Why the charts can't go back to the pre-streaming era

Why the charts can't go back to the pre-streaming era

I can see why the recent domination of the singles chart by album tracks from the likes of Stormzy and Ed Sheeran is potentially bad news for anyone trying to break a new artist into the Top 10, Top 20 or even the Top 75.

But I can’t see how it’s bad news for the chart being an accurate reflection of how people are consuming music today.

Much of the consumer press criticism of the rundown that saw Sheeran seize nine of the Top 10 and 16 of the Top 20 seemed to have been ripped straight from John Major’s 1993 speech that eulogised a rose-tinted vision of England as a land of “long shadows on county grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, old maids cycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist and Wet Wet Wet being No.1 for 15 weeks ON SALES ALONE GODDAMMIT”…

It’s a lovely idea, but the world – and the chart – has moved on. If the chart was still purely sales-based, it would no more reflect the reality of music in 2017 than Major’s speech related to real life for anyone outside of an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Sure, ratios – particularly for free streams – may need to be tweaked. And the idea of labels nominating certain tracks to serve as “singles”, while everything else remains an album track sounds like a sensible one, albeit one that will require a lot of management.

Although even that might hamper the one upside of all this: labels are being handed the clearest possible indication of which tracks the public are actually enjoying.

After all, the Brexit brigade might be hellbent on dragging us all back to the 1970s. But there’s no need for the music industry to follow suit...

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