History of the UK Charts – The Digital Age

Younger readers may not fully realise the pain that the global music industry went through at the turn of the millennium. The physical format – for singles, at least – died within a couple of years, and after some initial misguided action, legalising the now-ubiquitous download was essential. By 2004, physical sales were already outstripped by downloads, and so the chart needed to reflect this.

Downloads

An initial test download chart was finally compiled in July 2004, combining  legal sales of downloads from various online stores. This was first published as an official chart on 1st September 2004, with Westlife stealing the top spot with a rush-released live version of Flying Without Wings.

A few months later, on April 2005, downloads were incorporated into the main singles chart, although they had to also be available physically in order to make the charts. From March 2006, they were allowed to chart the week before their physical release, famously enabling Gnarls Barkley‘s Crazy to hit the top spot based on downloads alone. Similar rules caused the same track and also Nelly Furtado‘s Maneater to hang around the lower reaches of the chart for months, clocking up nearly a year on the charts between them.

Finally from January 2007, the physical requirement was removed altogether, enabling both tracks to re-enter the chart. Various unexpected reissues followed over the coming months, including live appearance, adverts, and online campaigns such as Rage Against the Machine‘s 2009 victory over TV series The X Factor, which saw Killing in the Name become Christmas number one, with more than half a million tracks sold.

Adding downloads to the album chart took a little longer, with the Official Album Downloads chart launching and downloads counting to the main chart simultaneously on 15th April 2006. For a few years, legal downloads ruled the roost on the official UK charts.

But this period was short-lived – UK download sales peaked in 2013 at 32 million, dropping to a fraction of that number within just a few years. In its place instead came something much simpler, and more lightweight, bringing with it significantly reduced revenues for artists.

Streaming

The Official Charts Company’s first experiments with charting streaming started with the Subscription Plays Chart, launched in September 2008, which was joined by the Streaming Chart – later replaced by the Audio Streaming Chart – in July 2014.

The same week in 2014 saw the introduction of streaming on the main singles chart, and things changed forever. A hugely successful artist could suddenly dominate the entire chart with the release of one album, as Ed Sheeran demonstrated in March 2017 when he claimed nine of the top ten singles (and sixteen of the top twenty) the week that his third album Divide was released. Rules were subsequently added to limit the number of tracks by a single artist to three.

Streams were added to the album chart in March 2015, with some slightly confusing rules to prevent albums from suddenly jumping up the charts based solely on the plays from one or two popular tracks. The impact of streaming on the album chart seems to have been less noticeable than the singles so far, which can perhaps be attributed to the additional rules.

Most recently, June 2018 saw a separation of paid streaming and free streaming, whereby subscribers of streaming services count as six times as many plays as free users. As part of this change, the UK charts also added plays from streaming video services such as YouTube, in recognition that many listeners are now getting their music from other places.

The Scottish Digital Age

Curiously, downloads were added much later to the Scottish charts, and at the time of writing, streaming still hasn’t made it on, so the Scottish charts are much more similar to the UK Sales charts than they are to the main UK charts. Downloads finally joined physical sales on the charts north of the border in October 2009, not long after The Stone Roses had managed a string of top three hits with reissued physical early singles.

For the UK as a whole, the Physical Singles and Physical Albums charts remain, with shockingly low sales figures. Lewis Capaldi hit the top spot on the singles in February this year with Grace, despite selling fewer than 200 copies. Two weeks later, Westlife got to number ten with just 19 copies sold. Some weeks, just 10 copies can get you a Top 40 placing. The Singles Sales and Albums Sales charts also continue, largely mirroring the Scottish charts.

Ultimately, whether or not you see the inclusion of streaming on the charts as a good thing is really up to you – it does enable you to see what the most popular songs are at any given time, but there does seem to be a schism between music buyers and music streamers, and you have to wonder whether the former might be more representative of music lovers than the latter?

Either way, the charts move slowly these days, and various draconian rules have been added to try to speed them up – which is ironic, given how quickly the charts have had to adapt to keep up in the last couple of decades.

Next time: in the final post in this series, we’ll sweep up all the remaining pieces, and speculate on what might happen next.

This post owes a lot to the following sources which weren’t directly credited above:

The BRIT Awards 2007

Earls Court in London was the venue for the 2007 BRIT Awards, with Russell Brand hosting the first live broadcast since the disastrous 1989 ceremony. Voiceovers came from Tom Baker.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 2006 ceremony here, and the 2008 ceremony next time.

MasterCard British Album

Presented by Sean Bean. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen – Alright, Still
  • Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
  • Muse – Black Holes and Revelations
  • Snow Patrol – Eyes Open
  • Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

Winner: Arctic Monkeys

Best British Single

Presented by Alan Carr. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen – Smile
  • Corinne Bailey Rae – Put Your Records On
  • The Feeling – Fill My Little World
  • The Kooks – She Moves in Her Own Way
  • Leona Lewis – A Moment Like This
  • James Morrison – You Give Me Something
  • Razorlight – America
  • Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
  • Take That – Patience
  • Sandi Thom – I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker
  • Will Young – All Time Love

Five nominees were decided by commercial radio hit40uk and The A List listeners, and the winner was then chosen by the radio and TV viewing audience live on the night. According to Wikipedia, Corinne Bailey RaeThe Kooks and Sandi Thom were eliminated in the first round, and Lily AllenLeona Lewis and James Morrison dropped out in the second, leaving the following nominees on the night:

  • The Feeling – Fill My Little World
  • Razorlight – America
  • Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
  • Take That – Patience
  • Will Young – All Time Love

Winner: Take That

Best British Male

Presented by Joss Stone. Nominees:

  • Jarvis Cocker
  • Lemar
  • James Morrison
  • Paolo Nutini
  • Thom Yorke

Winner: James Morrison

Best British Female

Presented by Jo Whiley. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen
  • Corinne Bailey Rae
  • Jamelia
  • Nerina Pallot
  • Amy Winehouse

Winner: Amy Winehouse

Best British Group

Presented by Anthony Head. Nominees:

  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Kasabian
  • Muse
  • Razorlight
  • Snow Patrol

Winner: Arctic Monkeys

Best British Breakthrough Act

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1, and presented by Jarvis Cocker. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen
  • Corinne Bailey Rae
  • The Fratellis
  • The Kooks
  • James Morrison

Winner: The Fratellis

Best British Live Act

The nominees were chosen by a panel of experts in association with The Live Music Forum, and the winner was chosen by BBC Radio 2 listeners. Presented by Keith Allen. Nominees:

  • Guillemots
  • Kasabian
  • George Michael
  • Muse
  • Robbie Williams

Winner: Muse

Best International Album

Presented by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Nominees:

  • Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
  • Bob Dylan – Modern Times
  • The Killers – Sam’s Town
  • Scissor Sisters – Ta-Dah
  • Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds

Winner: The Killers

Best International Male

Presented by Erin O’Connor and Roland Mouret. Nominees:

  • Beck
  • Bob Dylan
  • Jack Johnson
  • Damien Rice
  • Justin Timberlake

Winner: Justin Timberlake

Best International Female

Presented by Ricky Wilson. Nominees:

  • Christina Aguilera
  • Beyoncé
  • Nelly Furtado
  • Pink
  • Cat Power

Winner: Nelly Furtado

Best International Group

Presented by the obvious combination of Aerosmith‘s Steve Tyler and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Nominees:

  • Gnarls Barkley
  • The Flaming Lips
  • The Killers
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Scissor Sisters

Winner: The Killers

Best International Breakthrough Act

Voted for by MTV Spanking New Music viewers, and presented by Toni Collette. Nominees:

  • Gnarls Barkley
  • Ray Lamontagne
  • Orson
  • The Raconteurs
  • Wolfmother

Winner: Orson

Outstanding Contribution to Music

Presented by Russell Brand.

Winner: Oasis

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

Various Artists – Tomb Raider

Finally! A film soundtrack to review where I’ve actually seen the associated film. Not that I actually remember it in the slightest.

But the soundtrack begins with a special mix of Elevation by U2, who always leave me with slightly mixed feelings. So this manages to be at the same time both one of their less good tracks and one of their better ones – it’s a good pop song, but ultimately it just falls a bit flat.

Then industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails turn up with Deep, which is probably very fitting, and not entirely unpleasant, but ultimately it’s nothing particularly amazing. Third come The Chemical Brothers, always enjoyable but not always quite as interesting as their reputation might suggest, sounding very like themselves with Galaxy Bounce.

The first half of this CD isn’t unduly interesting – Missy Elliott and Nelly Furtado do their none-too-interesting collaborative version of Get UR Freak On, with a lot of talking, noodling, and general repetition; Outkast turn up for one of their less interesting moments with Speedballin’ and even Moby is far from being at his best with Ain’t Never Learned.

BT picks things up eventually at track seven with The Revolution, which, while it does sound a lot like BT, is at least a good track, and it gets better after that with an exclusive mix of the brilliant – and entirely apt for the Tomb Raider franchise – Terra Firma by Delerium.

If you never saw the slightly disturbing video for Basement Jaxx‘s Where’s Your Head At, then that’s perhaps no bad thing, because it seems to be indelibly marked in my mind now, but the song still sounds good even now, over a decade after its original release. Which is not so true of Fatboy Slim and Bootsie Collins‘s Illuminati, which is a worthy collaboration, but nothing special. The real theme of this album seems to be that artists haven’t had much opportunity to branch out from their typical sound, and this is a typical example.

Surprisingly, though, things really start to pick up towards the end of the album. Fluke‘s Absurd is a surprising and extremely worthwhile inclusion, as is Leftfield‘s fantastic Song of Life, from Leftism. Whoever compiled this collection was clearly keeping all the good stuff for the end.

Groove Armada‘s beautifully chilled out Edge Hill provides further evidence of this, and then I’d never heard Satellite by Bosco before listening to this compilation, but it turned out to be a great track. After that, even Oxide & Neutrino don’t sound too bad – and in fairness to them (I’m not sure why they deserve it), Devil’s Nightmare is probably their least bad moment.

Film soundtracks are, as it turns out, strange beasts, with selected tracks from all over the place which are only really justified in sitting side-by-side because of one particular film. And this soundtrack, while it started off pretty patchy, got extremely good towards the end, so is definitely worth finding the time for.

You can find Tomb Raider – Music from the Motion Picture at all major stores, such as here.

The BRIT Awards 2002

In 2002, Frank Skinner and Zoë Ball presented the BRITs at Earls Court in London. The awards took place on 20th February.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 2001 ceremony here, and the 2003 ceremony here.

Best British Album

Presented by Sol Campbell. Nominees:

  • Craig David – Born to Do it
  • Dido – No Angel
  • Gorillaz – Gorillaz
  • Radiohead – Kid A
  • Travis – The Invisible Band

Winner: Dido

Best British Dance Act

Presented by the stars of Smack the Pony. Nominees:

  • Basement Jaxx
  • Craig David
  • Faithless
  • Fatboy Slim
  • Gorillaz

Winner: Basement Jaxx

Best British Female

Presented by Johnny Vegas. Nominees:

  • Dido
  • Sophie Ellis Bextor
  • Geri Halliwell
  • PJ Harvey
  • Sade

Winner: Dido

Best British Group

Presented by Heidi Klum. Nominees:

  • Gorillaz
  • Jamiroquai
  • Radiohead
  • Stereophonics
  • Travis

Winner: Travis

Best British Male

Presented by Susie Amy. Nominees:

  • Aphex Twin
  • Ian Brown
  • Craig David
  • Elton John
  • Robbie Williams

Winner: Robbie Williams

Best British Newcomer

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1. The initial announcement included Dido, but she seems to have been replaced by Tom McRae for some reason. Probably just a mistake on somebody’s part. Presented by Trevor Nelson. Nominees:

  • Atomic Kitten
  • Blue
  • Elbow
  • Gorillaz
  • Tom McRae
  • Mis-Teeq
  • So Solid Crew
  • Starsailor
  • Turin Brakes
  • Zero 7

Winner: Blue

Best British Single

Voted for by listeners of independent radio. Presented by Simon Cowell. Nominees:

  • Atomic Kitten – Whole Again
  • Daniel Bedingfield – Gotta Get Thru This
  • Bob the Builder – Mambo No. 5
  • Dido – Thank You
  • Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
  • Geri Halliwell – It’s Raining Men
  • Hear’Say – Pure and Simple
  • DJ Pied Piper – Do You Really Like It
  • S Club 7 – Don’t Stop Movin’
  • So Solid Crew – 21 Seconds
  • Robbie Williams – Eternity / The Road to Mandalay

Winner: S Club 7

Best British Video

Presented by Michael Madsen. Nominees:

  • Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At?
  • Coldplay – Trouble
  • Dido – Thank You
  • Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice
  • Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
  • Elton John – I Want Love
  • So Solid Crew – 21 Seconds
  • Travis – Sing
  • Robbie Williams – Supreme
  • Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue – Kids

Winner: So Solid Crew

Best International Album

Presented by Eddie Irvine. Nominees:

  • Daft Punk – Discovery
  • Destiny’s Child – Survivor
  • Alicia Keys – Songs in A Minor
  • Kylie Minogue – Fever
  • The Strokes – Is This It

Winner: Kylie Minogue

Best International Female

Presented by Russell Crowe. Nominees:

  • Anastacia
  • Björk
  • Nelly Furtado
  • Alicia Keys
  • Kylie Minogue

Winner: Kylie Minogue

Best International Group

Presented by Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet. Nominees:

  • Daft Punk
  • Destiny’s Child
  • Limp Bizkit
  • R.E.M.
  • The Strokes

Winner: Destiny’s Child

Best International Male

Presented by Daryl Hannah. Nominees:

  • Ryan Adams
  • Dr. Dre
  • Bob Dylan
  • Wyclef Jean
  • Shaggy

Winner: Shaggy

Best International Newcomer

Presented by Samantha Mumba. Nominees:

  • Anastacia
  • The Avalanches
  • Nelly Furtado
  • Linkin Park
  • The Strokes

Winner: The Strokes

Best Pop Act

Voted for by readers of The Sun. Presented by Sophie Ellis Bextor. Nominees:

  • Blue
  • Hear’Say
  • Kylie Minogue
  • S Club 7
  • Westlife

Winner: Westlife

Outstanding Contribution

Presented by Kylie Minogue.

Winner: Sting

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing