Streams Do Count Too: The Music Industry Is Changing
WHAT does the news that streaming music will now count towards the singles chart in the UK actually mean?
Official Charts Company boss Martin Talbot has described the evolving way consumers listen to music as the reason for now adding streaming to the official charts. More of us are choosing to listen to music on our devices, be it Spotify, Napster or Xbox Music meaning the traditional chart based on CD sales has become antiquated and unreflective of our musical tastes. But is this a good idea? And what will it mean for emerging artists?
In the same way downloads became part of the charts in 2004, streams or listening to a track online without owning it, takes the next step: 100 streams of a song will now be tantamount to one sale. Each song must be streamed for at least 30 seconds to count and there will be a cap of 10 streams per user, per day. If this had been part of the charts fourteen months ago, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead could well have made it to number one.
That’s the thing: we now potentially face a chart filled with novelty releases, entire back catalogues and guilty pleasures – at least if my Spotify is anything to go by. The reason we love streaming services are because they offer the freedom of a high-street record store without actually moving or spending a penny. So of course we’re going to listen to all those songs we’d forgotten. I recently watched a retrospective ‘We Love the 90s’ type programme and have retreated to my youthful reminiscence of a Spice Girl sound-tracked world.
Although Talbot states record companies won’t be able to exploit streams by creating playlists and letting them play on repeat – hence the ten play cap – it’s arguable whether this is an accurate reflection of contemporary music tastes or just our own private disco. Imagine the next Now That’s What I Call Music 3million could end up a re-compiling of Now 12 when the songs were original.
Emerging artists will have to work harder to find an audience. As the old cliché ‘I liked their early stuff’ brings previous decades of tunes crashing back into the charts and no space to play new music, it doesn’t stand a chance of becoming ‘the early stuff’ before they ‘sold out’. They’ll languish unheard but for illegal live-show speakeasies where digital technology will be shunned, we’ll all be at home listening to Boyzone’s seminal A Different Beat. (I did warn you I’ve regressed to my 8-year-old nineties-loving self).
While the music industry may be pioneering new technology, if we’re not careful we’re going to reverse our musical culture back to the early seventies and rid new acts the chance of getting that career-defining number one, not to mention the associated sales. The change could also prompt previously non-Spotify bands to reconsider as they all chase the charts, which could put Coldplay back in our ears. Now That’s What I Call Coldplay, on repeat, for ever. A chilling thought…
Photo c/o rockraveradio.com, youtube.com