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Last Updated: Friday, 25 July, 2003, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Mercury list boosts award outsiders
by Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Eliza Carthy
Eliza Carthy has seen the most dramatic rise
Fans have been flocking to discover some of the lesser-known Mercury Prize contenders since the shortlist was announced, figures have revealed.

Sales of many albums "at least doubled" the day after the announcement, national high street chain HMV said.

Folk singer Eliza Carthy saw the biggest jump - of 750% - but started from a low base, a spokesman said.

One bookmaker has made Dizzee Rascal, 19, a garage MC from east London, favourite for the prize.

This year's shortlist of 12 CDs was announced on Tuesday. They will compete to be named album of the year in September.

Among the artists in the running are rock bands Coldplay, Radiohead and The Darkness, jazz performer Soweto Kinch and hip-hop duo Lemon Jelly.

Find out more about the 12 nominees

HMV figures showed that many artists sold between 50% and 150% more copies on Wednesday than they did on Tuesday.

Better-known nominees like Coldplay and Radiohead did not benefit so much because they had sold so many already.

"At this stage, it's the lower-profile acts, who haven't had that much exposure, that tend to do well," HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo told BBC News Online.

"[But] they start from a relatively small base so the increase tends to be more dramatic."

South London soul duo Floetry - who have been more successful in the US than the UK so far - saw demand for their debut jump 200%, he said.

Another soul singer, Terri Walker, sold 118% more while Lemon Jelly's figures were up 55% and Martina Topley-Bird rose 46%.

Coldplay
Coldplay are the fans' favourites to win the prize
Mr Castaldo said: "It does demonstrate that, in its 12th year, the award has come on a great deal.

"When it started out, it was seen as something that was fairly low-key and maybe an elitist thing. But over a number of years, that has changed."

This year's contest is thought by many to be one of the most unpredictable for years.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes has made Dizzee Rascal its 5-1 favourite - slightly ahead of Coldplay, Radiohead, The Darkness and The Thrills, all at 6-1.

Coldplay are leading a poll of BBC News Online readers, with Radiohead second and The Darkness third.


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