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Alex B Cann: Memories of the chart show

I have fond memories of writing the pop charts down. Wherever I happened to be in the UK on a Sunday afternoon, I'd always take time out to tune into the Network Chart Show with David 'Kid' Jensen on my local commercial radio station and make a note of the latest Top 40.

I did dabble with the Radio 1 chart, but the independent radio chart always felt more exciting. Plus, it was sponsored by Nescafe - "the number one chart with the number one coffee"! Happy days.

Nowadays, the race to the summit of the hit parade is somewhat less high octane. I'm sure it's still a huge deal for artists to make it into the Top 10, but the music industry has been transformed with the advent of streaming. Take That, Rita Ora, and Pink are just some of the big names who can't seem to get a Top 40 hit in the singles chart these days. Admittedly, the Take That lads, including Droylsden's own Howard Donald, did score a number one album recently with their ninth LP This Life. Smart speakers and streaming services have revolutionised our listening.

Another couple of headline-grabbing trends emerged in 2023. Female artists dominated the chart last year, topping the list for 31 out of 52 weeks either as solo artists or as part of a collaboration with other musicians. Miley Cyrus's break-up song Flowers was the biggest track of the year, notching up ten weeks at the top.

New music was noteable by its absence in the album chart, with The Weeknd's two year old compilation The Highlights making number one, and Taylor Swift's 2022 album Midnights at number two. New albums by Lewis Capaldi, Olivia Rodrigo and Ed Sheeran were all outdone by greatest hits collections by Elton John, Abba, Fleetwood Mac and Eminem.

It wasn't much different in the singles chart, with the current Top 100 including Bryan Adams' Summer Of '69, Fleetwood Mac Dreams, Queen Don't Stop Me Now, and Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell Ain't No Mountain High Enough. Tears for Fears, A-ha, Whitney Houston, and even Baby Shark also feature! The 'Saltburn effect' has gifted Sophie Ellis-Bextor a Top 10 entry with Murder on the Dancefloor. Strange film if you haven't seen it, by the way, and it the song will now be inextricably linked with Barry Keoghan gyrated his way around thhe Saltburn set without any clothes on. I can imagine watching that movie with the family over Christmas might have caused a few blushes akin to Eurotrash coming on Channel 4 on Friday nights in the 90s.

The formula for calculating chart positions is a convoluted mix of physical sales, YouTube views and streaming, and there are all sorts of rules that try to stop older tracks from dominating things. I'm not sure they are entirely working, but I suppose a lot of the songs in the chart at the moment may have been popular at Christmas and New Year parties.

When we moved house almost a year ago, I toyed with the idea of getting rid of my CD singles, but in the end couldn't bear to trash a collection I've spend hundreds on. It's amazing to think a single used to cost £3.99, yet a premium Spotify subscription is a little over a tenner. Aside from a few songs being released on physical formats, the CD single is all but a thing of the past. I've got most of Atomic Kitten's releases, if you'd like to make me a reasonable offer.

Vinyl is certainly in rude health, with the biggest sales on wax since 1990 last year. More than six million vinyl records were sold in 2023, whilst ten million were shifted on CD and 100,000 on cassette, which is perhaps the most surprising. Taylor Swift and the Rolling Stones shifted the most vinyl albums, and Beatles topped the 7 inch singles chart.

You wonder with so much classic music selling well where the classics of the future are going to come from. Streaming certainly rules the roost, with an 87.7% slice of the pie, up from 63.6% five years ago.

One of the best parts of my job at Tameside Radio is choosing the music we play, and it's always interesting to follow chart trends. I wonder how many actually pay attention to them these days, though. And does anyone still write them down in a notepad on a Sunday?! Most likely not, but still have my old collection somewhere ...

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