Last week, Ed Sheeran unleashed one of the biggest albums in living memory in the form of ÷, shifting 671,542 copies in its first week and becoming the fastest selling record by a male solo artist of all time. Yet in spite of those head spinning figures, a quick glance at the singles chart is possibly even more telling of Divide’s impact on the market.
When Friday’s official singles chart was revealed, Sheeran occupied 16 of the Top 19. That’s 16 of the Top 19 – a figure that has prompted some commentators to question the rules around the compilation of the chart.
Of course, no one would dispute that ÷ is something of a special case. But with the albums market increasingly moving towards the streaming model, there is concern from certain quarters that, with each big album release, the singles chart will ultimately be taken over by the tracks belonging to said record, thereby denying other artists a place in the rundown. Just over a week ago, the singles chart saw all 16 tracks from Stormzy’s Gang Signs & Prayer feature in the Top 100 singles after the album topped the albums chart and broke the then streaming record.
However, speaking to Music Week, Official Charts Company chief executive Martin Talbot was quick to quash any concerns that the singles chart model may be broken.
“[÷] is a massive record,” he said. “There’s only been two albums in recent years that have been anywhere near this, Adele’s 25 and Oasis’ Be Here Now. There are so few records that have been of this scale that what we are seeing isn’t typical. We should be celebrating the fact that Ed Sheeran has followed Stormzy and Rag’N’Bone Man in doing so well on the chart. This time last year we were bemoaning the fact it was so difficult to break British talent, but we are having a bit of a purple patch at the moment.”
While ÷ may well be a one-off, it’s likely that this trend will continue to develop with every album release from a superstar artist. Still, Talbot insists that the company will not rush into taking any drastic measures, but will continue to monitor the evolution of the charts and the impact of streaming upon them.
“We’ll review the methodology and discuss it internally and with the industry as we always do," he said. "We are constantly evolving the chart rules because the industry is constantly evolving.”
Talbot also addressed any concerns that streams that appeared on both charts were being ‘double counted’.
“The two charts reflect different things,” he said. “The fact Ed Sheeran has got so many singles in the Top 20 is a reflection of the fact that people are listening to those singles, and they are also buying those singles. If none of these singles were being downloaded you could argue that this is just a reflection of album consumption, but clearly people are buying these tracks as well. [The tracks] are not getting twice the number of sales.”
At present, it looks like little will change in the way that the singles chart is compiled, and few could argue that Sheeran’s ÷ is anything but highly unusual. But with huge album releases expected later this year from the likes of Katy Perry, Sam Smith, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, it’s unlikely this issue is going to disappear…