Quarter of Mercury prize finalists sold under 1,000 albums since nomination

Data from the Official Charts Company show artists such as Anna Calvi, Polar Bear and Young Fathers have shifted only small amounts following Mercury nod

One quarter of Mercury prize finalists have sold fewer than 1,000 albums in the UK since being nominated for the award. Despite the Mercury’s reputation as a career-maker, several of this year’s lesser-known nominees have seen a sales bump of only 500-800 copies.

Data provided by the Official Charts Company shows that some artists – such as Royal Blood and Jungle – have seen massive sales since the Mercury shortlist was announced on 10 September. Royal Blood, for instance, have sold 59,060 copies of their debut over the past seven weeks; then again, they had already been named the UK’s No 1 album on 6 September. Kate Tempest and GoGo Penguin more than doubled their sales figures, and Nick Mulvey’s 7,735 post-Mercury receipts represent a 33% increase on what he had before.

But although every nominated act doubtless found some new fans, the figures are deceiving. The hip-hop group Young Fathers and the jazz outfit Polar Bear saw respective sales surges of 31% and 33%, but these amounted to a mere 561 and 569 albums sold. Anna Calvi’s One Breath sold 800 copies since garnering the Mercury nod – a boost of just 6% – while sales of East India Youth’s Stolen grew by 765 units, or 13%. In the UK, 700 albums sold will not transform a band’s prospects.

These numbers are not a condemnation of the Mercury so much as a reflection of a fractured music industry. Very few albums are sold nowadays, even by the most critically acclaimed artists. When the Mercury prize is awarded tonight, its £20,000 jackpot may be the biggest payday the winning act ever sees.


Sean Michaels

The GuardianTramp

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