Thursday, April 18, 2002

CHART BEAT: It's been coming for quite a while, but the BPI's attempts to stop people getting hold of the midweek charts seem to finally be biting - as anyone who gets the Popbitch mailout will have seen today. We often lambast the British Record Industry for being stupid, and guess what? We're going to do it again. Back when I was a nipper, Top 40 day was some sort of music highlight, as Tuesdays meant transistors were smuggled into school, and we'd gather round waiting for DLT or Gary Davies (this explains why we didn't take radios in the rest of the week, of course) to announce the only chart that counted. The New. Top Forty. On Radio One. There was a feeling that you were hearing a genuine announcement - the fact it was the middle of the day, and the middle of the week gave the chart a sense of revelation. Straight from the British Market Research Bureau, tabulated and typed, then teletyped over to the Hairy Cornflake. Straight into our ears.
But since the chart started to be done on Sundays, that sense has dissipated. No matter what Goodier may try and convince you, you just know that nobody is sitting in Sony Towers tuned to One FM at seven on a weekend, hoping to hear if they'd have a job in the morning. The Boo Radleys revealed the truth of this that time they had a hit and expressly asked not to be told the position before it got announced on Radio One, so it wouldn't spoil the recreation of a moment of childhood magic.
And as the world sped up, and computers started to monitor everything second-by-second, the weekly chart started to look a bit old-fashioned, stuck in an era of swingometers and Shoot League Ladders. The midweek chart leaks, and then deluges, fought against this - suddenly, you were getting half-time reports. Instead of being "wait seven days and see", the charts became exciting again, as by Wednesday you got a forecast of what was happening. Sometimes it would show the battle over (Will Young and his lips outselling everything 79 to one), sometimes it foreshadowed a real battle. It worked like a mid-campaign opinion poll, or the show of betting while the horses are still in the paddock. Although it didn't really mean you'd be able to influence anything, it turned the chart again from being a dry list of sales figures into a proper league, a battle, something fun.
The BPI wonders why record sales fall. Then it conspires to make the charts dull again. And it doesn't see the link.
Really, the BPI should be starting to issue a daily update - not full charts, but perhaps the top ten risers day-on-day. Make the charts fun. Make the charts interesting. Make being number one mean something in a meaningless sort of way. Is that too much to hope for?

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