Is The Official Chart still relevant?

A self-proclaimed Caitlin Moran enthusiast, I am therefore almost obligated to admire her husband, ‘Time Lord of Pop’ Pete Paphides who regularly graces my ears with his presence on The Guardian’s Music Weekly podcast. Very rarely do I find myself disagreeing with the views and opinions of my favourite power couple, but on Boxing Day last year I admit I was shamefully forced into doing so.

Mr Paphides wrote a piece in December 2013 which questioned the demise of Top of the Pops and championed the notion that it return to our screens. The music chart show has made annual appearances on Christmas and New Years Day respectively, but was axed from its weekly slot in July 2006 as a result of plummeting viewing figures, an axe undoubtedly executed with a heavy heart by the BBC.

I am not a Top of the Pops hater, by any means – watching it on a Friday evening with my Dad would quite easily be the highlight of my week. Viewing figures aside, Paphides had me questioning what was stopping the programme from making a comeback – why shouldn’t the BBC revive TOTP?

Yet from the perspective of the public, the current relevancy of the Official UK Top 40 in the British music industry is unknown to me. What hit the top spot this week? No idea. The week before? Even less of a clue, and in all honesty, I didn’t actually care.

With an increase in illegal downloading, it also seems what the general public is listening to isn’t being accurately represented. The inclusion of Youtube hits might perhaps be a more effective way of measuring mass popularity, and yet we still could not trust the statistics entirely – the rickrolling of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ in May 2007 as an example of what could potentially happen, the video now having had a staggering 73 million views.

Former Radio 1 disc jockey Bruno Brookes argues that the Official Chart shouldn’t “just be about buying records”, suggesting “a bold and interactive joining of media – a simulcast between Radio 1 and a Top of the Pops-style television show, complete with some kind of voting element,” but there again lies the problem of inaccuracy. Surely not every person in the country can be bothered to pick up the phone to vote which song they hated the least that week?

Nonetheless, the Official Chart on Radio 1 still has over a million listeners tuning in every Sunday, not to mention the thousands who watch the countdown across other music channels and radio stations alike. Reggie Yates, presenter of the UK Top 40 from 2007 to 2012, commented that “people still got really emotional about who was going to be No. 1. We’d get thousands of text messages and emails about it every week. It’s a real big deal to some people.” Let us of course not forget the 2009 Facebook campaign which rocketed Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name” to the top spot in a battle against X Factor winner Joe McElderry.

Telegraph journalist Michael Deacon further conveys that in an age where “we’re engulfed by lists…the Official Top 40 has one thing that keeps it unique in that field: it’s based on fact (sales) rather than blustering opinion. That’s reason enough to let it keep its place – even if that place isn’t at No. 1 in the listening figures.”

Granted, my own preferred genre is a fair mile away from that of my demographic. My lack of interest might exist as a consequence of individual music taste, you may argue. Perhaps this is an argument weighed down by opinion, and I’m just being a grouch.

Let The Official Chart stay. Just don’t count on me to listen to it.


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