The Week in Arts: A ringtone is not the same as buying the single

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In a few weeks' time the pop charts will celebrate the 1,000th number one single. Expect to see the celebration echoed in the press, television and radio, with numerous voyages through the decades of singles charts. The irony is that the patient has never been in worse health.

In a few weeks' time the pop charts will celebrate the 1,000th number one single. Expect to see the celebration echoed in the press, television and radio, with numerous voyages through the decades of singles charts. The irony is that the patient has never been in worse health.

Last week's number one, "Call on Me" by Eric Prydz, made history, but probably not of the kind Mr Prydz intended. It was the lowest selling number one single ever, with just 23,500 copies propelling it to the top slot. 23,500! Can that be so difficult for any of us with a good circle of friends and a large family?

It makes you want to rush to the bedroom and make your own number one, as Daniel Bedingfield did not so long ago. Mind you, he also broke records. His song "Gotta Get Thru This" was in January 2002 the lowest selling single to top the charts with 25,354 sales. Mr Prydz has beaten that; and he has notched up another memorable distinction. His number one sold 20 per cent fewer copies than when it was number two the previous week.

The lobby is growing for downloads and ringtones to be included in the charts.

Bands seem to agree. U2 have ignored the CD singles chart and released their new single exclusively as a paid-for download. It is top of the internet chart. Robbie Williams's new single has slipped down the CD singles chart, but is at the top of the ringtones chart.

There is a case for downloads being included and that time must surely come. But I'm not convinced that putting a tune on your mobile phone is quite the same as buying it, even though £2m worth of music ringtones were sold last week. Having one catchy hook line ringing to impress the office or the playground is different from owning the whole song. Can those people whose phones annoyingly wake you on the train with the "Toreador's Song" really be said to possess Carmen in their collection because they have those few bars of one tune?

Do we need a singles chart at all? The real reason for the existence of singles is music radio, Top of the Pops and other chart-related shows. Yet radio could easily feature just album tracks. The charts could consist just of albums with chart shows playing tracks in the same way as Classic FM does each week with the classical chart.

The logic leads inexorably to the end of the conventional singles chart. And so my answer is - keep it! Logic isn't everything. History, romance, tradition count for something too, as does the weekly opportunity to be amused, bemused and infuriated by Top of the Pops.

Conducting a love affair with Man United

Daniel Harding, the gifted 29-year-old, who has just become principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, is a fanatical Manchester United supporter. He tells me his great ambition is to become the official Manchester United conductor, and he isn't bothered about the fact that he would have no duties - just so long as he has the title.

Harding spends time on the club's website where he has found surprisingly esoteric chat rooms, with supporters arguing over which part of The Magic Flute is best. When he tried to declare specialist knowledge, he was told where to put his baton.

Harding's most treasured moment came at a concert abroad, when he found himself in the same hotel as the Man United team. He was determined to meet the players, but club skipper Roy Keane told him that Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville weren't coming into the public rooms. So the enterprising Harding pretended to be the lift operator and finally met his heroes. Things went swimmingly until he trapped Neville's foot in the lift door.

¿ Writing in The Stage yesterday the actress, Nichola McAuliffe, says that sexual harassment is rife in the theatre. It is for the most part, as she puts it, "men on men". Ms McAuliffe cites cases of directors hiring good-looking, young and plainly inexperienced actors, and then making it clear why they were employed. The notes these actors receive from the directors are not the usual acting tips, but personal and highly suggestive. If the young actors don't succumb, then they are humiliated in rehearsal in front of the rest of the cast. This is alarming stuff, but perhaps not altogether unexpected. The only surprise is that a journal as fearless and outspoken as The Stage does not name any names. Perhaps next week.

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