Robbie vs Craig: labels declare war in the stores

It is being billed as the biggest pre-Christmas album launch in the history of the British music industry.

As they struggle to reverse years of flagging sales, beleaguered record companies are pinning their hopes on a seasonal sales bonanza. The frantic scramble is on for chart-topping success with stars ranging from U2 to Robbie Williams competing for the coveted number one album spot.

Westlife, Craig David, Elton John and Shania Twain are among the other acts whose new discs are due to be released over the coming fortnight. Also on the release schedule are Mariah Carey, David Bowie, S Club and Bjork.

Major labels such as Universal and EMI hope a bumper yuletide will revive their fortunes, amid growing unease about the impact of internet piracy and the spiralling costs of contracts for their biggest stars.

However, industry pundits predict that the splurge of releases could amount to overkill, with dozens of titles selling a fraction of the numbers they would expect to shift at any other time.

While it is customary for there to be one or two "super Monday" release dates in the weeks running up to Christmas, this year is exceptional.

Next week alone sees the arrival of the latest volume of U2's greatest hits, along with singles collections by Westlife and Elton John, and the long-awaited second album by R'n'B prodigy Craig David.

A week later comes Escapology, the annual pre-Christmas crowd-pleaser by Robbie Williams, whose five-million-selling cover album Swing When You're Winning came out almost a year ago to the day. As ever, Williams is expected to go straight in at number one. But this time he is unlikely to reach the top spot without a struggle.

Also out on 18 November are the much-anticipated posthumous album by George Harrison and Up, the latest release by US rock diva Shania Twain, whose last LP became Universal Music's biggest-selling album of all time.

Industry pundits stress that where this year differs from previous ones is the presence of so many original studio albums among the usual plethora of greatest-hits compilations. Neither is the burst of releases confined to conventional pop. Russell Watson, Andrea Bocelli and classical pin-ups Bond all have new albums out over the next two weeks.

The major labels are crowing about their release schedules. A spokeswoman for Universal pointed out that, after last year's nadir, over-the-counter album sales have risen in the UK in the past 12 months – bucking the global trend. As up to 40 per cent of album sales take place in the pre-Christmas period, the company expects its profits to be even more buoyant by the end of the year.

Jorgen Larsen, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music International, whose artists include U2, Shaggy, Bon Jovi, Carey and Twain, boasted: "This is certainly the strongest fourth-quarter schedule in our company's history, and probably the strongest any record company has ever offered for this time of the year."

EMI is equally bullish, confidently predicting that Williams will match his success last year by beating all rivals to the Christmas number one spot.

However, Paul Williams, news editor of the industry bible Music Week, says the huge variety of records being issued by competing labels could prove self-defeating.

"There is a danger of overkill," he said. "One problem is that there's often almost too many big albums released in one go, and if you're an average punter you only have so much money to spend at any one time.

"There is a risk that potentially major albums can end up falling by the wayside."

Though not as perilous as the singles market, global album sales have been falling steadily since the mid-Nineties. In the past year, they have dropped by more than 6 per cent, though Britain has seen a 3 per cent rise in sales.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Display Account Manager

£25,000 to £35,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Company Our client are th...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director

£80 – 120K : Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director – Ad tech - £80 – 120K...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas