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5) The charts are rubbish
While there is a certain degree of cultural significance accorded to the fact that Michael Jackson had the most number one singles off one album — or (let’s say) that Madonna was the only woman to ever knock herself out of the top ten on a Thursday, or that songs by George Michael occupied all of the prime numbers for 3 months in 1987 — the charts themselves have always been meaningless in almost every important respect.

This has not only always been true — it’s now especially true.

There was, at least, a marketing purpose to it in the past: you could maybe get seen on Top of the Pops, or played on Casey Kasem’s show (though arguably it’s the broadcast rather than the chart position that’s important here).

It’s also often true that a lot of people like things because they are popular, rather than the (far more sensible) other way around.

But, for the most part, being number 18 for a week has never had any real genuine value.

I know people who have appeared on Top of the Pops, and who do not in any way consider themselves to be successful musicians. Nor are they rich or famous.

Chart success (particularly of the far more common ‘fleeting’ variety) has little or no bearing on the income of the label or the artist in question. A song that sells 5000 copies in a week makes no more money than a song that sells 1000 copies a week for 5 weeks — but only one of them will get in the charts.

Statistically speaking, charting is no guarantee of fame either. You might be in the charts and you might be famous.

You want music industry success? Aim for longevity and a lasting relationship with your fans. You may get into the charts and you may not. Celebrate when you do, but understand that it’s not the point of the game, just one of many measures — and not an especially meaningful one.

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UPDATE: Since writing this brief truism, friends of mine who manage a band have had all of their hard work frustrated because they’ve been booted out of the singles charts.

For me, this is the litmus test for smart management in the new media environment.


Midas — no longer a top-20 act

My friends Gary and David have gone to a lot of effort and have been quite innovative and tech-savvy in ensuring chart success for the band in their care. One of the ways they’ve gone about this is to stack up the pre-purchases, so that when the single is released, they flick the switch, the sales are registered all together and the band hits the big time all in one go.

Standard practice, pretty much.

Last week, they entered the chart at around number 16, just shy of the Kaiser Chiefs. The celebratory emails and text messages abounded (is that a word?).

However, this week, the OCC (for which, read BPI) have decided they don’t like that kind of carry-on when it’s not one of their lot pulling the stunt, so they’ve deleted Midas from the charts altogether.

Read the whole story here.

My take on it?

1) Midas should absolutely have been kicked out of the charts.
I don’t care how you look at it — pre-selling, whether in record stores, via mobile downloads, by giving away SIM cards as these guys did, or however else you want to do it is just cynically playing the system.

Collecting up all the sales over a period of time and then only processing them on a set date so you can count them all as a contemporaneous purchase is dishonest, purely and simply.

Sorry guys, you deserve what you get.

2) So should everyone else. Everybody cheats.
Midas are hardly the only band that have attempted to defraud the public by making them think that all of these people paid money for that particular song in that particular week. In fact, it would be the rare exception where a label, management company or artist did not do everything possible to stack the odds in their favour.

Midas are not doing anything beyond the ethics of the record industry (such as they are), they’re just finding new and interesting ways to do the same kind of cynical and dishonest crap that everyone else is doing.

Personally, I’d kick the lot of them out.

3) The problem here is that it seems to matter to them
As noted above, the charts are rubbish.

Midas makes no extra money and gains no extra advantage by having all the sales they made squeeze into one week so their name can appear on a sheet of paper that nobody other than their competitors read. The worst that could happen right now is for Midas’s management to interpret this situation as a bad thing.

If Gary and David spend a cent of the band’s money challenging the decision, they should be sacked on the spot. If they’re smart, they’ll simply use it for PR milage. Because…

4) This is probably the best thing that could happen to Midas
Why do they want to be in the charts? Not to recognise or measure sales — that’s what Money is for.

It’s purely marketing leverage. What happens when the underdog gets unfairly treated by the nasty big boys? That’s right: a great PR story.

The OCC are unfairly picking on Midas because they are an independent act. That’s something the Guardian, Observer Music Monthly, New York Times, Channel 4 News, BBC Midlands Today, CNN, MTV, BoingBoing, the Digg community and bloggers around the world will all find interesting.

If these guys are smart about it.

5) I’ve never understood why they’ve been so chart-orientated
Perhaps Midas simply want to be famous, signed to a major label and spend a few years with all of the trimmings they think that might get them. If so, then I kind of get why everything that seems to be done around them seems so focused on getting into the charts, rather than longevity, income, export or establishment.

But I think I’ve only ever met one band that was solely focused on those more fleeting things (watch out for Viva Machine this time next year).

If suddenly not being in the charts is genuinely an outrage (rather than an outrage for the sake of a good PR story) then I think that’d be kind of sad.

After all, the charts are rubbish.

I’m genuinely hopeful that Gary and David are smarter than they are pretending to be. If they are, then forget Koopa. Midas will be ‘unsigned band’ story of the year.

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This fairly unorthodox position on the charts unfailingly gets me into an argument. Feel free to rip me to shreds in the comments.