🔵 Not a single new album graced the UK's Top 10 best-selling albums of 2023.
Why this stat is not something we should ignore as an industry
Hi everyone and happy new year! I hope you all had a fine festive break. Also, a big welcome to all our new subscribers; I thought Christmas would quieten down growth on new subscribers, but I was certainly proven wrong there!
Today, the BPI released a raft of stats about the state of music sales and consumption in 2023. There were two notable things about the BBC’s coverage of it. Initially, it ran with a headline highlighting a startling stat: that not a single new album released in 2023 made it to the list of the year's top-selling albums.
That headline was changed sometime between 8am and 3pm (UK) today. Originally, it focused on the aforementioned fact, but by 3pm it had changed to this more positive angle on the BPI’s latest figures:
One couldn’t help but wonder then if someone - the BPI’s press team perhaps? - had stepped in to ask for a more positive slant on the figures.
Looking elsewhere, one again notices that the positive stats are the main focus
Let’s be clear: there are positive points, and the fact that female artist broke singles chart records is fantastic. We should absolutely recognise and appreciate that.
That being said, I’d argue that 2023 being the first year in the UK that not a single new album graced the Top 10 is something we all need to think about.
(To clarify on one point: Taylor Swift’s remade version of 1989 sits in that chart, but it does not contain new music - only remakes of the original album released in 2014 and so does not count.)
Also noteworthy is that not a single album managed to achieve platinum status in terms of sales, either.
For catalogue owners, especially major labels with extensive catalogues, all consumption translates to revenue, making this a positive business scenario. However it is arguably a short-term win for a longer-term loss.
The bigger concern is what this means for music and culture in general, and equally what it means for things like the world of live and festivals, who may, in years to come, find themselves struggling to secure any headliners of note.
What I think everyone in the industry needs to dwell on is whether this failure to outsell catalogue is down to A&R, investment in marketing, strategic error… or whether it is simply circumstances beyond everyone’s control.
There are no simple answers here, but to shrug and move on from that fact would be unwise. I suspect this is not just a UK issue either; I wouldn’t be shocked to see similar stats emerge in the US, for example.
Perhaps a more positive angle on this might be that the recorded music market has grown explosively (in terms of music available on DSPs) and that consumption is therefore far more fragmented than ever. Another might be that we are moving into a “post-superstar” age, where new artists simply never reach the long-term stability and success of a Madonna or Prince. This article from MBW back in 2020 predicted that to some extent.
Any which way, I look forward to see more analysis on this all, as I feel understanding what is causing these consumption habits would be highly informative. This is a classic inflection point where more understanding is required as to what has caused this slow down on new album sales, and what we as an industry can do about that.
Have a great evening,
🎶 listening to Derrick Carter’s Cosmic Disco mix, after reading about it on’s excellent site. It’s a stone cold classic.
📺 watching “The COOLEST Websites for Music Producers” by Oversampled. Ignore the clickbait title: this is actually a solid runthrough of some amazing music websites to aid producers. Some I knew of, but others were a revelation.
🤖 playing Sniper Elite 4 on the Nintendo Switch. Annoyingly me and my family all came down with some kind of lurgy the day after Boxing Day, and we have been that way ever since. Ergo, planting myself on the sofa and gaming seemed the best way to handle that, and this game has been horribly addictive.
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Stories from the Music Industry:
"A new generation of artists is not building fanbases that will buy gig and festival tickets in two, five, or 10-years' time, and is not popularising songs that will have ubiquity in our culture once this generation of music fans reaches old age," he wrote on Medium.
👆🏻Hot take: per comments above, I feel this represents something of a tipping point, and one that the music industry as a whole seriously needs to stop and reflect upon. Short term gains, long term nightmares.
“Following the announcement of the implementation of a tax on music streaming in France, we regret to announce that Spotify France will stop supporting Les Francofolies de la Rochelle and Le Printemps de Bourges financially, and through activations on the ground in favour of emerging artists,” announced Antoine Moine in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
👆🏻Hot take: slow clap for Spotify here. Its beef is with the French Govt, so it chooses to make fans the victims in the middle of that. Pathetic, and further proof this is not a business with any artists’ interests at heart.
The report explains further that the £322.6 million turnover figure is calculated as the economic value of: the goods or services generated by the construction of the ABBA Arena in London and the local area and; the operation of ABBA Voyage in London and the local area. Also included in that figure is the economic value of the goods or services sold to the attendees in the local area, when attending ABBA Voyage.
👆🏻Hot take: ABBA’s show has always fascinated me because it is arguably where music entertainment will go. I heard someone remark that the Las Vegas Sphere is so large and technically advanced that it almost transcends the need for a human performer, and ABBA’s Voyage show is further proof of possibility here. Not a cheap undertaking so not for every artist, but certainly a case for, if not immortality, then arguably a much, much greater lifespan on sales and revenue.
BandLab CEO, Meng Ru Kuok: ‘I think there will be over 1 billion music creators by 2030, potentially even sooner.’
“In my personal opinion, I strongly feel that the music industry needs to evolve the business model to a more artist-centric approach in order to reward and better incentivize the pursuit of artistry. But at the same time, we should all be focused on developing more ways for creators to mature on their journey. There are leaders making great strides around the former, and the latter is what we’re trying to achieve at BandLab.”
👆🏻Hot take: this interview with Bandlab’s CEO is well worth a look. I’d argue that 1 billion claim is certainly bold, but I can also see the logic behind it. Take a read.
The new instalment in Liverpool will mark the sixth branch in the UK for Rough Trade – following stores in Bristol, Nottingham and three shops in London. Although an exact opening date has not yet been confirmed, the store will be located at 50-56 Hanover Street in the city centre and will span 6500 square feet, making it the biggest UK store to date.
👆🏻Hot take: great to see. Given how much I talk about supporting the indie ecosystem, I’d argue this warrants a mention of a positive thing to see, given Rough Trade is indie owned and operated.
Stories from the Broader World of Tech:
The “unlawful use” of the paper’s “copyrighted news articles, in-depth investigations, opinion pieces, reviews, how-to guides, and more” to create artificial intelligence products “threatens The Times’s ability to provide that service”, the lawsuit claims. The lawsuit contains an appeal to the “vital” importance of the Times’s independent journalism to democracy, arguing that it is “increasingly rare and valuable”.
👆🏻Hot take: the outcome of this case could have massive implications for AI in general. Reading the details, I’d argue the NYT has a very solid case too. Perhaps the next question therefore is whether there will be a settlement - and if so, what that means for other publishers and platform operators.
The launch of the Copilot app for Android comes a little over a month after Microsoft rebranded Bing Chat to Copilot. Microsoft originally launched its AI push earlier this year inside its Bing search engine, integrating a ChatGPT-like interface into search results.
👆🏻Hot take: I keep urging everyone to get hands on with AI and really spend time with it all, and this is another excellent means to do just that. For me AI is seeing more use than regular search engines.
The social media platform X has lost 71% of its value since it was bought by Elon Musk, according to the mutual fund Fidelity. Fidelity, which owns a stake in X Holdings, said in a disclosure obtained by Axios that it had marked down the value of its shares by 71.5% since Musk’s purchase.
👆🏻Hot take: no surprise here. Perhaps the bigger anecdotal aspect to me is just how much everyone I know has stepped back from X altogether.
Need something else to read? Here you go:
Steven Reece Lewis was introduced to investors with an impressive list of qualifications and achievements, but no organisation cited can find any record of him
👆🏻Hot take: my colleague Tom described this as “the most crypto thing ever”… and he’s right.
Let’s be honest – many of us are unhappy with the excessive time we spend on our phones. We’re here to help with a brand new series and newsletter
👆🏻Hot take: starting the new year with some meaningful changes? Start here.
Who am I and who are Motive Unknown?
I’m Darren and I’m the MD of Motive Unknown. I started the company back in 2011. Since then we’ve grown to a team of 20, representing some 25 indie labels in the marketing strategy space, as well as working with artists directly.
Our artist clients cover anything from top-tier pop (Spice Girls, Robbie Williams) through hip hop (Run The Jewels, Dessa), electronic (Underworld, Moby) and more. Our label clients take in Dirty Hit (The 1975, Beabadoobee) Partisan Records (IDLES, Fontaines DC), Domino Records (Arctic Monkeys, Wet Leg), Warp Records (Aphex Twin, Danny Brown), LuckyMe (Baauer, Hudson Mohawke), and Lex Records (MF DOOM, Eyedress) among others.
Recent recorded music clients to join the family include Because Music (Christine & The Queens, Shygirl), Dangerbird (Grandaddy, Slothrust) and London Records (Bananarama, Sugababes).
In addition to our recorded music division, we also have a hugely successful growth marketing division which has a strong focus on the music creation space. Our clients in this space include Beatport, Plugin Boutique, Loopmasters, UJAM, RoEx, Krotos, Rhodes and more.
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