Jim Auton: Professional Cynic #5 - waving the country's white flag

Jim Auton: Professional Cynic #6 – It’s not funny, that we only stream anymore!!

So, it’s a given that streaming is fucking the everyday band and artist over, right?!? The majors have Spotify by the goolies and only the Ed’s, Billie’s and Drake’s of this world are successful, right?!?

Well, apparently not. According to a bloke from One Republic (thought that was a shop) who writes songs for, amongst others, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, lots of old crusties are muscling in on the stream shares and the tap of gold coins that runs into his money pit is now only a trickle.

Boo hoo Mr Tedder, it’s such a hard life. In this article with the BBC, he says that it isn’t fair as only 4 albums that were released in 2021 are in the best selling charts for the first half of the year. Fair point. He also says that 62,000 songs are released every day on to Spotify so it’s hard to be heard. Here I have less sympathy. He is part of that problem, more so than most as he may well have had a hand in more than a handful of them, including his own band’s songs.

He also complains that not only are those tens of thousands of songs competing against each other but also against every song ever created that appears on an album available on one of the streaming services.

Here, he has a point.

It’s hard to argue in this current musical age against streaming being included in the calculation of the charts, but what should be contested is which songs are eligible to be counted.

I find it difficult to understand why an album track can be included in the singles chart. Just because it is in itself a song that can be listened to, streamed and downloaded, doesn’t mean it can be counted as single. This renders the UK Top 40 Singles chart obsolete, because it is not a chart for singles. There has not been a single release and despite the physical entity no longer existing, singles do.

It seems fairly obvious that a situation that allows a whole albums worth of tracks to be included in the chart isn’t serving its actual purpose. There is a chart that takes into account the plays of songs from an album. It’s called the UK Top 40 Album chart. Back in 2017, the Official Singles Chart rules were amended so only 3 tracks from an artists album could be eligible for the Top 100 chart and weighting was changed so older releases didn’t take precedent over new releases. Yet this only accounted for a maximum 10% increase in new music hitting the charts.

“But who cares about the chart” I hear you cry. Yes true, fair enough. But you wonder if in fact anyone besides the record companies care and even then, it’s only about how that equates to the spondoolicks.

Yet, when it comes to album charts, artists and bands are starting to care. Over the past terribly fun year and a half, believe it or not, the number of physical albums bought has actually gone up to the point where in some cases they make up more of the wedge of the total album sales that resulted. Bands such as Dry Cleaning, Maximo Park, Sports Team and most recently Manic Street Preachers have seen their albums suddenly starting to bother the Top 5 and even get No.1 again. In the Manics case, this is their first Number One album in 23 years. So something must be changing.

The Broken Record campaign, lead by Tom Gray of Gomez fame, has highlighted the inequality of the streaming model and how little artists are being recompensed for their music by streaming platforms. It also showed how the major labels create a disparity when it comes to the charts, due to production of physical formats, marketing, promotion at radio and playlists, but hopefully, the green shoots of recovery are showing with the like of The Anchoress‘ very much DIY approach, out of necessity, breaching the Top 40.

Last year, physical formats of LPs, be it CD, Cassette or Vinyl, accounted for 50% of the album sales for No. 1 albums in 28 weeks of 2020, meaning bands and artists would not be getting higher chart placing without the fans buying a copy of the album from a record shop. Or more likely, Amazon. But still, beggars can’t be choosers. Unfortunately, it would be much nicer if the majority weren’t lining Jeff Bezos’ pockets, but you’ve got to pick your battles.

Now, this could mean that the album is fighting back. Alternatively, it means that the naysayers are right and the LP is beginning its slow painful death because people aren’t streaming albums, it’s all about the playlist.

Well, there’s one way to slow that journey, and that’s to actually get off your arses and, go to a record shop and buy a copy. That way everyone is winning, the artist, the shop owner and you because you’ve left the house, you’ve (maybe) got some exercise, you’ve bought a lovely physical, tangible item and you’ve helped to keep record shops open, it’ll give you an enormous sense of wellbeing.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.