In a move that could be said to either drive home the changing ways we listen to music, or leave you wondering “wasn’t that the case already?”, the UK singles chart will be influenced by views on videos streaming site YouTube as of next week.
This Friday, June 29, will see the last UK top 40 to be announced without factoring video views into the equation. When the July 6 charts are confirmed, we may see the difference official YouTube videos (as well as video streaming via apps like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal) are making to the chart positions of artists who tend to be a visual hit, including Clean Bandit, Dua Lipa and the already chart-dominating Ed Sheeran.
A look at the most watched YouTube videos of all time confirm the extent to which the medium is dominated by music. Of the current top 100 most watched videos, only six are not music videos. It seems the only viewing able to challenge the likes of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry is kids’ videos involving Russian animation ‘Masha and the Bear’ and various other cartoons that usually involve eggs being opened.
So will this mean that songs like ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, which is the most watched video in the world by a margin of more than a billion and a half views, are destined to remain in the upper echelons of the charts for years? Is Ed Sheeran set to strengthen his grip even further on the charts, given that his video for ‘Shape of You’ is the most watched in the UK?
Not according to the chief executive of the charts, Martin Talbot, who has ruled out the possibility of a “handbrake turn” moment in how the top 40 is compiled. He notes that trials of including video viewing data have only affected chart positions slightly, and denies that this will lead to big budget videos dominating the charts.
Music traditionalists may well wince at the news, and indeed in much of Europe, music consumption only has an influence on the charts if it is paid for, meaning the likes of YouTube and the free version of Spotify do not come into the equation. Talbot believes this is unfair on children and low-income music fans, who enjoy music without subscription services or buying physical records, but confirms that paid music has a greater bearing on chart positions than ad-funded listening. Indeed, another tweak to the charts taking effect as of Friday is that 100 streams of a song on a paid subscription service will now count as one ‘sale’ – a drop from the current number of 150.