If the digital era has brought about one thing it’s the knee-capping of a once-inflated music industry. Whilst the general public has never before been given access to so many songs from such a wide selection of artists, there has never been less chance of forging a real career as a musician, and the days of international rock stardom are fast becoming the reserve of a painfully small list of purveyors.
If there’s one area this can be felt more than anywhere else it’s the humble single. These days the very nature of music marketing and its focus on assets for online use means singles are usually accompanied by a free to view video on YouTube or Vimeo. Given plugging devices into decent hi-fis is a relatively simple task, for most people aside from die-hard collectors and fans, there really is no need to even consider buying a single. An EP maybe, and even then only if it’s available on download and none of the tunes appear on last year’s album.
Short form releases, with the exception of free MP3 downloads the likes of which are increasingly used in exchange for a little data capture, are unarguably in danger of complete pointlessness, which in turn means what was once a ratings giant in the weekend radio schedule- namely the Official UK Top 40- is also at risk of becoming rather irrelevant. Hence the decision to follow the U.S. Billboard 100 model and begin including streaming plays from major services within the figures that decide on who gains the coveted number one spot.
Surprisingly, YouTube plays are not yet confirmed for the plans, which are expected to come into play soon. And even if the video streaming behemoth is included (which it most definitely should be considering the press release mainstay that is “clocking up XXXXXX YouTube hits in the process), there remains a few questions over exactly where the charts stand in today’s landscape. There was a time when unprecedented access to sales figures created a format that was the only comprehensive way of knowing what the most popular bands in the country sound like. In contrast, we now have a multitude of ways in which we can discover who is listening (and, in the odd instance, buying) what. Not least amongst our friends via online status updates or automatic Spotify tweets, with an understanding of what’s ‘trending’ amongst direct peers far more compelling when it comes to decision making compared with random members of the public. Nevertheless, we’ll watch with interest as the changes are introduced.