Tell me, did you take the week off work last week to enjoy the last dregs of the festive holiday? You weren't alone if you did, the music industry also electing to sit at home and drain the port bottle rather than get on with the job of releasing and promoting brand new music. Music stores themselves were as busy as ever of course, shifting large numbers of existing and catalogue product to a willing band of sales hunters, but as far as the music charts themselves are concerned there is an air of eerie calm about the place.
Not that we weren't short of a story last week however. As you may have read elsewhere, on Tuesday afternoon the Official Charts Company took the almost unprecedented step of issuing corrected versions of last week's sales countdowns, citing statistical errors as the reason for the correction. Although full details of exactly what transpired are still scarce at the time of writing, it quickly became apparent that sales from high street stores (and quite possibly many of the supermarkets) were incorrectly upweighted after their zero returns for Christmas Day were incorrectly flagged as missing data rather than a legitimate consequence of the shops being shut altogether that day.
Impact on major chart positions was fairly miminal, just the X Factor Finalists single dropping places on the singles chart and a few middle of the road acts finding their positions slumping on the album chart. The most dramatic change was in the reported sales totals for many of the big selling records of the moment, with many releases having as much as 20% shaved off their original figures. This did then have the unintended consequence of making the race to be the biggest selling single of 2010 into more of a battle than it might otherwise have been the case. Last week I reported that Matt Cardle's When We Collide was, on the strength of the original figures, just 100,000 copies short of the figure required to overhaul Eminem and Rihanna with Love The Way You Lie at the top of the table, a total he seemed almost assured to clock up during the holiday week.
In truth this simply was not the case. Cardle's originally reported sale of over 300,000 in Christmas week was revised down by some 37,000 copies, leaving a gap of 150,000 for him to make up during the final days of 2010 to become the biggest seller of the year. Last week (including sales on January 1st) he sold a "mere" 113,000 copies and if your maths is even half as good as mine it is clear that this simply was not enough. Yes, When We Collide is Number One for a third week, matching the total clocked up by Alexandra Burke with Hallelujah two years ago, but its total sale in 2010 of 815,000 copies is a full 39,000 behind the eventual winner.
It means that 2010's biggest selling single is extraordinarily a record which never once topped the charts. Love The Way You Lie from Eminem and Rihanna spent a total of four weeks trapped at Number 2 during late summer but over the course of its 27 week chart run the single amassed an impressive sale of 854,000 copies to outsell every other single on the market this year. Needless to say this is pretty much unprecedented in modern chart history. The practicalities of the physical era, whereby singles would simply stop selling the moment shops ceased to stock them, meant that every release had a finite lifespan on the market. In the digital age, with stocks never able to run low and a popular hit available to buy many weeks after it first became available, it is no longer necessary to concentrate your sales into a two month period to rank highly in the end of year tallies. A single could cheerfully chart at Number 22 for six months and ultimately outsell a Number One single. Love The Way You Lie is but the latest manifestation of the way the music market has changed irrevocably and forever.
Whilst there may not have been much in the way of actual singles chart movement lower down this week, sales week as it now the norm has resulted in larger than normal sales for practically the whole of the chart listing. Even as far down as Number 14 on the chart, Bruno Mars' Just The Way You Are (Amazing) sold 35,000 copies last week. By way of a comparison, 35,000 copies would have been enough to ensure a single charted somewhere between 5 and 8 on most singles charts over the course of the last year. The final week of 2009 saw a record volume of single tracks sold in a seven day period. When full totals for this week are finally revealed it seems more than likely that this record will have been beaten once again.
Note as well that this huge surge in sales generally only applies to the singles market. Sales of albums continue to fall off the cliff in the manner they have done for decades during this week, most people presumably having been gifted copies of the long players of their favourite acts and have little motivation to seek out the CD racks. We do then have a changing of the guard at the top of the album chart with Take That finally running out of steam and leaving the way clear for Rihanna to ascend to the top with Loud after the album spent 3 of its six weeks on sale stuck in the runners up position. Surprisingly it is only Rihanna's second chart-topping album, following in the footsteps of 2007 offering Good Girl Gone Bad which had a solitary week at the top upon its release in June that year. Her previous album Rated R only ever reached a peak of Number 9 despite being crammed with as many hit singles as her others.
Take That do at least have the biggest selling album of the year, Progress ending up with a total of 1.84 million copies, some way ahead of Michael Buble's Crazy Love which sold 1.23 million during the course of the year. That's actually an increase on the total of 1.2 million the album shifted in 2009 when it wound up as the third biggest seller.
That then was the story of 2010 all of which it has been enormous fun to relate to you all. See you next week as 2011 gets properly into gear. Somebody release something new!