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The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be?
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TOPIC: The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be?
#242036
MCR

The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 1 Month ago  
Article taken from "Record Of The Day" via www.facebook.com/groups/40615224454?locale=en_GB

The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be?

01 March 2024 - Editorial

For years now, the Official Singles Chart has been something of an unhappy compromise. Now in 2024, it’s in real danger of finally creaking into oblivion, weighed down by the sheer number of bolt-on changes and rule tweaks that it’s endured since streaming was added almost a decade ago. As we approach that milestone 10-year streaming anniversary this coming June, maybe it’s time to re-assess everything and go back to basics.

Firstly though, how did we get here?

It was on Sunday evening 6 July in 2014 that ‘Problem’ by Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea became the first no.1 single that had both download sales and streams combined for its overall tally. Six weeks later, a former Record of the Day called ‘Am I Wrong’ by Nico & Vinz became the first song in history to appear on the Top 75 without selling a single copy, having done so on streams alone. But we were still in the era when downloads were king, and its release on UK iTunes a week later then propelled it from that lowly starting position of no.52 all the way up to no.1. By December that same year, we saw the first example of a song topping the chart thanks to its dominant streaming figures – that was ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran.

Famously, Ed’s the guy who flipped the chart on its head in 2017 when the streaming numbers from his brand-new album ‘Divide’ were so huge on its opening week, nine of the Top 10 songs were by him. An incredulous Greg James had the honour of revealing that historic event on the Radio 1 Top 40 that Friday evening. And it was clear that something had to change. On 26 June that same year, a new rule came into effect which still exists today, meaning only the three most popular songs that week from a lead artist will feature on the singles chart. Around that same time, we first saw and heard the terms SCR (Standard Chart Ratio) plus the dreaded ACR (Accelerated Chart Ratio) halving the streaming tallies for any current song that had essentially been around a bit too long, or even permanent ACR for anything that was more than three years old. This was the last time that 100 streams were regarded as being the equivalent of one sale, with an alteration meaning that was now 150:1, and those songs that had been around for more than ten weeks and seen their sales decline for three consecutive weeks would see that cut to 300:1. Looking back, those 150 and 300 numbers seem to have been plucked out of thin air at the time, and with video streams now featuring (you need to be a boffin to understand just how they weigh up against audio streams), it’s quite frankly an unholy mess of formulas and algorithms that render the entire chart process incomprehensible to the public at large. Which could be one of the reasons why interest appears to have waned so much.

That brief history lesson brings us to where to we are today, and your head is probably already spinning. We feel it’s time to relook at all this, particularly considering the enormous change in consumption habits that we’ve seen in recent times. Audio streaming leads the way, and one daily glance at the Spotify Top 50 gives you a much truer picture of what the nation is really consuming. How can we fix the Official Singles Chart? Let’s throw some ideas out there for discussion.

First, it’s surely time to scrap ACR completely, is it not? You could be overly brutal and ask: if a new release isn’t good enough to compete against any catalogue title, does the whole current A&R process needs addressing from top to bottom? But that’s another story, and we’ll try not to be flippant here. What is inescapable though is that songs are blowing up from every genre and every possible era on a week-by-week basis, often without any sort of label control, and their true immediate popularity often isn’t being reflected by the existing chart rules. There can be an annoying lag before they sometimes show up properly on the chart, which seems a bit silly really. We saw this first in 2022 when ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush surged back to life after its inclusion in ‘Stranger Things’ and was the most-streamed song, yet only ranked at no.2 on the Official Chart behind Harry Styles with ‘As It Was’. It was only a media uproar that forced the hand of the chart bosses to dump Kate’s ACR status, give a song a reset, and then see its true popularity shine through. It’s happened again just recently when ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ by Sophie Ellis-Bextor has outgunned every other UK-signed act, even though the song is 23 years old. ‘Unwritten’ by Natasha Bedingfield also returned and had a bit of a reset, while the perennial favourites ‘Mr. Brightside’ by The Killers and ‘Riptide’ by Vance Joy were also among the 20 most-streamed songs that week, but were inexplicably downgraded, so didn’t show up inside the Official Top 40. If ACR went, the chart would feel much more natural and reflective of what people are really listening to and loving, even if that does mean oldies. Certain songs might hang around for months on end, of course, but if that’s what people are consuming, the chart really does need to better reflect that to maintain its relevance as a true barometer of the nation’s music tastes. If that prospect alarms you, fear not as the arrival of big new music will always push those tracks out of the way if they have genuine mass appeal.

Next, how about this for a simple tweak – labels must decide going forward which song from an album bundle they want to be the so-called ‘focus single’, and that would then be the only one that shows up on the singles chart. Everything else would then be regarded simply as an album track. Beyond that, you could now introduce a four-week eligibility gap between each ‘focus single’, which would help enormously with radio airplay, and the artist builds up a string of multiple ‘focus singles’ on the chart from that album, now without being restricted to just three titles, should they choose to keep releasing a new ‘focus single’ every four weeks. If their streaming levels remain strong for months on end, you’d see that properly reflected on the weekly singles chart.

We’ve recently seen a few of the majors (with one notable exception) trying to ‘game’ the chart by dropping physical product at appropriate moments in the release cycle, and it has worked very well for some big-name acts, particularly when the streaming numbers may not have been as impressive as hoped, but a high chart position was needed to sort-of save face. This needs a radical overhaul. One solution could be that a £1.99 maximum retail price limit is placed upon the physical CD single. And no physical will count toward the chart if it comes after the steaming debut. Anything that does arrive on time must be only one track (no remixes or bonus songs if it’s truly going to represent a streaming equivalent). And if a label chooses to put physical stock out there, the song then gets removed from the Top 100 once your physical stock dries up, even if you continue to be streamed in huge numbers. Think of it as being like the days when tracks were routinely deleted. And all this might finally deter labels from doing down that desperate physical route. We should also look at the sales of physical product through artist’s own websites. How and why has this somehow become acceptable? Back in the days of old, this would be considered as pure hype, and any such sales would be excluded from the chart. Of course, a big international star like Taylor Swift, Adele, or Ed Sheeran is going to shift bigger numbers of physical than a new artist, by sheer virtue of the fact that they each can motivate a fan base of millions rather than a small core. Our recommendation would be that any sales could only count if it was generally available to the public through at least one mainstream outlet such as Amazon etc. Oh, and we’d scrap cassette sales from the chart completely. Nobody plays them, after all. They’re probably one of the worst pieces of landfill with all their mixed component parts, and it’s about as relevant as counting a plant pot with an artist’s face on as a legitimate sale, claiming it’s somehow as worthy as 150 streams. Just get rid.

You could go even more radical though, and simply dump all physical sales from the chart, full stop. That’d certainly keep it pure again, just like the old days when the Top 40 was an essential guide to the most-bought singles that week, nothing more, nothing less. One copy sold equalled one unit, and everyone knew exactly where we stood. Maybe 2024 is the year that the industry finally says the Official Singles Chart is simply the week’s most-streamed songs in its totally unfiltered form, free from any rules concerning the age of a song or its existing chart life to date. Incidentally, does anyone know why we still seem to be unable to differentiate between what is an elected play that’s been sought out on a streaming platform (and therefore arguably of higher significance) versus a ‘lean back’ one from a playlist? Surely that info is out there, but wasn’t it once claimed that between 80-90% of all plays were not coming from specific searches, and that could potentially undermine the perception of just how popular songs are if the public realised many high chart positions were therefore vastly inflated?

While we’ve been pulling ideas together, we’ve heard from any industry contacts who’ve asked us why we care so much about this stuff. Is our interest in the chart not just a throwback to our teenage years, and today’s kids have simply moved on with barely a shoulder shrug for its continued existence? Yes, that’s possibly so, which then makes us wonder if there is indeed any hope for the future survival of the Official Singles Chart. Some say it’s always simply been a tool for the music industry and has been ‘gamed’ by them since its inception. But we do remain optimistic. Stripping it right back to basics feels like a positive start, and maybe somehow getting it back as an appointment-to-listen/see show on both radio and primetime TV each week is another thing that will help to lift mainstream interest in the weekly ups and downs of our favourite stars.

Summing all this up is tough. But here’s how we see it as we head into Q2 2024.

Dump ACR as soon as possible. It’s anachronistic, feels like a flawed and dated concept, and nobody will shed a tear at its disappearance. Ten years was more than enough. Just last week Beyonce took the no.1 title ahead of Noah Kahan, even though ‘Stick Season’ had been streamed many more times than Texas Hold ‘Em’. Incidents like that simply dent the credibility of the Official Singles Chart even further.

Consider excluding all physical product (CDs, vinyl singles, cassettes and possibly even downloads) from the Official Singles Chart to keep it purer and less prone to desperate hype from product teams. However, if the temptation to keep physical in there somehow persists, look at maximum price points that are closer to those of a download sale, not vinyl singles priced at almost a tenner.

If you put into action those points 1 and 2, then simplify the name as the final part of the process – The UK’s Official Singles Chart becomes The Official Singles Streaming Chart in its pure unfiltered form, free from arbitrary restrictions on the age of songs, and everyone then knows exactly where they stand from now on.

Thanks to everyone we’ve spoken to when we’ve been canvassing opinions on all this. What’s clear is that nobody seems entirely happy with the Official Singles Chart in its current form, from both inside and outside the industry, and better transparency about how it’s complied and the stats behind each chart placing would certainly be a very useful start. We’re keen to keep the dialogue going, with some people who’ve been in contact also bemoaning the day the chart is released, the relative failure of New Music Friday to generate much impact anymore, and even a desire from some for a quicker turnover of big hits again. It’s impossible to please everyone, and we can’t turn back the clock either. Instead, let’s all work together for the best possible solutions and on-going chats to push forward what’s still one of the world’s most trusted, keenly fought and referenced list of our nation’s most popular songs.
 
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#242042
Green Man

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 1 Month ago  
The Singles Chart has been dead for years. There is no chart show on the mainstream Freeview channels. I know cable TV has a ton of music channels.

The Album Charts is going that way also. Supermarkets don't sell media now apart from Asda. They have now moved the CD's in a very small corner in a giant supermarket. They have more phones and TV's than CD's. When I go to HMV it seems to be staff choices and they love thrash.(yuck )

What I don't about a lot of new music is that it always recorded on cheap software in a cheap studio or at home. I do Michael Marcagi new EP though.
 
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#242726
Rich

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 1 Week, 3 Days ago  
Nothing shows up the stupidity of the current UK Chart compilation than the now terribly predictable return every Christmas of the exact same old festive tunes from decades long gone to hog almost the entire chart, and 2023 was the worst yet for this, what was it, 36 out of 40 in that Christmas week Top 40 for example. We probably already know this years and next years festive top spot to within a couple of tracks. Then they all instantly vanish overnight. None of this grants the UK singles chart the right to be taken seriously with meaning and credibility.

When a song by Wham! from 1984 is spending 4 weeks at No1 in 2023 at the same time as a 1958 song by Brenda Lee is topping the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week then something is fundamentally wrong across the board, not just in the UK.

Yes, old records have always returned to the charts even based just on sales alone and that in itself is not a problem.

I wonder why the music industry and chart official chart compilers have almost wanted to break the meaning of the singles chart, such as in the late 90's when it changed rapidly with no climbers, week after week debuts at No1, whole top fives of new entries gone the next week, and this was 25 years ago now. I still find it hard to believe that sorry situation was allowed to continue for so long, rendering the actually joy of listening to a chart show on radio completely pointless, such as wondering if that Queen song that entered at No18 and rose to No5 was going to make the top three or maybe just maybe go all the way to the top.

The UK singles chart lacks genuine meaning because record listening lacks the meaning it once had due to so little physical involvement with the product and artwork, and too many new artists sounding so homogenised and uninspiring at the same time with the mainstream chart no longer seeming very mainstream but narrow minded in genre.
 
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#242728
Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 1 Week, 3 Days ago  
I'm afraid the fault is all mine.
I worked out in the 1970s that my releases (on UK Records) would get the biggest boost by being on Top of the Pops.
But that show depended on chart position.
However I could only afford to push any of my releases onto the chart (by giving away free copies of the singles to shops, for example) if I knew 100% they had the potential to be big hits.
So I needed the signs of potential popularity before starting to hype the charts (legally, back then).
However, when the big labels realised what I was doing, they did the same but a) spending far more money - i.e. paying people - illegal) and b) doing it on priorities NOT potential big hits.
So the chart became cluttered up with crap.
RESULT? Top of the Pops started losing ratings and then got cancelled.
And the charts became meaningless - no longer representing mass appeal hits; only priorities or sales due to events (like Christmas or Death).
 
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#242731
Rich

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 1 Week, 3 Days ago  
JK2006 wrote:
I'm afraid the fault is all mine.
I worked out in the 1970s that my releases (on UK Records) would get the biggest boost by being on Top of the Pops.
But that show depended on chart position.
However I could only afford to push any of my releases onto the chart (by giving away free copies of the singles to shops, for example) if I knew 100% they had the potential to be big hits.
So I needed the signs of potential popularity before starting to hype the charts (legally, back then).
However, when the big labels realised what I was doing, they did the same but a) spending far more money - i.e. paying people - illegal) and b) doing it on priorities NOT potential big hits.
So the chart became cluttered up with crap.
RESULT? Top of the Pops started losing ratings and then got cancelled.
And the charts became meaningless - no longer representing mass appeal hits; only priorities or sales due to events (like Christmas or Death).


What do you think of the Heritage Chart that Mike Read has been pushing since 2020, does it have any meaningful value?

It's a real tragedy that many of these artists seem unable to climb properly into the so called mainstream chart any more despite putting out excellent new material. 85 years old in a few days time, Marty Wilde is actually No3 this week on that with a brand new song.
 
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#242739
Green Man

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 1 Week, 3 Days ago  
Rich wrote:
JK2006 wrote:
I'm afraid the fault is all mine.
I worked out in the 1970s that my releases (on UK Records) would get the biggest boost by being on Top of the Pops.
But that show depended on chart position.
However I could only afford to push any of my releases onto the chart (by giving away free copies of the singles to shops, for example) if I knew 100% they had the potential to be big hits.
So I needed the signs of potential popularity before starting to hype the charts (legally, back then).
However, when the big labels realised what I was doing, they did the same but a) spending far more money - i.e. paying people - illegal) and b) doing it on priorities NOT potential big hits.
So the chart became cluttered up with crap.
RESULT? Top of the Pops started losing ratings and then got cancelled.
And the charts became meaningless - no longer representing mass appeal hits; only priorities or sales due to events (like Christmas or Death).


What do you think of the Heritage Chart that Mike Read has been pushing since 2020, does it have any meaningful value?

It's a real tragedy that many of these artists seem unable to climb properly into the so called mainstream chart any more despite putting out excellent new material. 85 years old in a few days time, Marty Wilde is actually No3 this week on that with a brand new song.


The Heritgage Chart is interesting Rich, it's nice to hear bands from the past with new songs. I know Talking Pictures showed the programme late on Sunday nights. I have no idea if they still do. There needs to be shows like TOTP, The Tube or OGWT on a network with a budget.

When I go to record shops the students love the stuff from our youth and childhood, I think a TOTP crossover with Heritage Chart could work.

The students who like music have said they never stream or download songs they love the physical format and browsing through the racks. They appreciate the art work better than we did we were younger. When I see 45's in record shops I would say 90% of them are in generic replacement white sleeves including the popular 1980s records.

Marty Wilde still sells out theatre's, I saw him years ago and it was a fun night out. Sadly when I want to see him live but there is always another concert that clashes.

I see both tribute and proper/orginal bands (depending on your terminology). The age groups at the concerts are normally from kids to dead people and the very dead people. Do count age limits at the venues. When I saw Kast Off Kinks I was amazed seeing kids about aged 7 singing along to almost every song in the set even the odd deep album songs. Even Mick Avory was stunned!

Of course I love the stuff from the past but I love to hear new songs that is not recorded on Pro Tools or in a bedroom. (Apart from White Ladder of course)

My favourite current band at the moment is When Rivers Meet.

Rhino are re-releasing old albums in Atmos, I see more marketing for classics or older albums but very little on the newer artists or bands. I couldn't care how many times an album has been re-released most of the time I will go for the cheapest option an old CD release from 80s or 90s, yes I am a tight and a frugal bastard.
 
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#242741
Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 1 Week, 2 Days ago  
One of the joys about MJ the Musical was the incredible diversity of the sell out audience - small children, elderly grand parents, middle aged people, blacks, whites, Asians - all there for one reason; great MASS APPEAL music. I don't think one person there cared about Michael's private life; all were celebrating his stunning art - music, dancing, costumes...
 
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#242766
Rich

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 1 Week, 2 Days ago  
A cross over between something like TOTP and a Heritage Chart sounds good in principle but as this discussion asked the question about the future of the UK Singles Chart my question to add would be how do we go about making the UK Singles Chart much more diverse again, such as those who go to Jacko musicals from all ages and all backgrounds, and have the established acts with great new songs rubbing shoulders alongside brand new acts as far as singles are concerned, and most importantly of all get so much more musical genre variety back into any given weeks chart. The album chart still reflects this diversity and allows new material by very long established acts to chart to the top spots, such as Madness gaining their first studio album No1 not so long ago or the Rolling Stones scoring the Christmas No1 album with Hackney Diamonds.

But then just maybe the whole 1950's construct of a music listing chart coming out on a weekly basis is simply past its time and doomed to wither away into irrelevance going forward rather that thrive again? By the 100th anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll in 2055 will music charts as we know them even exist and what the heck will music be sounding like by then, surely not still the same as today God forbid.
 
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#242781
Green Man

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 1 Week, 1 Day ago  
Rich wrote:
A cross over between something like TOTP and a Heritage Chart sounds good in principle but as this discussion asked the question about the future of the UK Singles Chart my question to add would be how do we go about making the UK Singles Chart much more diverse again, such as those who go to Jacko musicals from all ages and all backgrounds, and have the established acts with great new songs rubbing shoulders alongside brand new acts as far as singles are concerned, and most importantly of all get so much more musical genre variety back into any given weeks chart. The album chart still reflects this diversity and allows new material by very long established acts to chart to the top spots, such as Madness gaining their first studio album No1 not so long ago or the Rolling Stones scoring the Christmas No1 album with Hackney Diamonds.

But then just maybe the whole 1950's construct of a music listing chart coming out on a weekly basis is simply past its time and doomed to wither away into irrelevance going forward rather that thrive again? By the 100th anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll in 2055 will music charts as we know them even exist and what the heck will music be sounding like by then, surely not still the same as today God forbid.


I have a feeling singles are a thing of the past. Albums were always my thing even as a young man. I only bought singles for the non-album B sides, most of the singles I have bought were Genesis and Match Of The Day and 3x3 EPs.
 
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#242858
Rich

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 6 Days ago  
I always found singles far more exciting than albums.

40 years ago this very week I bought my first ever copy of the Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles, the 4th edition of it, and when I picked it up and said I wanted it my father looked at it and asked me why on earth I wanted something that looked like the telephone directory! But I found the book exciting and could never put it down and always got the updated versions when they came out every two years or so. I was absorbed by the book in the car on the journey home from the shops that day.

Although I do remember the day I bought that book, I also bought an album too, The Works from Queen, all with record tokens, remember them.
 
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#242862
Green Man

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 5 Days, 19 Hours ago  
I do remember record tokens, in the 80s I was a teenager who moved from Ireland for America. I don't remember America having record tokens.

I do remember ordering LPS from the television and getting on to mailing lists.

I think what put me off 45's is that I had boxes of them, which I got from bargain bins and garage sales, they were taking up space and collecting dust. LPs were easier to store on the shelves. I did buy the singles for Calling All Stations for the B Sides, which should of been added on the re-releases, it's the neglected Genesis album.

Sadly in the 90s I dumped all the vinyl like most people did for CDS.

Since JK has spoken about Micheal Jackson I did buy his Number 1's compliation and I did get hold of History yesterday in a charity shop. I like to listen to CDs in the truck when I do deliveries. I like browsing in charity shops and finding little gems or getting T-shirts for mucky jobs.

I have forgotten how good he was in the 80s. I won't go out my way to buy his stuff but if I see them around, I will of course buy them.
 
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#242879
Rich

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 4 Days, 23 Hours ago  
A friend of my parents actually did something a few years ago that now seems like a dreadful act of self vandalism and scarcely seems believable. I still cannot believe he did it. Wanting rid of all his vinyl music he recorded it all onto blank cassette tapes and then binned all the records. That to me is certifiable, and he soon came to realise what a fool he had been not long afterwards.
 
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#242885
Green Man

Re:The Official Singles Chart - what should its future be? 4 Days, 18 Hours ago  
Rich wrote:
A friend of my parents actually did something a few years ago that now seems like a dreadful act of self vandalism and scarcely seems believable. I still cannot believe he did it. Wanting rid of all his vinyl music he recorded it all onto blank cassette tapes and then binned all the records. That to me is certifiable, and he soon came to realise what a fool he had been not long afterwards.

People did that to CD's in the 2000s, they backed them all up to laptop/computer or a cloud then sold the CDs on eBay or Music Magpie.
 
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