New chart to boost indie acts

LONDON (Reuters) - Two new pop music charts will be launched this month aimed at championing up-and-coming acts signed with independent labels.

The Arctic Monkeys celebrate after winning the Best British group award at the Brit Awards at Earls Court in London February 20, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Despite the increasing ease with which bands can distribute music over the Internet, the business continues to be dominated by four major record companies -- Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, EMI and Sony Music Entertainment.

Independent labels already have their own charts in Britain, and the rules are being changed and simplified in an attempt to revamp the format, the Official Charts Company and British Phonographic Industry (BPI) trade body said on Sunday.

And in a bid to promote fresh faces, a Singles Breakers and Albums Breakers chart will be added.

“We’ve done test charts, and the kinds of artists who would have benefited are Friendly Fires and Grizzly Bear,” said Martin Talbot, managing director of the Official Charts Company.

“These bands already have credibility and media coverage, but the broader public is not particularly aware of them and they are not breaking through into the charts.”

The Official Independent Breakers Charts, which will be published for the first time on Monday, June 29, will be open to independent releases by artists who have not previously been featured in the top 20 of the singles or albums national charts.

New rules being introduced at the same time mean that a download or CD will be eligible for the independent charts if it is released on a label which is 50 percent or more owned by a non-major record company.

Independent records used to be defined by their distribution network, but with majors often outsourcing distribution, the criterion has lost much of its relevance.


Talbot said that acts signed with independent labels, or with no label at all behind them, could reach an audience over the Internet like never before. But with so many bands to choose from, it was easy for them to be drowned out.

“It is still possible for independent artists to break through,” he told Reuters, citing the example of the chart-topping Sheffield rockers Arctic Monkeys.

“Oasis is an independent act as well. There are a number of very big independent acts who can punch above their weight but they are few and far between.

“Below that top level of successful artists, there are a huge number of much smaller acts who don’t get a look in.”

Bands appearing in the new charts could benefit in terms of profit as well as profile, explained Julian Wall, director of independent member services at the BPI.

“For independent labels, to have an objective measurement of their success is important for licensing and extra revenue areas,” he said.

And independent acts could also attract interest from major labels as a result of the exposure, industry experts added.

According to BPI figures, independent record companies accounted for 21.3 percent of the British album market in 2008 and 19.3 percent of singles sold.

“Even the smallest major accounts for four or five times the market share of the biggest independent,” said Talbot. “There is clear water between them and the independent sector.”

Editing by Paul Casciato