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12 MusicWeek 06.09.13


Indies lost the EMI war, but they are still flourishing

INDEPENDENTS led by IMPALA and AIM lost a vociferous campaign in trying to halt Universal’s takeover of EMI, but out of that defeat they are now thriving in a way not seen in years. As the new environment of three major record companies

starts to firmly take shape so does one in which the collective stock of indie labels has risen to such an extent they are currently responsible for one in every five albums sold in the UK. Putting it another way, their combined firepower is now bigger than anyone else bar Universal. What they have achieved represents a remarkable

turnaround after years of takeovers, closures and declines and you have to go back to the beginning of the 1990s before the likes of Chrysalis, Island and Virgin were each swallowed up by a major for the last time they had this kind of stake at retail.

“The might of Universal continues to loom large but the reshaped market since the takeover of EMI is bringing independents some positives”

Of course, the 20%-plus share the independents can

presently boast is one of an albums market that has shrunk in unit terms by something like 40% since 2005 and shows no immediate signs of reversing, despite a compilations fightback. But it should also be noted independent album sales have held up a lot better than the overall market has managed since then, having declined by little more than 20%, while in the last 12 months are down by just 1%. The indies’ improving fortunes should further be put into the

context of them managing to get into this positive position after losing so many of the sector’s top players over the last decade so, some swallowed up by the majors, as was the case with the likes of Sanctuary, V2 and Zomba, or with Telstar, Gut and others disappearing altogether. The might of Universal continues to loom large over the sector

– as it does over everybody else – but it is also true the reshaped market since the purchase and break-up of EMI is bringing independents some positive benefits. These include a migration of acts to indies as the options for artists to sign to a major get smaller and smaller. For some like the Pet Shop Boys this is a first venture in the independent world; for others such as Nick Cave, Queens Of The Stone Age and Stereophonics a return. Although the independent scene in 2013 has nothing like a

Virgin Records that pre its EMI takeover could command a share of the market to rival some of the majors, in Beggars and Ministry of Sound it does once again possess two true giants. And below them there are plenty of rising names like Infectious and Nettwerk, which is enjoying its best UK chart run yet thanks to Passenger, while stalwart Domino has a much-anticipated Arctic Monkeys album to look forward to. Like everyone else, the indies are having to fight for every

sale more vigorously than ever before, but they are doing so again in a setting in which combined they are a match for almost everyone.

Paul Williams, Head of Business Analysis Do you have views on this column? Feel free to comment by emailing



ndependents are arguably in the midst of a new golden age after claiming their biggest share of UK album sales this century. In the week the cream of the sector gathered

for the third annual AIM Awards ceremony, indie labels are presently commanding their greatest presence at retail since the days when the likes of Chrysalis, Island and Virgin Records were still in non-major hands. Music Week research of Official Charts Company

data reveals that in the 12 months from chart week 35 2012 to chart week 34 2013 leading to the AIM Awards at The Brewery in east London on Tuesday independents were responsible for 22.5% of all full- and mid-price albums sold in the UK. That is not only a higher share than in any other equivalent 12- month period since the millennium, but is superior to any market share independents had over a corresponding timeframe since the Official Charts Company started in 1994. Only Universal with a 36.3% share over the last

12 months has sold more albums than the independent sector, although Sony has edged up its share to 21.1%. Even the contribution of Adele’s record-

breaking 21 in recent years was not able to lift the indies to a bigger share of the non-budget albums market than it has right now with the sector’s share 21.1% in the 12 months prior to the 2011 AIM Awards when the XL album was at its sales peak and 21.8% the following year when it was still the market’s leading seller. The record share is made all the more


n Indies’ share of non-budget album sales in 12 months to AIM Awards highest this century n Indie album sales down just 1.1% year-on-year compared to market dropping 4.7% overall n Non-major singles sales up 20.4% on the year, nearly six times the overall market n Ministry of Sound leading independent for singles and non- budget album sales n Nettwerk’s Passenger has top indie single and album over last 12 months

remarkable by the fact that since the beginning of the century the independent scene has lost a number of key players either through major record company acquisitions or closures. Back in 2000 its leading lights still included the likes of Zomba, Telstar, Gut, V2, the Chrysalis Group and Sanctuary predecessor Castle, but even then over the corresponding 12-month period non-majors’ albums market share was only 20.5%, less than in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Although indie labels’ share of the albums

market has grown in recent years the number of units they have sold collectively has naturally fallen in line with overall sales sharply shrinking. However, the decline among independents has been far less dramatic than sales as a whole, a point underlined by what has happened since the albums sector reached an historic peak in the UK in 2005. In the period between chart week 35 2004 and

chart week 34 2005 – equivalent to the 12-month timeframe we have examined in the run-up to the 2013 AIM Awards – there were 148.8 million non- budget albums sold overall in the UK with


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