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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tiny firm, Bocu, says thank you for the music as Abba soar again

Abba haven’t made a record for 20 years — but the Scandinavian megaband and the songs they put on everybody’s lips have broken a number of records in recent weeks.

And soaring sales of their songs have propelled a tiny British company, Bocu, into the big time, too.

During the summer Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad made it to the top of the charts with Gold, a compilation of hits, for the fifth time.

Mamma Mia!, the film of the stage musical based on Abba songs, has become the highest-grossing British film at the UK box office, taking more than £67 million and outperforming every instalment of the Harry Potter series. When American films are included, it is second only to Titanic.

They turned the crusty Albert Hall into a facsimile of a Butlin's holiday camp

This week the DVD of the film became the fastest seller in the UK, with 1.7 million sold on its first day.

Other figures released this week show that, for the third quarter of this year, two out of the five bestselling albums were Abba releases.

All this is music to the ears of Bocu, the British music publisher that acquired the British rights to Abba’s songs more than 30 years ago. The figures mean that the company, which has a full-time staff of two, owned the rights to 15.1 per cent of all albums sold in Britain in the third quarter of 2008, purely on the basis of its Abba rights. That is more than the multinational giants Warner and Sony.

John Spalding, 74, who founded Bocu in the Sixties, said there was one ingredient to Abba’s success: “It’s simple. The songs are very good.”

He added: “They’re so famous that people who liked them first time round, it’s their kids that are buying it and keeping it going. They’re going to be the evergreens in this business.”

The soundtrack of Mamma Mia! was Britain’s second-biggest-selling album in the quarter July-September, behind the Now! 70 chart compilation album. So far it has sold more than 900,000 copies in Britain, with global sales standing at four million.

Gold was the fifth-biggest-selling album in the period. It is now the third-biggest-selling album in Britain, overtaking Oasis’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?. The albums are released on the Polydor label, a subsidiary of Universal. Peter Loraine, general manager of Fascination Records, Polydor’s pop music division, said: “The really special thing this time round is that you’re no longer selling it to people who are buying it for nostalgic reasons. We’ve opened the door to people who have never heard it before. They’re suddenly a band for a young audience too.”

The label has put out a nine-disc boxed set of Abba albums for Christmas. It has also collaborated with Sony to release Singstar Abba, a karaoke game for the PlayStation console based around the hits.

Gennaro Castaldo, of HMV, said: “All things Mamma Mia! were going to be huge this Christmas anyway — especially the DVD — but, with all the doom and gloom around right now, you get half a feeling that a lot more of us may turn to the sunny optimism of Abba’s music.”


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