Friday, July 13, 2007

Mail on Sunday wants to break the album charts

The Mail on Sunday is threatening legal action if the Prince album its giving away this weekend doesn't get counted for the charts. Although they're supposedly selling a newspaper and giving away the CD, and not the other way round.

It's not that MOS managing editor doesn't have a good reason for calling for his newspaper to be treated as an album:

"We are spending a fortune on this," said Mr Miron.

Words which failed to melt the hearts of the Official UK Chart company. So he tries some bluster:
"Given our belief that this album should still be included on the official UK album charts and having responded to your issues, I would urge you to reconsider your previous position as a matter of urgency, before we engage our lawyers for legal advice to force a challenge to this restraint on our trade."

We would have thought that it might have been a good idea to seek legal advice from your lawyers before sending threatening letters - especially since it's not clear how not qualifying for the album charts constitutes "restraint of trade": is it not going to be stocked anywhere because it falls foul of the rules? Does Miron believe that having a Prince album at number one will somehow help sales of the Mail On Sunday the following week, when it doesn't have a prince album to give away? Does he think people won't buy a record because it doesn't count towards the charts?

The Chart Company won't budge:
The Official UK Charts Company has refused to enter the album Planet Earth on its chart, saying it could not prove that newspaper sales were "genuine consumer purchases" and that it could not audit sales accurately.

Miron counters that this is, erm, a human rights issue:
"It's denying Prince his rights," Mr Miron told "It will be number one in the UK chart and we think that's something that he should be able to do.

"The fact that they are referring back to rules put in place ages ago doesn't seem to fit with the way the music industry is now. I think they are mad."

Now, if you're going to throw around claims that people are "mad", suggesting that - somehow - the chart company should be enabling every newsagent, sweetshop and old bloke with a newsstand to function as a chart return shop by the end of the week might lead a few people to assume that Miron has a couple of bees loose in his processing-honeypot. And suggesting that Prince has a right to number one based on discs that will be given away with a newspaper that would have been purchased with or without the CD isn't exactly sane - does someone who sneaks CDs hidden into homes disguised as a Franklin Mint insert in You Magazine really deserve the chart position more than someone whose fans have actually, actively purchased the record?

Besides which, of course, even if you pretend that the paper comes free with the album, and not vice-versa, and even if the newsagents of Britain could be linked in to the chart return system, even then Prince still wouldn't qualify for the charts. The paper - sorry, CD - is just too cheap, coming in under £2.69 ceiling for "budget albums" and, as the chart eligiiblity rules state [pdf]:
Albums Chart: Budget Albums
Budget albums are excluded from all published Album Charts, except Classical Album Charts.

And, the provision of a newspaper and two general-interest magazines "for free" with the Prince record would seem to fall foul of this rule, too, forbidding:
procuring the sale of a record in conjunction with a non-related or excessive gift, ie which gives the consumer a product, voucher or benefit or anything else which is either unrelated to the record concerned or of a value in excess of the value of the record without that gift (value means normal retail price)

Clearly, the Chart Company aren't going to back down on this one anyway - the precedent would mean any covermount CD would become eligible for the charts, and in effect the music industry would end up underwriting the costs of auditing magazines circulations.


James said...

Don't forget, also, how screwy the system is through which newspapers count their 'sales'. CD sales figures are fairly straightforward - They're roughly based on, um, how many CDs are sold. Newspaper sales, on the other hand, are calculated in the most barking way possible. Allowing these to pollute the charts would lead to mayhem.

If I recall correctly, newspaper 'sales' can include a big box of complimentary Daily Expresses abandoned in a Little Chef. Regardless of how many are actually taken (or thrown back in disgust), all copies are considered 'sold'. So going by the Mail's logic, it'd be fairly easy for Dumpy's Rusty Nuts to get that elusive Number One; They'd just need to fire up the CD burner and the photocopier, print off a few thousand copies of 'The Daily Dump', each with a free album, then leave a complimentary box in every Welcome Break in the country.

(Actually, that's not as scary as the other prospect if the Mail get their way, i.e. those ropey Daily Express compilation CDs getting into the charts, with their eight tracks you've heard of and eight horrible fillers from session bands with names like 'Disco Dave' and 'Mirage')

simon h b said...

Funnily enough, James, the new ABC figures were out today - The Observer, which sells the highest proportion of its papers (rather than 'distributes' them) sells something like 85% of its copies - so at the very least 15% of the Prince albums will be given away with a paper itself given away...

James said...

Yikes... By the way, did you see this article on the BBC site yesterday? It's a hoot. Kim Bayley, DG of the Entertainment Retailers Association, has thought of another reason why covermounts are evil. And this one's a doozy:

"Consumers only have so much listening time in the week and if they receive the new album from Prince then they don't need to buy new music and will spend their money on something else."

Kim Bayley there, answering the age-old question 'What is the sound of one braincell clapping?'. This week, covermounts are evil because *spins wheel* The consumer will spend so long listening to it, they won't have time for any paid-for music.

If she really thinks this, she should have a word with the shops too. I bought some albums in the HMV 2-for-£10 sale today. As a result, I'll be spending valuable listening-time on Arcade Fire's 'Funeral' when I could have been spending it on a full-price copy of 'Neon Bible'. It's practically theft!

Alright, it's late and I'm tipsy, but surely if we follow Kim Bayley's logic, music shops should start basing prices on album length? A Yes album would cost five times as much as something from the Ramones because we'd spend all week listening to Rick Wakeman, whereas we'd have heard everything from Blitzkrieg Bop to Beat on the Brat by the time we'd left the carpark?

Or am I just drunk?

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