UK’s singles charts turns 70

With rise of streaming, are the UK singles charts losing their relevance in music?

Poppy Bedford
28th November 2022
The UK’s singles chart turned 70 years old this November and this milestone has stirred up conversations over its modern-day relevance. Previously “if an artist went to number one in the decades after the chart’s 1952 inception, it would guarantee them household name status,” commented Sky news. “With the new millennium came streaming and downloads and the end of big music shows such as Top Of The Pops” all diminishing the charts influence and relevance today.

The singles chart is an “unruly hodge-podge of gimmicky collaborations, TikTok spin offs and YouTube viral sensations”, wrote Neil McCormick, chief music critic for the Telegraph, as he described the chart as an “absurd anachronism” and firmly believes its “time to scrap it”.

Alex Petridis, head commentator for pop and rock music at The Guardian commented, “its grip on public imagination seems to have slackened completely…When was the last time you read a news piece about a hotly contested ‘battle’ for No 1?” he asked readers. The chart's “traditional audience of tweens and twentysomethings” have listening habits that “changed completely as a result of streaming”, explained Petridis. This means that, at 70, the singles chart “finds itself largely unloved, ignored and dismissed as irrelevant”.

"Unrily hodge-podge of gimmicky collaborations, TikTok spin offs and YouTube viral sensations"

Neil mccormick

Streaming was added to the singles chart in 2014 and although the way it is measured has changed, in the UK, 100 paid streams or 600 free streams more or less equal one sold copy; many feel this factor has made the chart irrelevant compared to the days when only physical record sales determined positions.

Nick Duerden wrote in The Independent that “over its lifetime, the chart has taken both the country’s cultural pulse and set its agenda” and “while the chart may be quieter now, a shadow of its former self…who, at 70, isn’t?” Duerden added that it “lives on, a tirelessly dedicated shop window to what’s up, what’s down, and who, for the next seven days at least, is reigning supreme, top of the pops”.

Credit: YouTube

With a similar argument to Duerden, Danny Corr, head of marketing at Roadrunner Records, told Vice, “The charts still inform a lot of people about what’s going on and what artists they should look out for.”

Indeed, said NME networks, while “a new generation of kids may be getting their music for free”, at the same time they are “getting into more music than ever” and the charts are “healthier now than they’ve ever been”.

While the charts have drifted from what they once were they still have a purpose as trend predictors, talent pushers and musical informants to the masses. While they aren’t used as frequently as they were and they no longer predict who the most popular artist of the day is, the charts, like many of us, are fighting to find their place in this modern world of streaming and constant technological advances.

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