Hey Guys! Welcome back, sorry about last weeks post. Seemed to have been badly affected by some man flu. Before we get into this weeks topic can I just say a huge (slightly late) Merry Christmas to you guys who are here reading this. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2019! I’ll try and keep this post as festive as possible so let’s dive in!
Last week we analysed the different ways artists are adapting (or not) to the changes in the way the charts are calculated. Today I want to look at how relevant the charts are to listeners and how reflective they are of the music we are listening to today. In 2015 release dates moved for Sunday to Friday for both singles and albums, this aligned them alongside the rest of the world and helped tackle piracy, to simplify; beforehand if an artist released an album it would be released in Ireland on Friday while UK audiences had to wait till Monday, as the internet became a more prominent force it became harder to separate these release dates as the music was being shared online.
However, even when the release dates are simultaneous are the charts really an accurate representation of what we are listening too? They remain incredibly difficult to break and that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. In fact looking at this weeks chart there are more fallers and climbers than ‘new entries’ meaning there isn’t much new music featuring often. Another note to point out, do people actually care about if the song they are listening to has cracked the top 40? You’d be forgiven if you thought so. There was a time where some would turn their noses up at non-commercial artists but it seems times have definitely moved on. In fact it could be argued that bands who aren’t featured on mainstream radio or the charts have more of an appeal to a younger audience who find this ‘edgy’ and are more interested in music ‘they like’ not what the radio think ‘they should like’. It’s quite empowering to see this take back in power by the newer generation, effectively a middle finger to the ‘establishment’ controlling mainstream music.
It’s also no wonder mainstream radio has lost thousands of listeners over the last few years. Why should people tune in to listen to chart music picked for them when they can listen to their own music to substitute the radio on the way to work, eating breakfast etc. I know I’m guilty of this, why sit through a good half hour of ads on commercial radio hoping a song I like comes on when I’m paying £9.99 a month to be ad-free?
Well as talked about before, the charts are definitely lacking age diversity and it shows. As we mentioned, acts over thirty are having a harder time when it comes to streaming, but can this be tackled? Well despite viewership being down, radio does have a part to play in what people listen to as people still do listen and are influenced.
In 2015, huge controversy arose amid claims pop sensation ‘Madonna’s’ new single ‘Living for Love’ had been not played by BBC’s Radio 1 after unfounded claims they believed she was too old and irrelevant for their market. Choices like these have consequences for older acts who are looking for commercial success but is it right to leave them out?
Some people might say its true and that Madonna has had her day but it could also be argued that she simply doesn’t need chart reflection anymore to be a success, the industry is changing rapidly and Madonna’s future success most likely lies with sell out tours to her millions of fans, something these streaming artists may not have acquired yet.
We have the ability to choose more than ever now so if a listener wanted to switch off Radio 1 and listen to Madonna through Spotify on their way to work then good on them! However, there does seem to be a few outliers in this theory; Mariah Carey, a female veteran in the music biz hit the top five this Christmas with her classic ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’, one of its highest positions ever and that’s all down to streaming (told you I’d keep it festive!).
So where does this leave the charts? Is it a good thing people are switching off their TV’s and radio and having more variety than ever on streaming sites? Or is it the case that music will become so varied that we won’t have any ‘well known’ acts in years to come as everyone will be listening to their own style, with almost infinite possibilities available? Whatever the case, it’s clear the charts are only showing a very small and stagnant sample of what’s really going on…
Other sources which I used to help write this can be found here:
The Independant: How independent artists have changed the music industry
The Independant: Ageism at the BBC