If the only charts you flip out for relate to blood pressure, boardrooms or the Straits of Magellan it may not interest you to know that an Official Streaming Chart has been introduced to the UK this week. But do we need another pop chart? Of course we do. We always need new charts. Lists are good, and lists that update on a weekly basis are even better. 2.6 billion songs were streamed in the UK last year, so to get an accurate picture of how popular, say Pitbull, Snoop Dogg or Chipmunk really are, we should probably consider their streaming stats along with their music sales, and ability to clean themselves.
Will Hope, Director of Label Relations at Spotify had this to say, "In the same way that digital purchases quickly became a necessary part of the sales charts, streaming has quickly become a very significant part of music discovery and consumption. Having both streaming and traditional sales charts allows the industry and fans to really appreciate what UK music lovers are listening to."
Quite right. However, while tabulations and rankings are good, working out what they mean is harder than the cheese you find jammed under the light in your fridge. Which charts are the best to be in? And which charts do the people making the music want to be in above all others - if we discount the ones that make them the most money - because that's just boring.
When I was growing up there was only one chart anyone cared about and that was The Official Top 40. Actually, I vaguely remember a Pepsi Chart and there was the Commercial Radio Chart as well (were they the same thing?) but I turned my back on that sham chart, when one week in the mid-eighties someone at school told me that Duran Duran were at number one, but when I switched on Top of the Pops that Thursday, they weren't at number one at all, they were at number three. Lies. The charts had let me down, so I decided to take things into my own hands and compile my own. Now Duran b-side Secret Oktober could spend four weeks at number one and go multi-platinum. Glamorous German singer Sandra (the German Madonna if you must know) fared even better. Somewhere in an oversized blue textbook is a record of Sandra's dizzying string of consecutive number ones the likes of which have never been seen even in her homeland.
All charts, like the sides of Frankie Sandford's fringe, are not created equal, and some are definitely cooler than others. The streaming chart has got to be cooler than the dry old Top 40, right? "I think artists will be happy to be included in either chart!" says Spotify's Will Hope. "It still feels too early to identify any meaningful trends in the differences between the two charts, however, streaming services so far have proven to drive discovery of both new and older catalogues, so I think we're likely to see a wider range of artists and genres trending on the streaming chart."
This looks pretty likely actually. Skrillex who has yet to dent the Official Top 40 is already cruising up the Streaming Top 20, which is pretty cool for him, even if his Phil Oakey meets Tokio Hotel look isn't.
Right now everyone in the music industry is number one somewhere. Being 'big in Japan' is no longer enough. To get buzz-worthy press coverage you have to get that all-important 'number one,' and there's a lot to gun for. There's the Radio Airplay Chart, The TV Airplay Chart, YouTube Chart, and of course the iTunes chart - UK and US. One Direction got to number one in the US album chart at the same time The Wanted were perched atop the US iTunes chart. Which was better? Which was cooler? Depends on how you spin it. If these charts are a bit Leek & Potato for your tastes, then there's always the Hype Machine Chart which aggregates the tracks uploaded by thousands of music blogs. Bands that never make the 'proper' chart regularly feature here. The Shazam Chart is a pretty good gauge of the music getting people talking too.
There is another dark and far more dangerous chart, but topping it is something of a double-edged sword most artists would rather avoid: The Illegal Download Chart. Anti-piracy organisation Muso regularly produce a chart that reports how many illegal files can be found online by certain artists. If I was Lana Del Rey - a woman who has been ruthlessly ripped, as she has been ripped to shreds - I would be filled with equal amounts irritation and pride.
Until someone consolidates all of these pop charts into one superchart we will be left wondering which is the best, most relevant, and coolest. Till then I might have to crack out the pen and old exercise book. Looks like Sandra's due a comeback.
* The Official Streaming chart combines data collected from Spotify, We7, Napster, Deezer and Zune on Xbox Live.
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