IFPI's Platinum Europe Awards Hit New Heights
(Billboard - 1117 words - February 12, 2000)


LONDON-When the third International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Platinum Europe Awards ceremony takes place this summer in Brussels, it will celebrate the fact that more artists mined more of the precious metal during 1999 than before and that European acts now have a majority share in the increasingly prestigious trophies.

Eighty-two albums reached Platinum Europe status-for selling at least 1 million copies continent-wide-during '99, a healthy 9.3% hike from 75 the year before. European acts accounted for 70% of the repertoire represented. In particular, it was a banner year for the Irish: B*Witched, Boyzone, the Corrs, the Cranberries, U2, and Westlife rounded up eight Platinum Awards between them. Among the Irish albums collecting their first award in '99,
Boyzone's "By Request" compilation (Polydor) was the star performer, at triple-platinum.

On a less celebratory note, Sony Music Entertainment Europe chairman Paul Russell says Europe appears to be producing fewer "giant" sellers than in previous times.

Russell, who was instrumental in the establishment of the awards in 1996, applauds Sony's 21 Platinum Europe achievers in 1999-more than any other company and led by George Michael's quintuple-platinum award for "Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best Of George Michael" (Epic) and 4 million European sales of Celine Dion's "All The Way . . . A Decade Of Song" (Epic/Columbia). However, he has reservations about the general health of the European marketplace.

"The thing that has surprised us is that it seems there are less albums which are doing that 4 million-plus," says Russell. "It's very hard to compare "apples with apples,' but looking at the numbers and talking among ourselves, a substantial number of hit albums seem to be selling less than expected. You used to see at least four, five, six, seven albums doing at least 6 or 7 million copies."

Universal was the top company in terms of European album sales in the IFPI statistics, with its 19 Platinum Award winners shipping 38 million units, vs. Sony's 33 million. The top repertoire source among the 82 award winners was the U.K., with 27 million-plus sellers.

Among albums winning their first awards in 1999, Shania Twain's "Come On Over" (Mercury) was the year's top Platinum Europe performer, moving to Pan-European sales of 5 million units. Also reaching that plateau were four albums from repeat winners: the Corrs, Elton John, U2, and Michael. Madonna's "Ray Of Light" (Maverick), released in 1998, when it won its first Platinum Europe award, was the top aggregate performer of the year, advancing to sales of 6 million.

The top-rated non-English-language albums of the year were Wolfgang Petry's "Alles" (Hansa), the "Notre Dame De Paris" studio soundtrack (Pomme/Sony/Universal), Lara Fabian's "Pure" (Polydor), Florent Pagny's "Savoir Aimer" (Mercury), Celine Dion's "S'il Suffisait D'aimer" (Columbia), and Alejandro Sanz's "Mas" (WEA), all of which reached 2 million units. German act Modern Talking advanced to 3 million with "Back For Good" (Hansa).

Twain's album was the only common ground between the IFPI's top 10 certified albums of 1999 and the Recording Industry Assn. of America's corresponding list for U.S. sales. "Come On Over" achieved 9 million of its current U.S. running total of 16 million during the year, placing it as the third best seller in America, behind Jive's two 10 million achievers: Backstreet Boys' "Millennium" and Britney Spears' ". . . Baby One More Time." Both of those were at 2 million European sales at the end of the year.

Further comparison of the U.S. and European awards suggests the markets are separated by more than mere water. Some American acts from the year's top 10-such as Dixie Chicks, Kid Rock, and Limp Bizkit-were in various stages of developing their European careers and did not register in the IFPI statistics. Such European best sellers as Boyzone, Modern Talking, Texas, and Lara Fabian failed to make the journey in the opposite direction.

Sara Silver, VP of European marketing for BMG, believes that the mechanics of national and international promotion account for much of the discrepancy. "When we get international acts [in the country], we get them for two minutes," she says. "If you're breaking a U.K act [domestically], you might have to do 40 dates of promotion building up to their first single, but overseas, if you're lucky you'll get two days' promo. Christina Aguilera at the moment is a classic example of how we're trying to crystallize that
timing. America doesn't do it well with European artists."

The IFPI honor roll for 1999 also held places for three American women who in Europe matched or bettered sales in their home country.

Whitney Houston's "My Love Is Your Love" (Arista) raced to triple-platinum in Europe during the year, equaling its U.S. certification;
Macy Gray, whose top market worldwide is the U.K., achieved her first Platinum Europe certification for 1 million sales of "On How Life Is" (Epic); and Tina Turner tasted two flavors of success, moving to double-platinum with 1996's "Wildest Dreams" (Parlophone) and hitting single platinum within weeks of the European release of the follow-up, "Twenty Four Seven," which was released in the U.S.
on Feb.1.

One of the U.S. success stories of 1999 notably absent from the IFPI statistics will soon make its presence felt. Santana's "Supernatural" (Arista) was at 5 million U.S. sales by year's end, and at press time the album was just closing in on its first Platinum Europe award, according to Silver. "We always said [of "Supernatural'], Europe will fall come January 2000 because of the availability of the artist. He just did shows in the U.K., France, and Germany, and he's also been in Italy and Spain with a lot of promotional activity. Now all the barriers are down, and we're on course for millions."

The Platinum Europe Awards ceremony, meanwhile, is on course for a July date in Brussels. "It's held there for a reason and certainly helps the industry make its mark with the politicians of Brussels," Russell says. "It's good to have artists recording in Italian or German up there with the Celine Dions and Elton Johns of this world."

Adds Russell, "What the Platinum Awards does is take artists from countries other than the U.K. or North America and say, "This sold a million' and raise their profile."



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