Downloads Join the Charts

Today sees the incorporation of the download charts into the mainstream singles charts for the first time. This brings welcome added legitimacy and exposure to the UK’s nascent digital download market. However the move does not come without its critics. Many voices within the independent sector are concerned it won’t give them a fair crack of the whip due to Apple’s domination of the download market and its well publicised under representation of independent labels. Others claim that the chart will be more prone to manipulation through mass buying. If there are irregularities it is down to the retailers to report it in the same way they would offline and for the official charts company to spot the unusual trends.

The bottom line is that the singles chart stopped becoming a true representation of the UK’s music tastes some time ago. Whereas pop music once referred to all types of popular music, it has now become synonymous with manufactured boy/girl bands and reality TV show acts. ‘Serious’ acts do get in there, but, whilst not quite the exception, they are certainly not the rule. The singles charts have evolved from an end in their own right to a marketing tool for albums. Many labels throw huge budgets at singles to ensure they get a chart position and hence exposure: techniques such as reduced prices on first week of release coupled with massive cross media campaigns, appearances and extensive plugging ensure that singles get top 10 positions….often just for a week, after which they disappear out of sight. Whereas singles with organic bases stay the distance but sometimes with less spectacular peaks.

One final note….don’t necessarily expect to see ‘Amarillo’ disappear just because the downloads are incorporated….the Internet offers anonymity of purchase…no embarrassing moment at the cash till in HMV…