A series of test charts from the Official Charts Company has offered the first glimpse of the effect which allowing all digital sales into the weekly combined singles chart - irrespective of whether there is or will be an accompanying physical release - will have on the make-up of the chart.
However, the OCC says it will only be when the new rules are actually in place that the impact of the new regulations will really be felt, because the test rundowns put together by the chart compiler naturally do not reflect any changes in release policies labels might adopt in the new environment.
"The thing about these test charts is we've done them retrospectively at a time when marketing hasn't been adapted to take into account the new rules," says OCC chart director Omar Maskatiya. "Some labels describe it as being like the Wild West in trying different things to see what works. It's going to be an interesting time, to say the very least."
One change in release policy by labels could be a decision to issue some singles as digital-only, something not allowed for chart purposes under the present rules which mean an equivalent physical release has to be available or scheduled to be issued in a week's time if a track is to qualify for the combined singles countdown.
Tracks are also currently automatically removed from the chart, irrespective of their sales total, two weeks after being physically deleted, which will not happen under the new regulations coming into place on January 1.
Test charts compiled by the OCC show a dozen or more different tracks would be making the Top 75 every week if the new regulations were now in place. Analysis of last week's chart shows 17 tracks appearing in the chart under the new rules.
On last week's chart, which was led by Take That in their second week at number one with Patience, 17 different tracks would have appeared in the Top 75 had there been no qualification restrictions on digital releases.
These were led by Chris Cornell's Polydor-issued Casino Royale theme You Know My Name, which would have charted at number 10, but was excluded from the chart until yesterday (Sunday) under the rule stating that to qualify for the combined chart a physical format must be available or due out in a week's time. The track is physically released today (Monday).
Six other releases, including tracks by Polydor's Fergie, Girls Aloud and Snoop Dogg, and RCA's Shakira, would also have made the Top 75 a week ago under the new rules, but were excluded because their physical releases were more than a week away.
Mercury's The Killers, with When You Were Young, and three Polydor tracks by Snow Patrol (Chasing Cars), The Automatic (Monster) and Nelly Furtado (Promiscuous) would have made the grade; current rules mean they were removed because they have all been physically deleted.
The 17 titles which would have charted under the new rules also include Big Brother/Sony BMG's Oasis track The Masterplan, excluded because its physical version has four tracks, making it non-chart-eligible.
OCC head of chart operations Meriel Blackburn says her company is not expecting a flood of oldies selling on digital to breach the Top 75 once all digital qualification restrictions are lifted on January 1, although under the new rules, last week's Top 75 would have included Mariah Carey's festive evergreen All I Want For Christmas Is You and Wham!'s own December classic Last Christmas. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers and Numb/Encore by Jay-Z and Linkin Park would also have qualified.
A week earlier, All Out Of Love, an album track by Westlife featuring Delta Goodrem, would have entered the Top 75 following a digital surge in demand after it was performed on The X-Factor. Non-single album tracks that are unbundled will be able to make the chart under the new rules.