commercial at Warner Music UK and also non-executive chairman of the Official Charts Company.
“If I take my Warner hat off and put my Official Charts hat on,” Allen told Music Week, “I’d say that we did discuss this, at length, last year in terms of which albums should appear in the artist album chart and which albums are not artist albums and appear in the compilations chart. There was a very, very healthy debate around where albums of this nature sat and it’s fair to say that there was a split. Half the room was in favour of these albums sitting in the comps chart and a fairly strong part of the room thought they should stay where they are – and this was long before Showman. I’m sure that debate will open up again at some point in the future and it will be interesting to see if this changes people’s views.”
And other execs also hailed the album's success.
“I think we’re comfortable with cast recordings sitting there,” says David Hawkes, managing director of Universal Music UK’s commercial division. “It’s not a concern, you just have to sit back and commend Warner on a fantastic record. Does it stifle? As we’ve seen with Drake and Florence + The Machine, if you release a great record, it’s going to do good volume, same with George Ezra. You can still get to No.1, despite the performance of The Greatest Showman. You just have to tip your hat to a fantastic album that’s captured the imagination of the public.”
“It’s fantastic that Warner have had that success,” agreed BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor. “Anybody who goes to watch the film, a huge number of those people go out and buy the record because the songs are so strong. It gets people engaged in either streaming or purchasing music and it gets them into stores; that’s a good thing for the market overall. It defied everyone’s expectations for a soundtrack album, it is a bit leftfield but it’s all about the quality of the film and the quality of the music.”
Of the 988,432 sales The Greatest Showman had racked up before this week, 458,044 were physical, 197,835 were digital downloads and 332,553 were streaming units, making it a rare multi-format blockbuster. It passes a million units just as its iron grip on the charts begins to loosen; it’s missed out on the top spot for the last two weeks and looks likely to do so again this week, leaving it two weeks short of Adele’s record for the most weeks at No.1 this century (23 for her album 21).
But don’t expect the debate to end there: another likely blockbuster soundtrack, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Polydor) is heading for a Top 10 entry on the Official Albums Chart this week, ahead of the much-anticipated movie’s release. Watch this space…