It’s now just over eight years since downloads were first included on the UK singles chart. Despite the early resistance from physical retailers, it’s difficult to know what would have happened without their inclusion – there’s still a physical singles chart, so you can see what might be at the top, but it would be almost entirely irrelevant. The truth is that downloads have revolutionised the singles chart and ensured its survival into the digital age.
Next week sees another revolutionary change to the UK charts – for the first time, streamed music will be included on the singles chart. There’s been an experimental “streaming chart” for a couple of years now, and with numbers of downloads starting to top out already, it’s easy to see how much more relevant streamed music might be in a year or two.
But this is actually quite a revolutionary change – for the first time, the charts are attempting to display what people are actually listening to, rather than just what they’re buying, and so it will almost certainly lead to a few extravagant jumps around the chart. But also it no longer costs the listener anything to help their favourite song chart – if you want to get Killing in the Name to number 1, all you need to do is get some friends to stream it continually, and you should be well on your way.
My personal opinion at this stage is that we should really be including airplay too at this stage, so that the chart is a real representation of what people are listening to, but I’m not sure many would agree with me. Either way, these are definitely interesting times.