If an Artist sells 180,000 units in a market with a “reach” of 64M, and another sells 522,000 units in a market with a “reach” of 324M, which Artist is really doing better? Both of these figures and stats actually represent relatively-recent real-life scenarios.
“x” by British Recording Artist Ed Sheeran sold a whopping 180K in it’s first week in the UK Market, whilst U.S. Artist Justin Bieber‘s most recent effort “Purpose” sold an extremely commendable 522K units in the US Market in it’s first week of release. Even though outright Justin‘s record sold “more” in his market than Sheeran‘s sold in his, when you do the math based on the difference in population in each territory, you’ll find that Ed Sheeran‘s “x” selling 180K first week in the UK is arguably the equivalent of selling over 900K in the US market (almost double Justin’s figure). So again, who would you really say is “doing better” in their respective markets?
Moving over to Christian & Gospel Music (for the purpose of this article, let’s focus on Gospel for a moment), it is estimated that there are around 500,000 regular black church-goers in the UK. In the US, 80% of African-Americans class themselves as Christians (excluding Catholics), and with the Black Population in the US pushing upwards of 46M, that equates to around 36.8M Black Christians in America (which makes perfect sense when you take into account that COGIC alone has a membership upwards of 6M in the US, 12x bigger than the entire British Black Church Population).
Seth Pinnock‘s “Midnight Oil: Live in Worship” 2014 debut sold around 350 units in the UK Market in it’s first week (excluding physical sales), and debuted at No. 5 on the Official UK Christian & Gospel Chart (from Digital sales only). Two years on, the record still remains the highest-charting album from a UK Gospel Act that’s not a Rapper, ‘out-charting’ Artists like Noel Robinson, Volney Morgan & New-Ye, Muyiwa and Lurine Cato (who have all released ‘chart-eligible’ projects in the past 2 years). But, 350 doesn’t sound like a lot of units does it? However, when you take the potential market reach into account (i.e. the fact that the Black Church/Gospel Audience is 74x bigger in the US than it is in the UK), selling 350 copies in the UK Gospel Market in fact works out to be the equivalent to selling 22,200 in the US Gospel Market (by proportion/market ratio). Still doesn’t sound like much?
Well, to put it in better perspective, Stellar Award Winner Bishop Paul Morton‘s latest effort “Legacy” sold just 1,000 copies in it’s first week in the US, whilst Grammy Winning Artist Donnie McClurkin‘s latest project “The Journey (Live)” sold under 2,000 copies first week, and still managed to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart (which is equivalent to selling just 27 copies in the UK market). Now all of a sudden a 22.2K equivalent sounds like a much bigger number than you probably previously thought, I’m sure. Additionally, if under 2,000 copies is all that’s needed to have a No. 1 Gospel record in the US, have a think about what those who are charting at No. 7, 8, 9 and beyond are likely selling. It’s also worth considering that a fair number of these US Acts have the advantageous push of a label or marketing team behind them, something most UK Gospel Acts lack (for numerous reasons). I also heard through a very reliable source that Top British Gospel Rapper Guvna B‘s 2013 history-making release “Odd 1 Out” sold around 1,400 units in its first week, which is equivocal to selling over 103,000 units in the respective US Market. Pretty impressive, right?
So what does this all mean, and furthermore why does it even matter? Does this mean the UK is doing better than they give themselves credit for? Is it just down to the fact that the UK market is easier to tap into, with it being much smaller? I mean, it’s a whole lot easier (and cheaper) “trying” to market your music to a potential 500,000 than it would be to a potential 36.5million, thus arguably unfair to suggest the UK is doing better in this area. Or is this all just a global issue for Christian & Gospel Music that’s affecting different markets in different ways, encapsulated in the state of the Music Industry at large?
We’ll be discussing all this (and more) on Tuesday November 15th at “The Big CONVO“, with Guest Panelists including Muyiwa (Int’l Gospel Recording Artist / Premier Gospel Station Director), UK Gospel Rapper JayEss, Robert Hatcher (Manager, Le’Andria Johnson), Artiste Developer & Consultant Audrey Gray, Resound Media Founder Andy Baker, Keith Kirk (ICE / Former BMG Exec), Keith Dixon (Plankton Records / Dox Media), Anu Omideyi (CEO, GMIA), Keith Rolle President of KLR Management Group and more.
Be part of the conversation Tues. 15th Nov. via Facebook Live Stream from 7.30pm on aStepFWDUK