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After chart rule reset, Kate is heading for her second UK #1!

Photo by John Carder Bush from his book Kate: Inside the Rainbow

In previous posts last week we touched on the controversy surrounding a UK chart rule, called ACR (accelerated chart ratio), which prevented Kate from reaching Number 1 in the UK charts last Friday for the second time (and preventing all of us fans having a big celebratory party after 42 years!). It had been brought to the attention of the industry by Alan Jones writing about it in Music Week. The great news is that Kate’s record label has finally stepped in to request a reset of the rule for Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) – a revoking of which will hugely help Kate to score her second ever career UK Number 1 single.

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In an article today, the BBC set out to explain what happened, why the rule is there, and why it didn’t work as intended in the case of Kate’s huge viral hit:

“The Top 40 used to consist of songs you could buy in a record shop, and every sale was equal. If a record label hadn’t pressed enough copies of a 7-inch or CD single, it might miss the chart altogether. In some instances, record labels even stopped manufacturing a hit single in order to convince people to buy the album instead (Wet Wet Wet’s Love Is All Around and the Fugees’ Killing Me Softly both suffered this fate). But in the streaming era, every song is available everywhere all the time. This poses the charts with a problem. If you counted streams on a like-for-like basis, classic songs like The Killers’ Mr Brightside would never leave the Top 40; and a modern hit like Ed Sheeran’s Bad Habits would currently be spending its 50th week in the Top 10.

In order to give other artists a chance and keep the charts from becoming stale, the record industry invented something called “accelerated decline“. It works like this. A new record earns one “sale” when it is streamed 100 times on a subscription service like Apple Music or Spotify Premium; or 600 times on an ad-funded service. But older songs need to attract 200 premium / 1,200 ad-funded streams before a “sale” is counted.

The current UK midweeks chart reveals Kate out in front.

Which leads to the bizarre situation where Running Up That Hill was comfortably the most-streamed song in the UK last week (with more than 2.5 million plays) but Harry Styles was able to waltz into the number one spot because his song, As It Was, enjoyed a more favourable streams-to-sales ratio. This week, the playing field has been levelled.

The Chart Supervisory Committee, which oversees the Top 40, revoked the accelerated decline rule for Running Up That Hill over the weekend, meaning its streams are now worth the same as all the singles around it, including Harry Styles.

The situation is unusual, but not entirely without precedent. Under chart rules, the “standard” streaming ratios can be applied to any single if its sales increase by 25% week-on-week. Record labels can also request a “manual reset” to the ratio “in exceptional circumstances, where a track is being scheduled for promotion”. This is exactly what EMI Warners (Peter: you got the record company wrong, BBC!) did for Kate Bush. It’s not clear why the request took a fortnight to be enacted (the rules state that one week’s notice is sufficient) but it seems no-one could deny the feel-good factor of granting the star her first number one single since 1978’s Wuthering Heights. By Monday, the singer was already 5,000 sales ahead of Styles, a lead that’s unlikely to be surpassed.”

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Kate: “It’s all so exciting!”

2 Comments

  1. PinkVinyl

    Such a shame they couldn’t whisk out a physical copy.

  2. Alan lovedog

    I’d rather an unmolested chart that is a simple record of the weeks most popular songs. If the public’s 15th favourite happens to be from the 60s or 90s so be it

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