Tiny firm, Bocu, says thank you for the music as Abba soar again
Patrick Foster, Media Correspondent
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
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.
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.”