Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The death of the pop charts

Despite the addition of streaming data, what’s number one in the hit parade doesn’t matter an iota anymore to many pop fans

Going, going, gone: do you know what's number one?

Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 09:55


Do you know what’s number one in the pop charts at the moment? Don’t hit Google or the back page of The Ticket to find out. Go on, give us the name of what’s at number one in Ireland (or the UK or US for that matter). More pertinently, do you actually care?

This was the week when Irish and UK chart compilers announced plans to allow streaming data count towards the singles’ charts. This may also have been the week when a lot of music fans thought about the charts for the first time in a long while.

Yes, charts matter a great deal if you’re in the industry, but a large number of ordinary decent pop fan don’t seem all that concerned any more with charts which don’t reflect their music consumption patterns. Charts seem to be something from the mists of time alongside Top of the Pops and cassette singles.

In 2014, alligning your musical tastes to a popularity contest based on sales seems to be an anachronism. Lists may dominate much of pop culture’s discourse – this was the week when mid-year best of music lists appeared left, right and centre – but the charts don’t dictate the discourse around music as was once the case.

Will the addition of streaming metrics change this? The new charts won’t use data from YouTube or Soundcloud, two of the most popular streaming services for music fans, so it’s questionable if this will make a big difference. The new charts certainly won’t reflect the rise of a viral hit like “Harlem Shake” or “What Does the Fox Say?” as they actually happen.

Given the slow, gradual collapse in download and physical single sales, something had to be done and this is probably better than nothing. The problem is that it just may not be enough.