Steve Redmond on a very British chart battle
"Well, that was a short weekend, eh
#clangclangthatweekisover " tweeted the Official Charts
Company's Martin Talbot on Monday morning as the dust settled on
one of the
most torrid chart weeks of recent years.
The controversy over the ultimately failed attempt to mark the
death of Margaret Thacher by propelling "Ding Dong The Witch Is
Dead" to Number One created a major headache for the Official
Charts Company, but they emerge from it with credit - and the
reputation of the charts enhanced.
The fact is that a brazen attempt to hijack the charts with a
political stunt failed to achieve its goal. And the whole affair
reinforced once more the increasing standing of the chart as a key
part of the UK's national conversation.
At least every six months or so, I get a call from a friend of a
friend, perhaps representing a charity or even a brand, saying that
they come up with a great marketing idea and can I help. The great
marketing idea is always the same: "We've got loads of followers
and, given singles sales are so low these days, I think we could
get them all to buy a download and get our single to Number
Patiently, I have to explain to them that they are at least 10
years too late and the sheer volume of download sales - an average
3.6m per week last year compared with barely a million a week in
2002 - means it is virtually impossible to buy your way to chart
success these days.
Not only are the volumes required enormous, as record labels
know well, actually motivating people to go out and buy a track,
even one they feel strongly about is no walk in the park.
MargaretThatcher, as has been said on countless occasions this past
week, generated very strong emotions, the media coverage of the
whole affair was enormous, yet
a maximum of 65,000 people - allowing for multiple purchases -
last week's "epic chart battle" accounting for barely 2% of the
Analysis of sales last week shows a fairly predictable sales
pattern with the regional split of sales reflecting Margaret
Thatcher's political popularity. Thus 'Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead'
fared disproportionately well in the north of England and Scotland
while the rival 'I'm In Love With Margaret Thatcher' by the
Notsensibles did particularly well in London and the south.
The media scrutiny of the Official Charts Company in these
circumstances was forensic, but it acquitted itself extremely well,
and reinforced its reputation as an objective and independent
measure of success.
It is that credibility which gives the Official Charts their
value, both as a source of market research and as a brand.
Do not be surprised to see details of the huge media coverage
generated by last week's controversy featuring heavily in the
Official Charts Company's marketing materials going forward.
The silver lining of the Thatcher controversy is that it has
reinforced once more the value of one of the entertainment
industry's greatest assets.