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Will the UK singles charts no longer represent our favourite music?


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The UK single charts are changing: music videos are being included in the stream count, and premium users of streaming services will have more of an impact on it than free users. But will these changes make the charts more accurate in their representation of the UK's favourite singles?

The Charts Company have considered including the views from music videos in their chart count for the past four years, but there were a few data concerns that needed to be clarified before it would be possible (such as how long a user needed to watch a video for it to count as a 'play'). However, now that these concerns have been corrected, this appears to be the next logical step, especially since YouTube was the largest source of music streaming in 2017, with them being responsible for 40% of music streams, followed by 33% from paid audio streaming. 

While this does appear to be the natural progression in the music chart's history, there is a possibility that it is going to become a distraction from the main focus of the charts: the music. 

YouTube is a hub of viral videos, and there is a possibility that directors may exploit this for the benefit of gaining more streams. We only have to cast our minds back to 2013, when Miley Cyrus's music video for 'Wrecking Ball' went viral, and defined her career due to it being so controversial. The video currently has over 951 million views on YouTube, but people were drawn to it as a result of its provocative nature, rather than the actual song. This is evidenced further in the fact that the single has significantly less streams on Spotify, at just under 334 million. 

Producers may use this to their advantage, exploiting controversial content to create viral videos, and thus the inclusion of them within the charts will make it an inaccurate representation of the popularity of the song itself. 

In a similar way, representation of a single's popularity will also be inaccurate as the Charts Company has altered how many streams count as a sale. Up until now, both premium and free users of streaming services had an equal impact on the UK charts, as 150 streams of a song would count as one sale. Now premium user streams and free user streams have been separated, with premium users only needing to stream a song 100 times for it to count as a sale, whereas free users would have to stream a song 600 times. 

While countries such as Italy, Spain and France exclude free streams from the charts completely, and Martin Talbot, the chief executive of the charts, said that this would be a step "too far", as it would exclude young and low-income fans, the division between premium and free users suggests that those who are able to pay are more valuable fans. This not only makes the charts less representative of the whole country, but is also Victorian in its favoring of wealthy consumers, as at the end of the nineteenth century an upper class man's vote would count for more than that of a working class man. 

These changes will be harmful to the future of the singles chart, becoming unrepresentative of the popularity of a single and dividing the country at the same time. The focus has, once again, shifted towards making a profit, rather than being an opportunity to highlight the best new singles of the week.

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