We Can't Rewind We've Gone Too Far
Does it make a difference if your single has a video? This week we had the chance to find out.
The compilation of the Official UK Singles chart remains rather opaque to those who don't necessarily follow it week in week out. So it is worth noting every now and again that whilst audio streams count for compilation, video streams (YouTube, Vimeo etc) do not. The official view is that watching a track is a different engagement to listening to one and there, for now, the matter rests.
That does mean there is a received wisdom that a video watched is a stream lost, the most popular visuals therefore underrepresented on the main chart of musical popularity. But that's actually just a hunch. There's no real proof that this is the case. Rockstar by Post Malone was deliberately withheld from YouTube in its full form, not even as an "official audio" track. It duly enjoyed market-dominating numbers of streams and had a respectable run at Number One last year. But then again New Rules by Dua Lipa had one of the most compelling and deservedly viral videos of last year, gifted with endless tributes and even artfully made parodies. Yet it too was streamed on services such as Spotify in its millions. Even weeks after the chart rules had downgraded it, New Rules was consistently amongst the five most played tracks of the week. YouTube or no YouTube.
Why is this relevant to note here? Because rap star Drake this week gave us the chance to make a side by side comparison. His single God's Plan has spent four weeks at Number One thus far with streaming numbers way exceeding anything else in the market at the moment. All because, so the theory goes, the track had no video at that point. Yet last Friday it finally did, a thought-provoking, repeatable and above all effortlessly viral promotional clip.
So if a video cannibalises your streams, then he should have registered less chart-visible plays than before, right?
Wrong. This week God's Plan notched up its highest streaming figures to date, with total eligible plays exceeding seven million for the first time (worth 51,000 chart sales) and with a 15% jump on last week's total. It seems almost unnecessary to note that this means the single spends a fifth week at Number One and for the reasons discussed last week in a manner which means it is effectively stranded at the top. Marooned at the summit of the charts until we either grow bored of it or something equally repeatable comes along to replace it.
For the second week running even the raw daily Spotify numbers tell their own story. This was how the live table looked on Thursday 22nd February:
My usual eloquence eludes me at this point. That's quite simply just f***ing stupid. But what we can take away is that the Official Charts Company are correct, watching a video is a very different means of consumption compared to an audio stream. And that on this evidence a video doesn't cannibalise audio plays at all. A good one will actually increase them.
Nobody Fell Off Stage This Year
Much of the entertainment focus this week was on Wednesday night's Brit Awards ceremony, a production which if nothing else means extended prime time focus on what are by definition the hottest music acts of the moment. The ceremony's positioning at the back end of the chart week, with just over 24 hours remaining in the survey period after the broadcast, means its impact on the singles chart is for the moment negligible. For albums, however, it is a different matter. Largely because the market for them is so contracted these days that even a day-long spike cannot help but inspire notable chart moves.
So it is that Best British Female and Best Breakthrough Act Dua Lipa leaps 11-3 with her self-titled album; Single Of The Year performer Rag N' Bone Man climbs 12-4 with Human; Best International Male Kendrick Lamar jumps 21-14 with DAMN.; Best International Group Foo Fighters move 53-36 with Greatest Hits; but perhaps most notably of all the Album Of The Year, Gang Signs And Prayer by Stormzy, jumps 41-10.
Naturally, none of this affects the very top of the charts. The Greatest Showman soundtrack sits proudly atop the pile for a seventh week in a row, a continuous chart run only matched this decade so far by Adele and Ed Sheeran. It is the longest Number One run by any film soundtrack album (musical or otherwise) since the Grease soundtrack spent 13 weeks at the top in 1978. Honourable mention should go to The Kids From Fame which in 1982 had a continuous 8 week run at Number One - but that was a collection of songs from a TV series, not a movie.
Meanwhile, the album's three eligible single tracks continue to hold their own as well. This Is Me may have slipped 3-6 this week, but Rewrite The Stars lifts one to Number 19, closely followed by The Greatest Show which is one place behind and makes the Top 20 for the first time since release.
As for the top end of the singles chart, well Drake aside there is at least interesting movement in the rest of the chart. The continuing appeal of The Black Panther sees its theme song All The Stars take off in a big way, Kendrick Lamar and SZA enjoying an 11-5 climb. This now makes the track Lamar's biggest ever hit as a lead artist, eclipsing the Number 6 peak of HUMBLE. in May last year. He's appeared on three other Top 5 hits in the past, but all of them as a secondary credit - Bad Blood by Taylor Swift (Number 4), The Greatest by Sia (Number 5) and Don't Wanna Know by Maroon 5 (also Number 5). Fascinatingly All The Stars was initially outshone by the soundtrack's other big hit, Pray For Me featuring The Weeknd as the lead artist but has now easily eclipsed it, the latter easing up two places this week to Number 11.
Also reaching the Top 10 for the first time are Friends by Marshmello and Anne-Marie, up ten to Number 9, and Camilla Cabello's achingly cute Never Be The Same which reclaims the four chart places it lost last week and returns to Number 10 in what is now its third visit to the Top 10. Its chart peak to date is the Number 7 it reached five weeks ago.
Incidentally Friends was confirmed this week as being one of the tracks due to feature on Anne-Marie's debut album Speak Your Mind which is set for an April release after what appears to have been some interminable delays. That put to rest some small speculation that it was a rogue hit which was going to disturb some otherwise carefully laid plans. But you can understand why people wondered.
For the second week running two singles with what are theoretically the same performers, albeit with the credits reversed, sit side by side on the singles chart. At 16 and 17 last week and swapping places this week are Fine Line and My Lover. The former is credited to Mabel featuring Not3s (and reaches a brand new peak) and whilst My Lover lists Not3s alone on the chart, its sales and streams are almost entirely those of the single remix which also features Mabel front and centre. And if Relentless Records had any sense they'd ask for her to be added to the chart credit. But they haven't so far.
Keep an eye out next week for Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton's Say Something which lifts 27-22 this week but seems set to be one of a number of singles to enjoy a delayed Brit Awards boost following the performance of the track by the pair at the ceremony on Wednesday. This will provoke memories of the 2013 ceremony when Justin Timberlake's performance of Mirrors sent it flying to Number One shortly afterwards. But that was back when the digital download was all, and whilst a prime-time TV performance will still pique the interest of those who still know how to work their iTunes account, streaming tallies remain resolutely unaffected. We aren't in Kansas anymore Toto.
New Entries Of The Week
So it is down the very bottom end of the Top 40 we go for news of any new singles. The Middle from Zedd and collaborators makes the Top 40 for the first time with a 13 place climb to Number 37 whilst the producer's former musical partner Hailee Steinfeld arrives with Bloodpop in tow at Number 39 with Capital Letters, the highest climbing single on the entire chart this week thanks to its 20 place climb.
Should Have Remained On His Own
Having brought it up last week it seems appropriate to note that Calum Scott's attempt to "do a Sheeran" with the release of an alternate version of his single You Are The Reason featuring Leona Lewis didn't quite have the desired effect with that single holding firm at Number 49. That's one place behind the much older Blinded By Your Grace from Stormzy which formed part of Stormzy's show-climaxing set at the Brit Awards and which has the honour of being the most obvious post-show purchase, its 72-48 leap entirely down to the sales it added on Thursday.
The highest totally new entry of the week is way down at Number 51, although that is more impressive than it sounds as Love Lies by Khalid and Fifth Harmony singer Normani was only fully made available on Wednesday. Given the way the tweet I put out about it on Friday evening has gone viral by the track's enthusiastic online supporters (love to the Fifth Harmony stan community) you'd like to think it will be a hit of far more note in the coming weeks.
However, if you want an illustration of the gap between online visibility and actual chart reality, note the fate of Please by Samantha Harvey. The second 'real' single release by the apparently well-supported (1 million subscribers and growing) YouTube performer, a fan-led charge saw the single become one of the fastest selling downloads of the early part of the week (indeed, Music Week reports it was Number One on the first unofficial sales flash that filtered through on Saturday) although once those had died off the single only ended up the 20th most-purchased last week. But with precious few streams (if any) to its name, it makes a mere Number 67 on the main chart. Her first single Forgive Forget made Number 48 in July 2017.