ON THE RECORD

Are the charts even in the top 10 of what people care about?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - Jim Car­roll on mu­sic ❙❙❙ For more see irish­times.com/blogs/ ontherecord

Do you know what’s num­ber one in the pop charts at the mo­ment? Don’t hit Google or the back page of The ticket to find out. Go on, give us the name of what’s at num­ber one in Ire­land (or the UK or US for that mat­ter). More per­ti­nently, do you ac­tu­ally care?

This was the week when Ir­ish and UK chart com­pil­ers an­nounced plans to al­low stream­ing data count to­wards the sin­gles’ charts. This may also have been the week when a lot of mu­sic fans thought about the charts for the first time in a long while.

Yes, charts mat­ter a great deal if you’re in the in­dus­try, but a large num­ber of or­di­nary de­cent pop fan don’t seem all that con­cerned any more with charts which don’t re­flect their mu­sic con­sump- tion pat­terns. Chart-watch­ing seems to be an ac­tiv­ity from the mists of time like Top of the Pops and cas­sette sin­gles – re­mem­ber the end­less ra­dio re­plays of sum­mer-long num­ber ones by the likes of Wet, Wet, Wet, Whit­ney and Bryan Adams?

In 2014, a pop­u­lar­ity con­test based on sales seems to be an anachro­nism. Lists may dom­i­nate much of pop cul­ture’s dis­course - this was the week when mid-year best of mu­sic lists ap­peared left, right and cen­tre - but the charts don’t dic­tate the dis­course around mu­sic as was once the case.

Will the ad­di­tion of stream­ing met­rics change this? The new charts won’t use data from YouTube or Soundcloud, two of the most pop­u­lar stream­ing ser­vices for mu­sic fans, so it’s ques­tion­able if this will make a big dif­fer­ence. The new charts cer­tainly won’t re­flect the rise of a vi­ral hit like Har­lem Shake or What Does the Fox Say? as they ac­tu­ally hap­pen.

Given the slow, grad­ual col­lapse in down­load and phys­i­cal sin­gle sales, some­thing had to be done and this is prob­a­bly bet­ter than noth­ing. The prob­lem is that it just may not be enough.

Wet Wet WHAT? This lot spent 15 weeks at num­ber one in the UK Sin­gles Chart 20 years ago

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