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Why Chart Changes Don’t Work

The Official Singles Chart has announced a revamp of its structure- from this month, artists will be allowed only three of their most popular tracks in the top 100 in a move designed to prevent music’s heavyweight acts dominating the majority of the charts.

According to the Official Charts Company (OCC), the changes will “ensure the chart continues to be a showcase for the new hits and talent which are the lifeblood of UK music”.

The aim is clearly to support new talent progressing up the chart, without potential hits being held up by older tracks or album tracks by big-name artists. There will also be a change in the streaming ratio for older tracks that are past their peak and in “steep, prolonged decline” to make space for newer releases.

A statement from the OCC elaborated: “In the past 12 months, artists including Drake, Stormzy, Kendrick Lamar, Chainsmokers, Little Mix, The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran have had multiple tracks in the Top 40. The changes will limit the domination of such artists, with streaming of tracks (as music fans listen to their favourite albums) spilling over into the singles chart”.

The changes have been agreed in consultation with record labels, retailers and digital music services across the major and independent industry sectors- all of whom are scratching their heads as to how to make the charts relevant again.

The move is surely in direct reaction to all 16 tracks of Ed Sheeran’s recent album occupying space in the top 20 a development The Gen imagines rightly resulted in the OCC equivalent of an urgent COBRA meeting to address.

So The Gen is sorry to throw a spanner in the works, but here are a few ways in which this still doesn’t work:

  1. Unless we have missed something, it won’t ultimately prevent Ed Sheeran (or Taylor Swift or Adele or Drake etc..) from occupying the top three on a regular basis.
  1. As pointed out here by the ever prescient David Emery, the chart metrics are still trying to represent all types of listener, by including radio alongside each play on Spotify et al, including on casual ‘biggest songs ever’ type playlists- it does not distinguish between an engaged listener and a passive one, if you like. Therefore, it’s unlikely that the “emerging talent’ they refer to above is going to get a look in, frankly. Admittedly, this is a difficult nut to crack.
  1. It feels like a tweak when a radical rethink is needed- there is a more fundamental challenge in that the charts simply don’t matter as much as they once did, to either fans or to an extent, artists. But especially fans-In an era of blogs, collaborative and curated playlists, how can the charts represent any sort of discovery destination for new music?

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