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Why Today's Music Charts Do Not Reflect True Popularity

by Paul Cashmere, Noise11

Drake is being applauded around the world for having one of the longest running number one hits in history. In the UK NME has the complete bullshit headline ‘Drake breaks The Beatles’ UK chart record’.

As with the UK, in Australia we have announced Drake ‘God’s Plan’ is up there with Abba for its 11 week run at number one.

The truth is it is all smoke and mirrors. Drake is hardly the new Beatles or Abba. I challenge anyone to walk into an office or room of a dozen people or more and ask how many people have even heard of the song. The result will astound you. Then ask the same of ‘Mamma Mia’.

As reported in yesterday, Drake’s actually sales in Australia from last week place him at number 14, not number one. ‘God’s Plan’ has never been number one in sales.

The week before, Drake’s ‘God’s Plan’ was actually number 11 in real sales. It was also at 11 the week before that, number 11 the week before that, number 7 the week before that, number 4 the week before that, number 5 the week before that, number 8 the week before that, number 17 the week before that, number 19 the week before that, number 12 the week before that and number 10 the week before that.

What has changed is the chart methodology. Pre-March 2017 a sale was a sale and a sale equalled a point. There was an adjustment (called weighting for missing data) but that was the only criteria. Today a sale is a sale even if around 150 people listen to a song via an accredited streaming service, regardless of even liking it or actually hearing it. As long as it plays in the playlist it counts.

For example, if I select a Spotify playlist and fire it off as background music (and 150 others have done the same around the country) every song played in that playlist will be considered a sale. The listener may have no recall to what they heard.

Now for Abba or The Beatles or Elvis to have been considered a sale in their day, the person hearing the song would have to (before downloads) physically leave their home, go to a shop (so not even 24/7), purchase the disc (and keep in mind they only have access to what is in stock, not the complete recorded universe like today) before it would qualify as one sale.

In the Spotify scenario it is a passive reaction. You cannot even guarantee the song registered with the listener. In the shop scenario, it is an active reaction. The listener has made a deliberate choice to want to own what they have heard because the song has connected with them.

Looking at the 150 to 1 ratio, what we now have is a comparison between 11 weeks of unconscious reaction to 11 week of conscious reaction.

However, it gets even murkier than that.

Studies show that for a listener to have a conscious reaction to a song, they would have to hear it roughly six times. To buy a song, you generally already know the song and to know the song you have generally heard it six times before buying. That dilutes the 150 to 1 comparison down even further.

This is why #DrakeNews is #FakeNews. ‘God’s Plan’ is struggling to be Top 10 at best but Mamma Mia, its no Abba.