Download charts: even better than the real thing?
Ron, IU


According to HotPress a week or two back, Ireland's music charts is all set to be radically updated to include a download chart, either as a standalone or as part of the main charts. Something we have been suggesting for more than two years.

So, we should be delighted, right?

Well, no. And the reason is fairly straightforward: we do not believe that the download chart will be any different to the sales chart, in that it will be controlled by IRMA (the labels and publishers, but mostly the labels), it will be 'secretive' and it will be limited so as not to allow unobstructed access to unsigned bands. It will also be strictly controlled, if my information is correct, so the administrators can 'remove' either an Act, a song or even just some sales, if they have any suspiscion that the sale is 'ineligible'.

What that means, like the sales chart, is that IRMA, thorugh whoever administers the system, can simply have any Act/song removed or deemed ineligible if it so wishes.

As we were informed a while back, when we helped an unnamed Act sell enough units throguh Chart stores to warrant a top 5 spot only to be told their sales were 'ineligible', even though they met Chart Track's rules, and also had the backing of the EU, Chart Track/IRMA have no recourse to anyone, since they own the Charts.

Oh, and EU legislation on the legalities of assigning a minimum value to a work of Art were, well, an easily-ignored irritation.

So, what we would like to do is to see if we can prove that not only is the idea of a download chart that is owned by the record labels just a waste of time, we'd also like to see if we can manipulate it into submission, so to speak.

Our main concern is that we do not know how the sales will count:

* will it be sales from any site, or just from Apple/iTunes / the lable site, or the Artists site?

* will all sales count, regardless of how the buyer is identified, or will one person buying 50 tracks mean 50 sales?

* how will a sale be quantified? will it be by email address, username/password?, mobile phone number? IMEI number?

* how will returns be dealt with? In retail sales, it is easy to buy 200 copies of a single, wait till the charts are published, then return them for refund. How will download charts allow for returns, or will they?

There are lots of things that could easily be manipulated in the UK's download charts and when we mentioned this to Fergus Geraghty (who was actively promoting charts of mobile phone music purchases) two years ago, his reaction was that he was aware of the limitations but what was there to be done about it? After all, the people wanted a download chart, so that's what they'd get. So what if it wasn't perfect? In fact, so what if it was even easier for the labels to manipulate 'sales' figures and simultaneously to exclude undesireable 'sales' such as independent music they had no control over?

We have a fair idea how the Irish charts are going to work, and we think that it will be not only easier, but far less expensive and far less logistically difficult to actually manipulate the download charts, rather than the retails sales chart, particulalry if you are in IRMA and know the rules for chart eligibility.

Maybe we should just ask IRMA...?

If any of you are (a)aware of how the system will work, (b)interested in proving that it can be manipulated and/or (c) in a band that doesn't give two shits about the Industry and would not worry about being blacklisted by them if you get involved with breaking their new toy, then please email us. we are definitely giong to look into at least a one-off attempt to prove the pointlessness of a closed, secrective chart controlled by the people who own the products that are supposed to be getting reported on.

And, before the usual emails turn up, the point is this: if the chatrs don't interest you, then good. Forget it. Don't bother emailing, telling us that the charts is a waste of time and 'real' artists wouldn't be interesetd in it anyway. If that's the case, then carry on doing what you're doing... ;-)