The UK singles chart is sluggish and dull. Is this the solution?

Last week (Friday, Sept 2), there were no new entries on the Official UK Singles Chart Top 40.

None. Zero.

The highest new entry in the Top 100 was Dua Lipa’s Blow Your Mind (Mwah) at No.50.

The Top 14 tracks on the chart were the same as the week before (although the order changed very slightly – most notably with The Chainsmokers Ft Halsey hitting No.1).

This week (Sept 9) , the Top 7 tracks are exactly the same as the previous week’s chart.

The highest new entry in the current UK Top 100 is Zara Larsson at No.30 with Ain’t My Fault.

These facts are symptomatic of a very slow-moving period in the UK’s Official Singles Chart.

Just eight songs have hit No.1 in the 36 weeks since the turn of 2016.

In 2015, there had been 17 by the same point.

In 2014, there had been 28.

As a result, Britain’s flagship chart is looking duller than it has at any point in recent memory.

So is there a solution?

Much of the blame for this lack of activity has been pointed at the formula used by the Official Charts Company, where 100 streams = one single ‘sale’.

Because streaming now counts for 80%+ of the UK singles market, it naturally rewards tracks being listened to repeatedly, rather than those being bought/discovered for the first time.

That means Top 40 tracks are hanging around. And around. And around.

Some say this means the chart is doing exactly what it’s meant to: reflecting the songs proving most popular amongst the public.

But others, especially those within certain major labels, say something has to change – and are calling on the Official Charts Company to take action.

One straightforward suggestion is to reduce a track’s streaming ‘sales’ value over time.

However, this solution lacks nuance: it risks punishing ‘sleeper hits’, for one thing, as well as songs which gain late popularity through sync exposure.

MBW understands another option is currently being tabled amongst the Official Charts Company and its partners – one which seeks to borrow from the past to help fix the present.

Back in the mid-’90s, a little-known rule was held for the Top 200 Combined Singles Chart.

Any track which sat outside the Top 75 became instantly excluded from the chart if its sales had declined for two consecutive weeks (and by more than 20% in the second half of this fortnight).

Once excluded from the chart, such tracks could only regain entry if sales started increasing again.

The result was to ensure that tracks with a ‘long tail’ didn’t clog up the lower reaches of the chart.

Some in the industry are now suggesting that a similar formula could be deployed today – but further up the pecking order.

That could mean excluding tracks with declining sales outside of the Top 10, Top 20, or Top 30… freeing up space for those tracks whose popularity is in the ascent.

It wouldn’t do much to prevent the slowdown recently seen at the top of the charts, but would at least ensure that new tracks had a better chance of gaining exposure in the second half of the Top 40… and liven up each week’s countdown.

Spotify’s Kevin Brown, also Chairman of the OCC, defended streaming’s influence on the charts in an MBW interview earlier in the summer, saying the key to a more eclectic list is better long-term A&R.

He added: “With my Official Charts hat on, right now we’re in a transition period, and it would be very dangerous to jump to quick conclusions because the market is moving rapidly.

“We need to be extremely careful to ensure we respect the chart and don’t make any kneejerk decisions which might compromise its integrity, legacy and heritage.Music Business Worldwide

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