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News February 18, 2016

BPI: UK solo artists dominate top-selling LPs of 2015

Long gone are the days of The Smiths, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs. Long gone are the very public rivalries between rock bands like Blur and Oasis or The Beatles and The Rolling Stones fighting it out for #1. A new study by UK recorded music industry body BPI shows a steady decline in rock groups showing any kind of domination in the music charts.

With pop music heavyweights like Ed Sheeran and Adele, it is no wonder British sales figures show 60% of UK music is occupied by solo artists, ending the era of the rock group.

When it comes to rock or pop music Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams was the only album that reached Top 10 status in 2015’s Best Sellers. Joining them was Ed Sheeran and Adele along with Justin Bieber, Elvis Presley and Sam Smith.

While this is fantastic for solo artists and well deserved at that, it does raise questions as to where all the much cherished music groups are hiding away – or if they are simple just not relevant anymore, with the rare exception to One Direction.

The decline in music group domination goes hand in hand with the decline of rock and the waving goodbye to the guitar-heavy years or 2001-2005 where Franz Ferdinand and The Cribs were everywhere, The Kooks and Arctic Monkey’s were on a high and the Kaiser Chiefs were on the comeback. Across the ocean The Strokes were being played through every speaker in NYC while Sydney’s very own The Vines were tearing up stages across the nation.

There are numerous factors that could be responsible for this change. It’s not just Sydney whose doors are closing on live music venues, in London 40% of small music venues have shut in the last decade alone. This makes it very hard for small rock bands to play anywhere and creates more competition for the venues that are still standing.

Geoff Taylor, BPI chief executive, said: “It is too early to say that the recent strong performance by Pop is more than cyclical variation. The BPI is concerned however that the recent trend may be exacerbated by the worrying decline in the number of small venues that groups in particular rely on to learn their craft and build their fanbases, as highlighted recently by Independent Venues Week”.

Another idea as to why solo musicians are taking over the market is the rise of social media – pop, solo artists take up 88% of the Top 25 most engaged musicians in the world, with Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry leading the charts in the Top positions. In Australia, Cody Simpson is the most followed Australian person on Twitter with 7.7m followers.

It may very well be that solo stars are just simply outperforming groups; the last few years have defiantly represented a particularly lush period for solo stars like Grammy winners Ed Sheeran and Mark Ronson.

There is no doubt that the future looks brighter for solo stars rather than groups – it is a trend that has been brewing for the last few years. But perhaps we’re just watching history repeat itself.


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