Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Top 10's Back on Trend; the Charts Are Worth Following Again -- and It's All Thanks to the Download Revolution

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Top 10's Back on Trend; the Charts Are Worth Following Again -- and It's All Thanks to the Download Revolution

Article excerpt

Byline: OFF THE RECORD DAVID SMYTH www.standard.co.uk/davidsmyth

LADY Gaga is at number one with neither a bullet or a bang. The mini-Madonna's single, Poker Face, has quietly crept to the top spot over a period of 10 weeks -- at least as quietly as an attractive woman in a microscopic leotard can creep. Her lengthy journey is definitive proof that the singles chart is interesting again. We have the rise of the download to thank.

Those old Sunday afternoons of crouching by the radio with a blank cassette, trying to tape the new top 40 and willing your favourite band to sneak a little higher may be behind us -- you have to endure presenter Fearne Cotton's prattle if you want to listen to Radio 1's chart rundown today..

Nevertheless, some of that old magic is definitely back again. The chart has a narrative once more, and it feels like we're the ones controlling the plot.

It's all due to a rule created two years ago by the Official UK Charts Company, making downloads eligible for the chart without the need for a concurrent physical release. That, combined with the demise of high-street retailers such as Woolworths and Zavvi, means that 95 per cent of single sales are now through downloads -- and they have rapidly increased in number. Nowadays, anything goes. The releases that used to have prominent shelf space in Woolies can no longer dominate, and sneaky tricks such as putting out two CDs with different Bsides to ensure extra sales (some say that's how Blur beat Oasis in the brutal Britpop single battle of 1995) won't help.

Last year there were 20 different number one singles, compared with 42 in 2000, when singles would be heavily discounted in the first week of release to secure a high chart placing, only to fall drastically in the following week.

Now that such marketing ploys are irrelevant a good song can linger, wandering up and down the charts for months in some cases -- Kings of Leon, Katy Perry, James Morrison and Jason Mraz all currently have tracks that have been in the top 40 for more than 20 weeks. …

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