One of my favourite cultural reference points is about to undergo its most significant adjustment of the past few decades. I have always been sceptical about changes in the way we consume music but I have to admit that I welcome the mini revolution that’s coming to the UK singles chart.
First, let me give you some background: I have followed the British singles charts every week since I was a child in Brazil. In my teens I developed a routine whereby every Sunday I would get my notebook and write down the new releases of the week, how many weeks a single had been at number one, how many copies it had sold and much more besides.
It was a hobby and a particular fascination with the British charts. The US didn’t hold the same appeal, maybe because I have a penchant for cheesy pop instead of a love of country or R’n’B. Mind you, we are talking late Nineties/early Noughties here; since then, the US has fallen in love with dance and electronica.
I’m not boasting but I would be the perfect partner for a pop quiz. There’s a good chance I will know which song was number one in the week you were born; mine was Doctor and the Medics with “Spirit in the Sky”. Damn – a month later and it would have been the classic “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna.
So, you may ask, how are the charts going to change? Well, now it seems buying a track will not be enough to make it number one because the Official Charts Company intends to include streaming from services such as Spotify and YouTube in its calculations. It has still not set a date for the change but it is in the pipeline.
The US Billboard charts innovated when they did the same thing back in 2007. The change improved the charts and made sure that viral songs such as “Harlem Shake” have their place in the countdown. It’s a move to make the charts more relevant, as was the case when downloads were included in the charts a few years ago.
Of course, I do have my rampant moments of melancholy when I think about the times when you could buy a physical copy of a single. It was a feast for my eyes. But even music charts have to change I guess so, to make sure they remain relevant, I welcome the changes. And don’t forget: I’m still your guy for a pop-quiz night.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24.