New albums give music biz reason to celebrate

LONDON — The British music industry is patting itself on the back after the release of numbers showing that homegrown talent is enjoying its most successful spell in a decade.

New albums from Arctic Monkeys, Corinne Bailey Rae, Kooks, Shayne Ward, Journey South, Andy Abraham, Sandi Thom, the Feeling and Dirty Pretty Things all feature in this year’s top 100 chart, having sold more than 3.3 million copies in total, or 17.2% of sales.

Numbers compare favorably to 2005 — itself a record year for new U.K. talent — when six acts featured in the first-half charts, having sold 1.4 million copies. Five years ago, two acts featured in the top 100; 10 years ago, just three acts made the list.

The global recorded music market declined in value by 15.4% from 2000-04, but the U.K. bucked this trend, with sales growing by 3.4% over the same period. Last year U.K. music fans bought a record 62 million albums from British acts, almost 50% of total sales.

Industry investment in new British acts is driving sales, with trade org the British Phonographic Industry claiming that new acts are selling more albums more quickly than ever before.

The latest success story, James Morrison, is celebrating his second week at the top of the Official U.K. Albums Chart. But he is now the eighth act to debut at No. 1 in 2006, and BPI notes that U.K. debut acts have topped the chart for 13 weeks to date in 2006, with four U.K. bows in this week’s top 10 (Morrison, Kooks, Paolo Nutini and Lily Allen).

“Creatively, British music is on a high, and music fans have responded to the industry’s continued investment in new acts by buying a record number of debut albums,” said BPI chairman Peter Jamieson. “The arrival of legal digital music retailers, the increasing use of viral online promotion and the emergence of social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo and Faceparty means that record companies can be highly innovative in promoting this new talent.”

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