So who were the Winners and Losers from the first Chart To Include Streaming?

Clue: Ed Sheeran's done well.

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09 July 2014, 10:51am

So after months of talking about it, and some concerns raised, the Official Charts Company finally incorporated streaming into the UK Top 40. If you play a track on Spotify (or Deezer or some other services no one has ever heard of) it will now count towards its chart position. As we’ve talked about before, charts might seem like some archaic nerd thing that now have as much relevance to popular music as plays on Myspace or sales from the Britannia Music Club. But the reality is that labels, artists, radio and festivals still give a shit about chart positions. Getting a good one can change your career.

In this new regime, a track will have to be streamed 100 times for it to count towards the chart as much as one paid-for download. You might therefore assume that streaming wouldn’t make that big a difference and to be honest, in most cases, it didn’t. Ariana Grande was still number one, as she would have been if streaming had nothing to do with it. Ella Henderson and George Ezra filled up the rest of the top three, also unaffected by the new data. But there were some big winners and losers further down the chart. We’ve been crunching the numbers and talking to labels and here seems to be the deal:

THE LOSERS

The toughest break comes for DJ Fresh, a slightly scummy D&B DJ who was transformed into a mainstage headliner when he worked out how to make radio friendly hits. Previous tracks “Hot Right Now”, “Gold Dust” and “Louder” all enjoyed massive success. He should have gone in at number 7 this week too, but ended up at number 10 because his track had been streamed way less than more traditional popstars like Sam Smith.

I’m weirdly obsessed with Becky Hill. People keeping telling me that she’s this down to earth girl who loves house music but I can’t get over the fact she was on The Voice, released a Paolo Nutini cover and looks so normcore you could lose her in a branch of M&S because camouflage. Anyway, “Gecko” is easily the best song in the top 10 right now and has already been number 1. It would have been number 4 this week, but ended up at number 5 because of the boost given to Ed Sheeran from streaming.

On downloads alone Gorgon City would have just managed to stay in the top 20. As it goes, they dropped a bunch of places down to 26. SORRY LADS.

Usher would have been six places higher with “Good Kisser” if the chart was based on downloads alone, but lost out because it wasn’t streamed that much. Guess people wanted to buy it so they could put it on their fucking playlists.

US Hip-Hop

As you go further down the chart you see some huge drops for US hip-hop. Nicki Minaj dropped 12 places, Eminem and Busta Rhymes dropped 22 places, and Trey Songz dropped 27 places because of the inclusion of streaming data. For a genre that has always struggled in the British charts, it seems streaming is going to further exclude (proper) hip-hop and R&B from the mainstream.

THE WINNERS

The biggest winner is Ed Sheeran, who not only jumped a chart position from 5 to 4 with his single “Sing” but also found that just about every other track on his album had jumped up the chart because of how often they’d been streamed. This raises some pretty interesting questions - if you’re listening to a record in its entirety, should those streams really count towards the singles chart. Surely that’s much closer to the equivalent of buying one album than of buying 12 singles? Or maybe, if you agree with Radio 1’s George Ergatoudis, that shit is all irrelevant anyway because no one’s listening to whole album anyway (the vast majority of streams for the album centred around three tracks).

Nico & Vinz sold less than 10 copies of their latest single Am I Wrong. But because the track had been streamed so much, it made it into the Top 100. This is probably the most "historic" part of the whole shebang, or thought it's slightly tainted because the song is such pants.

Other artists that did better because of streaming: Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea, Jason Derulo, Tiesto, Calvin Harris

SO WHAT’S THE POINT?

You might be bummed that artists you like - particularly US hip-hop - are losing out on chart positions because big records by massive stars like Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran are staying in the charts for longer. But isn't that a fairer and more honest reflection of what people are actually listening to?

Well, yes it is. But the charts have never been a reflection of the music people are listening to. Before the change, if you downloaded an Ed Sheeran track and listened to it 100 times, or 500 times, or 5000 times, it didn't matter. It would still only count as one sale. Now, the more you listen to a track on Spotify - the better it's chart position.

But if we wanted a measure of the music people were listening to we should include everything: radio plays, Youtube, Soundcloud, even data from what CD you're listening to. Think of it this way: if you re-read a book, or even lent it to a friend, you wouldn't expect it to jump up the bestsellers list - even though it had been read more times.

But now if someone downloads a track, but then ends up listening to it 50 times on Spotify because it's on one of their playlists - that counts as 1.5x sales, even though they're just one person.

Now you could say that the 1 to a 100 ratio of download to streams compensates for this, but that disparity is already supposed to be compensating for the far greater financial and cultural value of a download over a stream. And even with that disparity, streaming will still end up making some big differences.

Maybe, one day in the future there will be no difference between purchasing and listening. You'll just be able to scan a barcode on your head and hear an iTunes exclusive Sam Smith live track that in fact only exists within the fragments of your own imagination. But in the meantime, buying and listening are two different things, and the current chart is an ugly hodge-podge of the two.

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