UK set for "the biggest year for singles sales in history", but we're not so sure

According to the Official Charts Company, 2013 is set to become the biggest year for singles sales in British history.

This is in no short part down to Daft Punk [above], whose ‘Get Lucky’ has sold “over a million copies” (they don’t get more specific than that) in the last 10 weeks, with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s ‘Thrift Shop’ (680,000), Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ (828,000), Pink’s ‘Just Give Me A Reason’ (652,000) and Justin Timberlake’s ‘Mirrors’ (632,000) all contributing.

The claim that we’re on for the biggest year in singles sales history seems an optimistic one, however. We don’t have access to the same quantity of data as the Official Chart Company, but a quick look back at 1997 reveals that the year’s top-selling singles totalled sales figures of 4.8 million (Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind ’97’), 1.6 million (Cher’s ‘Believe’), 1.5 million (‘Perfect Day’), 1.4 million (P. Diddy’s ‘I’ll Be Missing You’) and 1.2 million (All Saints’ ‘Never Ever’). In short, for 2013’s top five to match the figures shown by 1997’s, they would each roughly have to double with the exception of ‘Get Lucky’, which would have to quadruple in sales.

Given that the initial buzz about all these songs has died down, that seems unlikely (yes, people are still going to be requesting ‘Get Lucky’ at barbecues this Summer, but there’ll be as many people, if not more, streaming it off Spotify and YouTube as there will be buying it on iTunes), but then perhaps the sheer volume of singles released digitally now is making up the numbers further down the charts. The Official Charts Company claim that “nearly three quarters of the [year so far’s] top 40 (27 tracks) have sold over 300,000 copies each”, while in 1997 no singles outside the year’s overall top 20 scored more than 600,000 sales. If 2013 is to be a record breaker, it seems nailed on that it will be on the basis of quantity lower down the charts than the tracks at the top that makes it happen.

Elsewhere in statistics, blog aggregators Hype Machine have teamed up with BBC Radio 6 to determine who the most blogged artists of 2013 so far have been. Surprisingly, the winners here weren’t Daft Punk, but another much-hyped duo – you can stream that show here.

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