So Where’s the Sales Bump for the Winner of the Mercury Prize?

Part of the reason you want to be part of an awards competition is that a nomination can result in a significant boost in sales for your album. And if you win, the theory is people will rush out an buy your music. This is exactly what hasn’t happened to Young Fathers, the Scottish hip hop group who won Britain’s Mercury Prize this past week.

In past years, music-crazy Britain gobbled up music from the winner immediately following the ceremony. This year, not so much. From The Guardian:

One quarter of Mercury prize finalists have sold fewer than 1,000 albums in the UK since being nominated for the award. Despite the Mercury’s reputation as a career-maker, several of this year’s lesser-known nominees have seen a sales bump of only 500-800 copies.

Data provided by the Official Charts Company shows that some artists – such as Royal Blood and Jungle – have seen massive sales since the Mercury shortlist was announced on 10 September. Royal Blood, for instance, have sold 59,060 copies of their debut over the past seven weeks; then again, they had already been named the UK’s No 1 album on 6 September. Kate Tempest and GoGo Penguin more than doubled their sales figures, and Nick Mulvey’s 7,735 post-Mercury receipts represent a 33% increase on what he had before.

But although every nominated act doubtless found some new fans, the figures are deceiving. The hip-hop group Young Fathers and the jazz outfit Polar Bear saw respective sales surges of 31% and 33%, but these amounted to a mere 561 and 569 albums sold. Anna Calvi’s One Breath sold 800 copies since garnering the Mercury nod – a boost of just 6% – while sales of East India Youth’s Stolen grew by 765 units, or 13%. In the UK, 700 albums sold will not transform a band’s prospects.

Wow.  Now check out this graphic provided by The Guardian.

Mercury_music_sales 2014

This says less about the viability of the Mercury Prize and more about how fractured and fragmented the music market is. And why purchase an album when you can just stream it?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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