Radio 1 music charts to include plays from Spotify

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As we all know, the way we consume music has changed dramatically over recent years. Not only is modern music all terrible, in correlation with my increasingly distant youth, but the means by which we consume it has changed to. And the Head of Music at BBC Radio 1 has announced plans to update how the charts are calculated to reflect this.

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George Ergatoudis has revealed plans to include plays from Spotify and other music streaming services in the Top 40 calculations – which would be the first time in chart history that something other than direct sales of songs has counted – even when digital sales were included in 2005.

Including Spotify and other streaming services isn’t entirely without precedent – other charts around the world also include streaming. The Billboard chart in America, for example, includes YouTube plays in its calculations.

Theres are still a lot of unknowns on the changes. For example: how will a Spotify play be valued compared to other methods of consumption? Will one play on a streaming service be equal to one sale of an MP3 on iTunes? (You’d think perhaps not), will it be divided by unique users (so even if I play the same song 1000 times, it will only count as one play, for the purpose of the chart?) and will the Official Chart Company follow the Americans example and include YouTube plays? And if so, what about works derived from a popular song? What if I make a video of my cat being sick with Nickelback playing in the background, and it goes viral? Does that mean Nickelback would be number one next week?

The implications for the music industry are going to be interesting too. Apparently in the old days of physical singles, there used to be all sorts of tricks used by record companies to boost their artists’ chart placing – such as sending people to buy all of the singles in record shops, or encouraging shop staff to, ahem, “massage” the sales numbers that they reported – could digital see the same? Could companies write code to play the songs thousands of times? Or less nefariously, will the Spotify landing page when you open the app become even more important as record companies will want to pay big bucks to get their people on the homepage and only a click away from a play, which will count directly to chart success?

One inevitable result is that it’s going to be very interesting for the consumer, as hopefully things will become more varied. The next campaign akin to Rage Against The Machine’s Christmas Number One won’t even need people to buy a song – simply to press play to support the movement.

So it’s going to be interesting times indeed. We’ll let you know when the changes kick in… and when we can all try to get obscure album tracks charting.

James O’Malley
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