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Mercury winner not benefitting from usual sales boost

Debelle wins MercuryDespite her Mercury Prize win Speech Debelle’s debut album is struggling to make an impact in the charts, according to unofficial midweek figures.

Speech Therapy is showing no signs of the ‘Elbow effect’, slipping to below 90 after reaching 65 in the album chart last week. Though calling it ‘the Elbow effect’ would indicate it was a new thing last year, when in fact most Mercury winners have traditionally made a few bob in sales in the immediate aftermath of their win.

Gennaro Castaldo from HMV suggests she will need more time to break through because she is a “lesser known artist” with a smaller profile than some previous winners.

He also explained that the sales upswing has not been as pronounced as in previous years, because the awards coincided with big news in the music world. Last week The Beatles re-issued their re-mastered albums and 92 year-old Dame Vera Lynn topped the album chart, which caught the attention of the media.

“She is a new artist to many people and it is just going to take a bit more time for them to become familiar with her.”

Hmmnn. Not sure that it is simple as that. Elbow immediately benefitted from airplay in places they couldn’t before (and it didn’t hurt that they had a gift wrapped single ready to go in ‘One Day Like This’.) But to suggest they were well-known outside the pages of music magazines is a bit fanciful.

The fact is this – people who bought Elbow albums in Tesco are highly unlikely to buy an urban rap album. People who might buy it are likely to Spotify it or similar to see if they like it first. Clearly they haven’t.
Word of mouth on the album has been fairly toxic, and nothing kills the buzz of an album trading on it’s modishness than the spreading poison of poor reviews. When the must-have album of the moment isn’t must-have, then it hasn’t found a home yet. It’s like someone immediately pointing out the Emperor’s knackers are visible.

The oldies aren’t inclined to buy it to feel young and down with the kids. The kids aren’t inclined to buy it because they don’t particularly like it and it isn’t cool enough for them to have to pretend that they do.

And in the end, it’s a decent album. No more, no less. There have been worse examples in the genre and there have been plenty which were much, much better. Frankly, it wasn’t even the best album of that type last year, never mind the best album of the year. Debelle’s win screamed of the judging panel wilfully wrong-footing the world after playing a conventional straight bat last year. This has seeped into the consciousness and she’s suffering as a result. A shame, but you can’t tell people what to buy and always expect them to do so, otherwise marketing would be a doddle.


3 Responses

  1. A friend recently said of rap (in relation to her having caught Jay-Z live): “I wasn’t sure at all…he seemed to be talking over other peoples records.”

  2. Well, you can’t say there isn’t some truth there….!

  3. The reason speech debelles album isn’t selling is because it’s shit.
    Mind u I’m not the target Market. It’s still shit though.

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