Sunday, 6 July 2014

Streaming services to count towards UK chart rankings (and some points raised)

So it looks like the UK have finally caught up with the rest of the world and will now be incorporating streams from music subscription services like Deezer and Spotify into their official chart rundown.

As The Guardian reports, from July onwards, audio streams will count towards chart rankings, where 100 streams will be considered the same as a single download. Who came up with this and how, escapes me. I don't disagree with it, but I am curious as to how such a metric was calculated. Likewise, there are precautionary measures in place to try and minimise abuse from obsessed fans or record labels from endlessly streaming songs from particular artists.

I find this idea compelling, as it assumes hardcore 'fans' would make an effort to stream songs from their favourite artists on a loop to help them reach higher levels on the official chart. Two points come to mind when pondering this likelihood: 1) Who are such people? Have we not been hardwired to believe buying albums is the best way of supporting artists? and 2) What is the relevance of the chart today?

I will briefly explore the second question.

Secondly, I myself have no idea who is on the chart at any moment, or indeed where; it stopped being of importance to me about ten years ago. A contributing factor is that most of my favourite bands don't release singles nor do they care about chart performances. Why then would I pay attention to them? Reflecting on my own indifference is unscientific and does not further this discussion. Rather, it highlights the fragmented being that is 'the music consumer' - I know I'm not alone here. My suspicion is that chart performance meets some psychologically satisfying milestones for various stakeholders and ultimately informs people about new music via radio (still indeed a big think here in UK) and this is a good thing.

It will take a while before we really understand music streaming, but for now it looks like it is here to stay and the inclusion of streams into the chart rundown does indeed reflect music listening trends and provides a better measure of who is listening to what - this is the essence of 'the chart'. Controversial research has suggested however that streaming services are not being used as designed to be 'music discovery platforms' but rather have replaced music purchasing; this is the essence of ongoing disputes over royalties.

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