A View From The Top #41

by Kate Giff

Sunday 17th July 2016

If we believe Stephen Hawking, the Universe is expanding. So, it seems, is the internet. Every day another website pops up, another app is developed and another life changing initiative comes to save us all. That seems an exaggeration but it’s really not; these technological advances really do change our lives. For avid music listeners this is especially true, but no more for them than for artists themselves. It started with Spotify, all those years ago, drawing us in with catalogues of music from all over the world. Now we have a choice: Spotify or Tidal, Tidal or Apple Music, Apple Music or the Amazon equivalent we can expect any day? The world of music has changed thanks to streaming sites, and with it so has the nature of the charts.

Between January 2014 and January 2015, the number of streams a day doubled from 25 to 50 million. To reflect that, the UK’s Official Chart Company started taking streams into account, with the Singles Chart in 2014, and the Album Chart in 2015. Surely, this is what we have to blame for Drake’s record breaking run. When the Singles Chart was just purchases, things changed more, for obvious reasons. Barring those fanatics with money to burn, most of us would only buy a song once, adding our number to the statistics, and then listening to our heart’s content. Now, every play counts; every stream is another penny or so in Drake’s pocket. Of course the charts aren’t going to change as much.

Personally, I think streaming is amazing, and we should all be thankful for it. Sure, there are those who long for the nostalgia of Vinyl or a romantic mix tape, but those things are still readily available to us. If you have £65 to spare, you can even buy a floral cassette player from Urban Outfitters. Lucky you. In fact, as streaming grows, so does the resistance to it. Vinyl sales are through the roof, bands such as Mumford And Sons are releasing brand new music on cassette, and most people still sell CDs. I for one am thankful for the ability to pay a few pounds a month, and listen to almost any song I want. I find new music every day, and the technology is so good I even get brand new playlists made just for me.

Even as a grateful fan of streaming sites, I have to admit that it’s a shame the charts remain basically the same. I don’t know if any song deserves to spend fourteen weeks at number one, especially one as simple as One Dance. In fact, Drake’s single only topped the sales-only chart for the first three weeks; this week it wasn’t even in the top-10. We have streaming to thank for his success.  

So what does this mean for new music? Statistically, the charts are harder to break into than ever before. It’s a shame, really, as there is a lot of amazing music being released that isn’t getting recognition. Even institutions like Radio 1 are questioning what all of this means, with their Head of Music considering taking Drake off the playlist. This would be an unprecedented move, yes, but one that would probably help new artists. For those of us not running radio stations, all we can do is keep buying and streaming new music, new artists, and try to take a step back from the likes of Drake.

Successful music is catchy music, we all know that. These days, however, if a song is as catchy as One Dance is, it’s almost guaranteed a good run in the charts. Like One Dance or loath One Dance, the song has done its duty. As long as people still have it on their playlists, it will stick in the charts. Streaming is a good thing, I do believe that, but maybe it’s too good for chart music. It’s certainly been to good to Drake.