Feature: What is happening to our charts?

What’s happening to our charts?

With Ed Sheeran once again battling for the number one spot, Lepus takes a look at the driving forces responsible for artist monopolies in the UK charts. Ed Sheeran’s // Shape Of You // managed a 14 week run in the singles chart. After such a storming run the track was finally knocked off the number one spot by Harry Style’s debut single // Sign Of The Times //. However, the streaming and sales numbers this week suggest the number one place may well return to Ed.

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The dominance of large artists in the charts is creating a monopoly that is making it increasingly difficult for new artists to break through. One of the causes for such chart monoculture is playlisting and repeated listens on streaming services. Currently 150 streams equates to one ‘unit’ or ‘sale’ of a record. Therefore, when your friend is sat listening to their Spotify playlist on repeat, each repeated stream is totting up the number of ‘sales’ for that particular track. Consequently, when a global phenomena such as Ed drops a new album in the beginning of the year the colossal number of repeated streams that each single will gain makes it extremely hard for an emerging artist to compete. To give you a rough idea, Shape Of You currently has 762,936,947 streams on Spotify. If we compare this figure to those of Jorja Smith (a current emerging artist trying to break), her latest release Beautiful Little Fools has had 1,125,511 streams on Spotify to date. With streaming figures having such a profound impact on the UK charts it is hard to see how the current monopolies will be stopped. Such a systemic problem questions the role of the charts in the UK and their continued relevance to the everyday music consumer.