LIFE

Artists reach lower for gold and platinum

By Iota Sykka - Kathimerini

Reflecting the music industry's commercial slump in recent years, the amount of local releases that struck gold status plummeted 40 percent year-on-year in 2002. The decline prompted Greek industry authorities to lower - right before the new year - the unit sale levels that determine gold and platinum status for releases. It was the third revision made in the grading system's four-decade-long history in Greece, and was widely expected. Fewer gold and platinum releases mean fewer awards and, consequently, diminished publicity as a marketing tool. As the figures stand now, a release is certified gold with 20,000 unit sales, down from the previous figure of 25,000. Platinum status was reduced from 50,000 units to 40,000. «We're following the market trend. Releases weren't going gold and platinum easily, and the indicators were too high, considering this country's population,» contended Ion Stamboulis, chief official of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's (IFPI) local branch. «Unfortunately, the number of gold and platinum releases has fallen 40 percent in 2002. The CD piracy problem has played a major role in this because piracy always has a greater impact on the top-selling CDs,» he added. Local gold and platinum status figures appear trivial compared to the loftier levels of larger foreign markets. In the USA, for example, the respective figures stand at 500,000 and 1 million. Harmonizing the difference into the local context, Stamboulis noted: «Don't look at it that way. Selling 25,000 copies in Greece is not easily accomplished. For a new artist, the figure is virtually beyond bounds.» Reducing the gold and platinum status levels, he added, ultimately benefits record companies and artists alike. When computing gold and platinum status for releases, record labels often presented a distorted picture of real demand, explained Petros Dragoumanos, a local industry statistician who keeps track of the country's music activity with regular publications of comprehensive discography guidebooks. The labels determine a release's status by accounting for the number of units sold to retailers, but not all this stock necessarily ends up in listeners' homes. Also, retail orders for commercially established artists are relatively larger than for unknowns, in anticipation of high demand. Time, Dragoumanos noted, is a firm indicator of demand's real picture. «If a release is certified gold within a month of its release, this can be attributed to retail outlet orders. If, however, it turns gold three months after its release date, this has to do exclusively with retail sales,» Dragoumanos said. He implied that labels marketing well-known mainstream acts tended to exploit hefty retail orders for new releases - still far from consumers' homes - as promotional tools. «When you hear that new albums by Anna Vissi, Antonis Remos, or Notis Sfakianakis have [instantly] turned gold, you can be sure that this is the result of [big] retail orders,» Dragoumanos said. «But when an unknown artist releases work and it gradually turns gold, it's because of sales,» he added. Today's deflated Greek music market pales by comparison to its past stature. Throughout the 1980s, a release - then on the vinyl format - needed to sell 50,000 copies to be certified as gold, compared to 20,000 today. The figure was revised downward to 30,000 in 1990. That year ushered in a decade of increased releases, but not sales. Signifying the market's declining demand, local authorities reduced the gold status figure to 25,000 in 1997, which was the most recent revision ahead of the latest one. The 1980s were a boom period for the local industry, with record sales figures topped by Yiannis Parios's «Nisiotika» album, a 1982 release that sold an impressive 600,000 units. Giorgos Dalaras's «Latin,» released five years later, follows with sales of 400,000 units. As for last year, seven albums were certified platinum, and 10 as gold. Industry figures listed albums by Yiannis Kotsiras, Antonis Remos, Yiannis Ploutarchos, Anna Vissi, Michalis Hadziyiannis, Paschalis Terzis and Giorgos Mazonakis as having reached platinum status. Gold album status, last year, went to Giorgos Dalaras, Haris Alexiou, Tolis Voskopoulos, Natasha Theodoridou, Notis Sfakianakis, Sakis Rouvas, One, Vassilis Papaconstantinou, Sotis Volanis and Giorgos Tsalikis. An album by the pop and opera singer Mario Frangoulis, who is currently pursuing an international career, sold 80,000 copies. But many of these were exported, which denies the artist multi-platinum status for the Greek market.

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