Folk music hits the charts!
It feels so good to have some great news to share this week in the world of folk and traditional music! Something that takes our music up a gear, not only in public perception but in visibility and recognition that what folk musicians, singers and composers do is on a par with other genres.
And what is this new development? Well, as of last week folk music has its very own album chart! Compiled by the Official Charts Company which looks after the charts for other genres of music, the Official Folk Albums Chart will track sales data from physical and online retailers, downloads and streaming platforms, for release of the Chart on the first Monday of each month.
With hindsight, one wonders how this hasn’t come about before now but it feels like a natural progression following on from many fantastic innovations over recent decades, including Celtic Connections, the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, Showcase Scotland and numerous Expo opportunities, the growth of the Fèis movement and music festivals across the country, and much more.
Such is the popularity of folk and trad music, it certainly feels like the right time to have a platform for the richly diverse and broad UK and Irish folk market, which will in turn help support artistes, reach new audiences and keep folk music in the public eye.
The chart will be presented by Manchester Folk Festival, produced by English Folk Expo, and partnered with Showcase Scotland and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. While some of this may sound rather distant from us in the north of Scotland, it’s highly relevant for musicians here too. In the very first folk Top 40, it was brilliant to see a good smattering of Scottish acts in there, including Highlands & Islands bands and local favourites Elephant Sessions, Skipinnish and Skerryvore.
Several folk artistes have made it into the pop charts in the past, but there’s something really thrilling about listening to that exciting countdown to Number 1 when it’s all folk music! And the sophistication of artiste videos is top notch too, easily matching those of other genres.
The terrific Official Folk Albums Chart launch event can be viewed online, hosted by Mark Radcliffe - presenter of BBC Radio 2’s Folk Show - with some lovely interviews and performances, where the sense of fun and excitement about getting into the ‘top ten’ is palpable.
To find out how your favourite trad bands and folk singers are doing, as well as discovering great new artistes, do check out the Folk Chart. It will be available online at the Official Charts Company website as well as folk platforms including English Folk Expo, Folk on Foot, YouTube and others.
At a time when folk musicians are unable to perform, this new Chart has breathed welcome life into the industry. And do you know what? I’m already excited about who will be Christmas Number 1!
(First published by Highland News & Media 30th October 2020)