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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Statistics of a Metamorphosis

Transcending Forms | Statistics

In December 2007 Tarkan released his Metamorfoz album with a title that promised a transformation of the artist and the Turkish music industry. The Turkish press allowed a lot of space for critics to slate Tarkan's 2007 release, but what do the numbers show?

Crunching Numbers

Tarkan's MetamorfozPutting Tarkan's album into the context of hard facts and figures, Metamorfoz sold more albums in its first two weeks of release than most Turkish albums had managed to shift all the previous year.

On its domestic release in the last seven days of 2007, reported statistics indicate that one Tarkan album was being sold every five minutes, and early April 2008 sales figures from Turkish society MÜ-YAP* show that over 200,000 copies of the album were sold in that first week of release.

Consequently, the album was so well received by the public initially that in just seven days of its distribution (including a week of pre-orders) it managed to garner a Turkish music industry award based on its high earnings for 2007, and sold only a third less than the highest selling album for the whole of that year.

Tarkan's record sales surpassed that best selling album, too, notching over 300,000 sales in the following seven days, but as Metamorfoz's second week of release crossed into the first week of 2008, those numbers were not added to overall sales for 2007.

Against All Odds

To understand the significance of these numbers in comparison with other pop albums released in 2007: Tarkan sold three times more records than his contemporary Mustafa Sandal (Devamı Var, June 2007, selling over 100,000 copies) and sold almost five times more than his ex-vocalist Murat Boz (Maximum, February 2007, selling under 100,000 copies).

Simply put - and what his critics in the Turkish press won't admit is - Tarkan managed over a short period of two weeks in sales what Sandal couldn't manage in six months, and what Boz couldn't do in eleven. Arguably even more notable is that other artists had the advantage not only of time but of the summer peak period, when many in the music business see a surge in sales. Tarkan, however, brought out his album in winter, which is widely recognised as the slump season in the industry.

Running a race from a disadvantageous starter position, with all the odds stacked against him and with experts predicting his downfall, Tarkan still managed to make it to the winning line - with an album that continued to top major lists three months after its release, despite the most minimal amount of promotion that would have killed off lesser albums.

Even though, in general, little was forthcoming from the artist during the initial months of release, he started the year off with an end-of-year performance on national TV and in January there followed a limited calendar promo that hit the best-selling list of stores in which it was sold. On the back of that came a successful January signing day in Istanbul, which saw immense interest despite being held a month after the release of the album. He was the most reported celebrity in the press in the first month of 2008, and his "Vay Anam Vay" video eventually made the top of most major and minor radio/video play lists. This included holding the number one slot at MTV Turkiye for three consecutive weeks, and straddling the top three positions at the Turkish Billboard charts for twelve weeks.

Economics of Revival

Tarkan's work not only energised the Turkish music industry in terms of sales, but creativity and productivity, too. Music producers generally shy from releasing records in the winter season, emboldened by Tarkan's impact, quickly decided to ride the sales wave generated by Metamorfoz's release by pushing their most popular signed artists to release albums early into the market.

Alongside this revival of interest Tarkan had generated, he also used his album to raise awareness against music piracy and push for legal internet downloads, by endorsing a campaign fronted by telecommunications giant TTNet. The rising trend of illegal downloads has forced artists and record companies to re-evaluate the presentation of their art in what is essentially a business and Tarkan once again came to save his home industry, by showing others the way sales of future pop music - and all music albums - should go.

It was a success, resulting in almost two million downloads in as many months, and with 100,000 downloads of his album logged, Tarkan became their most popular artist. It not only showed that people were prepared to pay for the quality work of an artist they respected when options were made available, digital tallies being treated seriously enough to count towards final sale figures further reinforced the image that the music industry was beginning to take modern technology seriously.

As a result, with the release of Metamorfoz as a main attraction and legal downloads rising in the millions, sales of mobile ring tones climbed too, generating much sought revenue. This in part contributed to the artist being marked for his album sales just four months later, notwithstanding for an amount that was less than half of his previous albums.

For it is true that even with a Tarkan album, in a music industry that used to generate over millions of hard CD sales each year in the nineties, the old staple recipes for success do not generate the figures they used to in Turkey.

Ultimately though - whether Tarkan makes a million sales or not - the rise in pop album sales enjoyed by the Turkish music industry after a global fall in CD sales in previous years is in large part attributable to Tarkan's re-entry into his home music scene. And with his forward thinking strategies into promoting legal downloads, arguably he helped the music industry speak of sales in the millions once more.

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*Along with confirming the high sales, later figures published by MÜ-YAP also show that Tarkan's Metamorfoz was the third highest selling album of 2007, and the highest selling in 2008.

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