The Mercury Effect

13 September 2012

A little later then normal we are finally in that yearly UK music industry shit storm that is the Mercury Prize. As per normal the list is “uninspiring” and “does it really represent the best of UK music this year” and “why wasn’t [obscure eletro/metal/folk artist] nominated?!?”.

Side note – it’s entirely possible I follow too many music journalists on Twitter.

For the record there’s a couple of artists on the list that I wouldn’t mind winning, but it doesn’t seem like the most interesting selection of music I’ve ever seen. Nothing that grabs me, or moves music forward in a significant way.

But the music is irrelevant really, isn’t it? What we really want are graphs!

One of the key reasons why anyone actually cares about the Mercury prize is that it has a direct effect on sales of the nominated and winning records. It’s a bit of a circular situation – the industry cares because it increases sales, and it increases sales because the industry cares. And everyone sits there hoping that every year the house of cards stays intact (which it seems to, even when they get it a bit wrong *cough* Speech Debelle).

What I was wondering is what exactly does the “Mercury Effect” look like?

Getting public sales data is a little tricky, but there is one public source you can look at – the iTunes chart. Apple publish a range of RSS feeds for the iTunes charts that you can subscribe to, so it’s fairly easy to play around with the data, track it over time and see what actually happens when you get nominated for a Mercury:

This graph updates live every 30mins or so with the new iTunes chart data, and starts from Monday 10th so you can see how things were doing before the nominations were announced at 17:30 on the 12th. I’ve also picked the highest format in the case where a release has deluxe and non deluxe versions.

As it stands at the time of writing the spike is pretty clear, with Django Django making the biggest jump as they weren’t even in the charts when they got announced. The releases seem to coalesce into 3 groups – Alt-J, Plan B and Ben Howard being the leading trio, who were already near the top of the charts when it was announced; then the main group (peloton?) of 6 releases in the #50-#75 range, with a final trailing clutch of 3 much further down.

It’ll be interesting to see how they all fair over the next month and a half until the announcement of the winner on November 1st…

Signup to receive the latest articles from de-online in your inbox:

Further reading:

I Want My MTV

You’ve watched Making A Murderer, haven’t you? And of course when I say watched I really mean binged, episode after episode flickering past in a haze of instant entertainment addiction. If you haven’t watched that show, you will almost certainly be familiar with the experience.

Making A Murderer – and its...

Music in 2030

Flying cars, hoverboards, and self-drying jackets — predicting the future is hard.

However, if we’re just to focus on music right now, it’s a fascinating time. Certain things are falling into place, which means that the path is maybe—just maybe—becoming clearer for the minute. At least, that is, in...

What We Can Learn

It’s about 7pm on a dark November Friday. The weather has turned from unseasonably warm to appropriately bitter. That hasn’t stopped the shoppers flocking to one of the capitals premiere shopping destinations, however. They mill around, bags in tow, flicking Christmas signs lighting up their work-weary faces.

In HMV there...


If you work in the UK music industry, 2015 is probably proving to be quite a confusing year. Several elements that have been brewing for a while have now all snapped into relevance, turning everything upside down in the process.

For example, exactly how should you release a single now?

(No, go...

Freaks and Weirdos

When I was at school you could roughly divide people into three different camps: firstly, most obviously, you had the cool kids. If, in another life, I had gone to class in Northern California I guess I would have called them jocks. You know the type.

At the other end of...