How popular are Scottish albums in Scotland?

The album chart has always held a strangely magnetic charm for me. Flawed though it may be, there is still no better gauge of a new release’s popularity with the people – all the people, not just the ones who read music blogs.

Since I use The Pop Cop as a platform to publicise talented artists who are often underappreciated or have a cult following (such a conveniently indeterminate phrase, don’t you think?), some folk might think it futile to analyse where such music fits in the mainstream.

However, I disagree and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in having my faith restored in the Woman and Man In The Street’s taste when a band as exquisite as The National entered the UK charts at No.5 this summer with their fifth album High Violet after more than a decade of incremental career blossoming.

Of course, some musicians are quick to point out they couldn’t care less about the charts. Especially those who don’t sell enough records to be in them.

Given that independent stores Love Music in Glasgow, Avalanche Records in Edinburgh, One Up in Aberdeen and Apollo Music in Paisley as well as the big chains like Fopp and HMV are all chart return record outlets (i.e. their sales count towards the official charts), the musical mood of Scotland can be accurately reflected in numerical form.

But the thing I’m most fascinated about is what record buyers in Scotland think of Scottish albums, so I decided to do some investigating to find out where every Scottish album released this year charted, both in the UK and in Scotland (yes, we have our own charts).

My starting point was The Official Charts Company, who publish the UK’s top 100 albums and Scotland’s top 40 albums every week. However, as you will soon see, many Scottish albums didn’t make it that high so I had to dig a little deeper. This led me to UK Charts Plus, who publish the UK’s top 200 albums and Scotland’s top 75 albums on a subscription-only basis.

The results of my findings are below. Only 20 new albums featuring Scottish artists have charted in 2010 and all of them charted higher in Scotland than they did in the UK as a whole, except ‘supergroup’ Tired Pony (who admittedly contain just one Scottish member) whose placing was identical.

There were four artists who entered the Scottish chart but failed to make the UK one – The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, The Xcerts, Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Broken Records. To put that into context, The Official Charts Company told me that it takes as little as 900 sales to make the UK’s top 200.

Six Scots reached Scotland’s top 10 – Sharleen Spiteri (4), Frightened Rabbit (10), Amy Macdonald (2), Teenage Fanclub (4), KT Tunstall (2) and Belle & Sebastian (4). However, half of those didn’t make the UK’s top 10 – Sharleen Spiteri (13), Frightened Rabbit (61) and Teenage Fanclub (30).

The charts also show how far the popularity of some artists has nosedived. In 2006, Sandi Thom’s first album debuted at No.1 in the UK and went on to sell over 700,000 copies worldwide. This year, her third album entered the chart at 118 (UK) and 63 (Scotland). The Fratellis’ two albums both made the UK’s top five, but Codeine Velvet Club’s record entered at 118 (UK) and 50 (Scotland). Travis have had five albums in the UK’s top 10, yet Fran Healy’s solo album limped in at 76 (UK) and 33 (Scotland).

Here are the placings in full, click on the graphics to enlarge if need be:

N.B. Albums released this year by other Scottish artists who enjoy decent profiles such as The Unwinding Hours, Emma Pollock, Meursault, Tommy Reilly and Kid Canaveral were nowhere to be seen in either chart.

Click here to find out more about UK Charts Plus subscriptions.

The National – Terrible Love (Alternate Version)

November 26, Academy, Glasgow (sold out)

12 Responses to “How popular are Scottish albums in Scotland?”

  1. Matthew Says:

    November 4th, 2010 at 12:38

    One of the reasons Meursault are nowhere to be seen in the chart is because we’d have to register the label with some agency or other, and I really can’t be arsed, not least because so few of the albums we release are ever going to bother any sort of chart to begin with – Meursault being the obvious exception.

    I can confirm your findings, however. Despite making much more headway down South this year, I still sell the vast majority of Meursault records to Scots. Not sure how this applies to shops, but I would be very surprised if it was any different.

  2. The Pop Cop Says:

    November 4th, 2010 at 12:52

    Thanks for clearing that up, Matthew. I wonder how Meursault would have fared if the label was registered.

  3. Jim Says:

    November 4th, 2010 at 13:13

    Apollo Music might be a chart return shop, but good luck finding anything you might want to buy in it.

  4. Stuart Says:

    November 4th, 2010 at 19:49

    Sandi Thoms initial success was purely down to media manipulation and very big promotional budgets alongside record company/PR and management hype. Her follow-up release was an unmitigated disaster in sales terms and anything she has tried to release since then has met with an almost resolute blanking which in its own way does restore some belief that the music buying public does occasionaly come to their senses.

  5. Matthew Says:

    November 5th, 2010 at 02:27

    I don’t like Sandi Thom’s music, but after her PR bubble burst into something of a music industry wet fart I reckon that releasing a third album represents a degree of courage and determination which I think deserves some admiration.

    Jason – yeah, it wasn’t supposed to be a statement of indie indifference or anything, just that at the time I had way more pressing things on my mind, and any of our records featuring in any sort of chart seemed kind of outlandish, but our distributors did warn us that we’d need to register.

    Not that I particularly care about missing out on being 5,648th in the Scottish indie chart, mind 😉

  6. John D. Says:

    November 5th, 2010 at 13:50

    Not sure I completely follow the figures, are these first week sales? If that’s the case I’m surprised KT Toadstool only shifted a few thousand. I also find the charts sort of fascinating, if increasingly invalid (I can’t remember the last time I bought a single, though I suppose I do still buy albums).

  7. steven Says:

    November 5th, 2010 at 15:35

    900 recorded sales to make the UK top 200 !!! The UK record industry must be in worse trouble than previously thought.

  8. The Pop Cop Says:

    November 5th, 2010 at 18:31

    RE Stuart/Matthew: The public have clearly given up on Sandi Thom’s music but the funny thing is that *very* few people have actually heard/bought her recent work. She could have turned into the new Joni Mitchell for all anyone knows. Hmmm.

    RE John D/Steven: Yeah, these are all first-week sales and includes download figures too – doesn’t make healthy reading for those who are scraping into the chart, or not in it at all.

  9. Scott Says:

    November 5th, 2010 at 18:39

    A stastistic I’d quite like to know which is relevant to this, if you have it at your disposal, is the % of sales for these bands in Scotland against their overall worldwide figure. For example, you would imagine a much larger % of FR’s sales come from America as against here. Is there any way of finding that out?

  10. The Pop Cop Says:

    November 6th, 2010 at 00:37

    Actual record sales are notoriously well guarded by record labels and rarely made public so I don’t think there would be any easy way of finding that out. You could always ask FatCat, they’re usually a helpful lot.

  11. David Says:

    November 13th, 2010 at 17:47

    As far as Kid Canaveral not making the charts, we’re stuffed even before any record sales are taken into account for the same reason as Matthew and SBT.

  12. thepopcop Says:

    November 19th, 2010 at 09:32

    Some people have misread the bar graphics, so to clear up the confusion… the graphic at the very top of the post relates to the position the artist entered the Scottish album chart – therefore the LOWER the bar, the BETTER the artist achieved (low numbers = better chart placing, you see)

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