7 Jul 2018

New chart aims to keep music fresh

From RNZ Music, 1:10 pm on 7 July 2018

Paul Kennedy from Recorded Music New Zealand explains the rationale behind the new addition to the music sales charts, the Hot 40 and NZ Hot 20 and explains how it aims to freshen up the chart ecosystem.

The NZ Hot 20

The NZ Hot 20 Photo: NZtop40.co.nz

The proliferation of stories about music charts being dominated by a single artist and music streaming not benefitting artists point to a music industry so broken even governments are looking at ways to help save it.

The Charts Manager for Recorded Music New Zealand Paul Kennedy has devised and put in to effect a new chart that will stand alongside the traditional Top 40 to help alleviate some of the inherent unfairness the charts have developed.

“We accepted and realised that there are issues with the current, traditional chart which have come about since streaming became the norm and the opportunities for new artists to break in to that top forty were becoming harder and harder… because the same fans listen to the same songs week on week on week.

“It’s happened all over the world. Charts all over the world have struggled with how to reintroduce some of the excitement and opportunity for new music to make the charts."

Paul Kennedy has been tweaking the way New Zealand’s Top 40 chart works since music consumption started changing in 1999 when physical sales started to disappear. It’s been a constantly shifting landscape and changes to the chart have been constant.

“We decided that just playing around with the traditional chart, tweaking things and perhaps undermining what it really was wasn’t the way to go so we’ve introduced a second chart to sit alongside the Top 40 and it’s called the Hot 40. There will also be a local only version, the NZ Hot 20."

Paul Kennedy - Recorded Music New Zealand/Radioscope

Paul Kennedy - Recorded Music New Zealand/Radioscope Photo: Supplied

“The Hot 40 is just a different view of the same data. The main difference is we are measuring the change that has occurred in the week, how many new fans do you have this week?

“When you think about how the charts used to work, that’s what it was. When it was just physical sales every person each week was a new person. You don’t go back and buy the same thing again and the same thing again. What this chart is doing is trying to return to that concept where you have to keep growing your fan base in order to stay in the hot chart.”

It’s an exciting concept for young artists particularly ones who have struggled to get noticed. Even someone like Kings who has already conquered to official Top 40 is excited about what hungry young artists might do in this new level playing field.

Musician Kings (aka Kingdon Te Itinga Chapple-Wilson) at his studio in at Northcote's Awataha Marae in Auckland.

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

“I think this is the opportunity for young artists to get recognised. We have the charts as they stand which are dominated by artists who have been dominating. This one refreshes every week, it’s going to encourage artists if they fail one week to go ‘Okay – let’s try this again.’ That means it’s really going to encourage fans to get behind song for that week to help it chart.”

Pau Kennedy agrees.

“One of the things we expect is that there may be a bit of campaigning to coincide with releases.

“The trials have certainly met the goals that we set for it, the first one being dynamism. Over the twenty week trial the average number of new entries in the Top 40 is about three and some weeks there are none.

“In the Hot chart sixty to seventy percent of the songs are new entries. They have a short life, perhaps they’re only there for a week or two but we think that’s a good thing.

“The proportion of local content has gone up to around fifteen or twenty percent in the Hot chart. That’s partly to do with the radio component coming in but it’s also to do with New Zealanders and the fact that there is a limited number of us. If we’re all interested in the same thing in one week and all that data is included once but then nothing further happens after that because your fan base may be only a thousand people right?

If you’ve exhausted that in one week and not made the Top 40, nothing happens after that. Whereas this, you have a better shot in that first week of your thousand people making a difference in the Hot chart and because you’ve made the Hot chart perhaps other people will discover you who might not have otherwise.”

The new Hot charts are an exciting opportunity for up and coming local artists and also presumably exciting for the international chart community who will be watching this New Zealand experiment with interest.

“As far as we can tell it hasn’t been done [anywhere else in the world] on this sort of level where we have given this Hot 40 equal status as the main chart. It’s not based on anything we’ve seen internationally - it is literally a New Zealand idea.”

New Zealand artists who may be wondering how they may be able to effect this new Hot chart need to look no further than local radio, which has a high weighting in the new system.

“Radio play revolves around local decisions: the bands pitch their material to local programmers, the programmers deciding which things go on the show and then the listeners deciding how long they stay there and which things go on to succeed.

“It’s a good chance to get your song via Iwi radio or via student radio, any of those paths are available to musicians and once you get to that point where perhaps you can break in to the chart, then perhaps it’s a bit of a momentum thing, a self-fulfilling prophecy. You get attention, which leads to success which leads to attention.

“There are four million of us and probably half of the New Zealand population is listening to music in some active fashion each week. There are hundreds of millions of streams each week that we are collecting and a big chunk of those are New Zealand tracks.”

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