In some industries, January is boring. Not in the music biz. The anticipation created by a new crop of potential favourite acts means there will never be a post-Christmas comedown for most of us to deal with.
Well, not normally, anyway. The barren year of 2016, when only three debut albums by UK acts made the year’s Top 100 best-sellers, made many fear the country’s appetite for new music was waning. 2017, with eight British debuts in the Top 100, felt a lot healthier.
But as Music Week’s Class Of 2018 wait nervously later in this mag for your attention, it may be time to re-examine exactly when and how we consider an act to have ‘broken’. The old benchmark of 100,000 albums feels out-dated in an age when not everyone buys albums and some artists may not even make one.
A hit album will remain the Holy Grail for much of the biz but let’s not discard those who don’t get there straight away
If you look at the artists that did break last year, it’s clear building a new career is not a short-term game. Liam Gallagher, Harry Styles and Sheridan Smith were already well-known to the UK public in other guises. Rag’N’Bone Man and Tokio Myers had been around the block a few times. Even Stormzy had been out there doing it himself for a while.
The music business recovery has been built on dozens of revenue streams rather than a single business model. There are acts with millions of streams that don’t have a record deal and bands playing to huge audiences that will never make the charts. You can be big in sync, on YouTube, or in merch and make a decent living without ever getting a gold disc.
A hit album will remain the Holy Grail for much of the biz but let’s not discard those who don’t get there straight away. After all, your favourite new band is for life, not just for January.