Music streaming to be incorporated into Top 40?

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The BBC report that music bosses are considering incorporating music streaming into the Top 40. That would mean listening statistics from Spotify, Deezer and other top music streaming sites would be considered in calculating the most popular songs.

The Official UK Charts Company said it was “bound to” include streaming and subscription services at some point, but not for at least another year.

Because listeners do not pay per track – if at all – those plays would be likely to carry less weight than normal sales.

It’s a change which would totally shake up the charts.

At present, songs are considered for the charts at the point of sale. By considering music streaming, songs are considered at the point of use. It’s an important distinction. Take Pink Floyd – chances are not many people are buying Pink Floyd music at the moment: there are no new singles or albums being released. Yet, many people are listening to Pink Floyd at the moment. By shifting the focus from point of sale to point of use, there would be a huge change in the charts, benefiting popular artists who produce timeless music.

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According to Martin Talbot, managing director of the Official Charts company, “Knowing what a stream is worth compared to a purchase of a download, for instance, is very difficult to identify at the moment, but that’s obviously going to be the next step,”.

This is going to be a big problem. Whatever weighting is assigned to streaming, it is going to be possible for people to manipulate the charts by incessantly streaming the same song. I remember when downloads were added to the chart: there was a big campaign to try and get The Wurzels into the charts. It never happened in the end: it took too many people to part with 99p for the prank to have worked. However, it’s not hard to convince a million people to stream a song from Spotify when it’s free. In fact, post a link to a song on Twitter and most people wouldn’t even know what the song is until after it loads. A Twitter meme can easily influence the charts.

The good news for consumers is that this is likely to increase the number of songs available for streaming. At present, there are big gaps in the catalogues of Spotify, Deezer, and other music streaming sites. Once streaming becomes part of the chart, I believe music companies will be much happier to open their catalogues to these sites. Because otherwise their competitors would have a huge advantage in the charts.

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