Now Watch This Space
Well, I'll say one thing about Drake singles. They may lodge themselves at the top of the singles market for weeks on end in a manner which is at times depressingly predictable, but they do also lend themselves to some quite fascinating case studies.
Earlier this year we had the chance to answer the question as to whether the arrival of a video clip online cannibalised streams, a particularly pertinent question back then, given that plays on YouTube did not count for the charts. The answer that time, it turned out, was "no" as the delayed release of the God's Plan video had no discernible negative effect on the streaming plays of the single and indeed only consolidated its place at the top of the Official UK Singles chart.
Fast forward five months or so and we get to play this game again, only this time we get to learn just how much of a "bump" a newly-minted video will give an already-established hit single. Last Friday the full clip for In My Feelings was placed online, meaning for the first time since it charted online video plays can contribute to the chart tally of the track.
But this is where it gets interesting. The chart sale of In My Feelings is indeed up - but only very slightly. The track posts just over 83,000 chart sales to remain at Number One this week - but that's actually only 500 more than the total seven days ago. Of those 83K, 70,400 were derived from streams, but that's literally only 200 more than a week ago - the remaining 300 extra chart sales accounted for by a slight uplift in purchases. Now that in itself is utterly absorbing, as on first glance the arrival of the video had absolutely no effect on the overall consumption of the single - contrary even to the expectations of the Official Charts Company who at the start of the week were predicting a large jump in Drake's numbers.
Our only clue as to just how many of those streaming sales were likely to have come from newly available YouTube plays comes in working out the conversion ratio. Unhelpfully the Official Charts Company last week didn't reveal even a vague headline number of plays, but a fortnight ago In My Feelings enjoyed 9.1m online plays with a sales:streams ratio of 144:1. This week we do have numbers, that 70,400 was arrived at from a grand total of 10.6m streams - giving us a conversion ratio of a little over 150:1, easily the highest of the track's four weeks at Number One.
What do we infer from this? That in contrast to God's Plan inthe spring, the arrival of the video clip did indeed cannibalise many of its audio streams, with more of its chart sale coming from "freemium" plays via YouTube than paid ones via Spotify or Amazon. It is just that for every one fewer paid for stream the single clocked up, it replaced them with two freebie ones, resulting in a more or less static overall chart sale. Whoever said statistics were boring? Those are still some astonishing numbers by the way, although we are now clearly in an era when a single posting 10 million streams in a week is barely worthy of comment. That's still some way short of the all-time record of 13.7 million set by Ed Sheeran with Shape Of You back in January 2017, but it no longer looks unassailable thanks to the newly expanded streaming universe.
None of the above deflects from the fact the top end of the singles chart remains wearingly familiar. As mentioned, this is now four weeks at the top of the charts for In My Feelings, this now the 30th week Drake has spent at the top of the charts since the start of the decade. That draws him level with fellow Canadian Justin Bieber. The two men have topped the charts on more weekly occasions than any other act since 2010.
Writing In The Hot Sun
Meanwhile, George Ezra just won't go away. Over a month removed from its own run at the top of the charts, Shotgun this week spends a fifth consecutive week at Number 2. Although slightly less headline-making this has indeed been as much the story of 2018 so far as the Number One singles we’ve had - tracks spending previously unheard-of lengths of time trapped in the runners-up slot. Each of these "unlucky" singles did at least enjoy a moment or two at the top, and funnily enough, Drake has been involved in this each time. We've had the non-consecutive weeks his own Nice For What spent at Number 2 after topping the charts in its own right, and before that the weeks when God's Plan condemned Rudimental's These Days to a seven-week wait in second place before it too finally had a chance at the top. The clock is ticking on the George Ezra track though, this is now its second straight week of sales decline. One more and ACR kicks in, ending its high level chart run for good.
Celebrity By Association
Another consistent theme of 2018 is the way a brand new album release from a more urban-focused act strains the "Ed Sheeran rule" (restricting acts to no more than three simultaneous hit singles) to the limits. The occasion this week was the release of Astroworld from Kylie Jenner's other half Travis Scott, an album which almost needless to say commanded a great deal of attention online and in the streaming market. All 14 of the album's tracks theoretically posted enough chart sales to register on the Top 100, but naturally, all but three are "starred out" and ineligible. The most successful of the three (all of which are Top 40 hits) is Sicko Mode which lands at Number 9 as the highest new entry of the week, the appeal of this particular track doubtless coming thanks to the presence of Drake on uncredited co-vocals. All three singles are far and away the biggest hits enjoyed to date by Travis Scott as a lead artist, although he's made the Top 20 once before thanks to his presence alongside Camilla Cabello and Quavo on the Major Lazer track Know No Better which reached Number 15 almost exactly a year ago.
So Very Near
The glass ceiling of Top 10 status is shattered in pleasing style by Body from Loud Luxury which rockets 19-8, but despite a one place rise to a brand new chart peak, a Top 10 single is once more denied to Juice WRLD's Lucid Dreams which now rests close but not close enough at Number 11. Of its 11 chart weeks so far, seven of them have been spent inside the Top 20. We wait to see which fate will befall Benny Blanco's Eastside which is also enjoying some chart momentum, climbing 23-12 after four weeks around.
The two singles which exit the Top 10 are Ariana Grande's God Is A Woman, which is only four weeks old and whose declining appeal appears to be rather on the grounds of "meh", and Years and Years' If You're Over Me whose 7-28 collapse is as you might expect as a result of a move onto ACR. My bold predictions last week of an exciting chart shakeup featuring some interesting new singles came to nothing. Next time I try to foresee the future, please advise me in advance of the error of my ways.
Over on the Official UK Albums chart, there's no change at the top once more as Mamma Mia - Here We Go Again holds firm at Number One. Naturally, that's at the expense of The Greatest Showman which also holds firm at Number 2. Aside from the aforementioned Travis Scott at Number 3, the most fascinating new arrival is the Number 6 entry of Living In Extraordinary Times from Mancunian legends James. It is the group's sixteenth studio album and the sixth since they reunited in 2007 after a brief split. Their recording career now dates back over three decades, their debut release Stutter having first hit the shops in 1986. James are just one of a number of "veteran" acts who now sustain recording careers way in excess of anything they themselves could have imagined when they first formed. It used to once be the case that groups had a five-year career, worth three or four albums, and then split. Acts such as the Rolling Stones who could number their time together in decades were the exception, the freaks of nature, and afforded legendary status as a result. Now, as long as you remain friends, it is possible to remain viable as a recording act long after your mainstream commercial appeal has faded to nothingness. Music is cheaper to make and distribute than ever, and as long as you maintain a fanbase large enough to ensure each release is profitable the only limit to your recording career is your own creative juices. As James neatly demonstrate this week,
Stat-watch for the week has to include Music Week reporting that total single sales are a full 18% up year-on-year, that mostly due to the addition of video streams into the mix. Meanwhile, the paid-for market continues to hit a modern-day low, with just 905,000 single tracks purchased last week. The last time they dipped below 900,000 was October 2005.