Spotify streams are soon to count towards the US Billboard charts. The UK’s Official Charts Company have no plans to follow suit. Here’s why they’re wrong…
It was when dead-eyed school kids S Club 7 began cloning themselves across Top Of The Pops that I gave up on the charts. Over the last decade, the nation has sunk into the depressing habit of buying not the best music, but the best marketing, because that’s mostly what they’re force-fed.
Except that increasingly, people are turning to streaming services to find new music. So much so, that some artists are actually starting to make something of a living from them, and the US singles chart is undergoing a revamp to include streaming data to reflect what people actually like, not just CD and download sales.
Unfortunately, that’s not happening in the UK, because the Official Charts Company thinks only “genuine sales” indicate what we listen to. Until they change their minds, the UK singles chart won’t ever be anything except a bleak, barren landscape of David Guetta rip-offs. Here are five reasons why we really ought to follow the US and incorporate streams into our charts data.
Almost half of British music lovers stream songs. Not just once, but regularly, according to an eMusic/AIM study last month. Just as we updated the charts to include digital downloads, it’s clearly worth refreshing them to reflect how people now listen to music.
That’s why in 2009, it said it would tie streaming data into the charts. Most research since then shows that streaming has become more, not less, important to music consumption, so why has it changed its mind?
Sales are short-lived
Measuring something purely by sales reflects its immediate success, rather than its ongoing popularity. ‘Rolling In The Deep’ and ‘Video Games’ featured in Last.fm’s 10 most-streamed tracks last week, but are no longer anywhere to be seen in the British or American Top 10. At the moment, the charts are weighted in favour of new releases, and that’s great for record companies, but not necessarily talent or taste.
More than a fifth of young Brits streamed music last year, according to the BPI. It doesn’t make sense to ignore such a large chunk of the chart-toppers’ target audience, especially when they’re no longer buying music.
We’re still some way from streaming becoming the, erm, mainstream means of consumption, but it might eventually mean a resurgence of indie artists in the charts. Take Bon Iver, who has rarely had British success with his singles, but whose track ‘Holocene’ is sitting in Last.fm’s top 20 most-listened tracks (globally) with 20,000 streams – more than Jessie J’s Domino, which was released afterwards and did make the UK Top 40.
Who would you rather see on the charts?