Measuring the music industry 'nightmare'

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THE CHARTS, always the focal point of thinking for a record company, have now become a 'nightmare', according to Paul Russell, chairman of Sony Music Entertainment, one of the largest record companies in the world.

Mr Russell said yesterday: 'Because of the economy, fewer people are buying records, and a sale of 5,000 will chart. The Smiths entered the Top 40 last week with a 6,000 sale. In the Sixties you would have had to sell three or four times that number.

'Because the charts are so volatile and records only last a couple of weeks, the UK charts have lost a lot of their credibility, particularly internationally. And many retailers are now running their own charts, so you get a dissipation of the chart effect.'

Chart rivalries have their highest profiles on Sunday evening radio across Britain, when Radio 1 plays the CIN/Gallup chart, promoting it as the 'fastest and most accurate' barometer of musical tastes. The same claim is made for the MRIB poll, broadcast on the Independent Radio Network.

The NME now prints the MRIB chart while the Gallup poll is printed in Music Week magazine and most Fleet Street papers. 'Independent music' and other specialist charts add to the statistical morass. Mr Rusell added: 'The other nightmare is that four formats now qualify for the charts - 7-inch vinyl, 12-inch vinyl, cassette single and CD single. This is simply too many. A lot of stock is left over.'

But today's pop charts have gained crediblity in one area - honesty. The industry now accepts that the charts, give or take a ranking or two in rival Top 40s, are a genuine reflection of what is selling. Chart rigging, thanks to electronic compiling techniques, is now virtually impossible.

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