Take Hype Machine, two scoops of Twitter, add a little pinch of influence and then cover in awesome sauce. That’s the recipe for one of my favourite new music charts on the web.
Over the last few years, music charts have changed beyond recognition. It seems like such a long time ago that I was home-taping my favourite tracks from Radio 1’s Official Top 40. The result was a poorly recorded collection of the best tracks, but with Bruno Brookes’ voice and some fairly bad jingles at the start. They were the days when watching Top of The Pops after tea-time was essential if you wanted to discover new music that week.
But that was nearly 20 years ago(!), things have moved on. Now we’re blessed with innovative online charts thanks to sites like Last.fm and We Are Hunted. It’s far from perfection though, there still remains a few problems with online charts, as Anthony Volodkin himself describes on the Hype Machine blog.
We’ve been frustrated by a few things about music charts recently. One is the issue of chart integrity, the lines between manipulation and engagement and how to keep such a system honest while rewarding the right people. Another is the terrible quality of most music services powered by Twitter.
Most of them have serious problems. Some don’t reveal the methods or sources in which they’ve gathered their data, just publishing the chart and hoping people would buy it. That prevents the web at large from auditing and finding errors in their methods and work.
Others don’t tell us anything new and don’t account for the social and interactive nature of Twitter, lumping it all together as ‘activity’. So, we end up with U2 as the top artist (or Michael Jackson, for the foreseeable future). Lame.
To address this, Hype Machine have built a brand-new chart which monitors their links that are tweeted, gives a number of points to that link based on how influential the person who tweeted it is, and then adds up all those points. Read the full post over at Hype Machine for the full details on how it all works… Of course, there’s some immediate questions that spring to mind:
Can’t the system still be gamed by people with multiple Twitter accounts?
Well, no, not to any great degree. If you just set up a lot of different accounts and start tweeting favourite tracks then those accounts are likely to have little influence (in terms of followers) and hence contribute few points to the charts.
Won’t people like Kevin Rose or Stephen Fry outweigh normal people’s points dramatically given they have such a large follower base?
Well yes, this is true. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As Anthony said in some email correspondence last night “When Oprah tweets a Hype Machine link, we win”!!
For me the most interesting take out of this whole thing is not just that music charts continue to change, but also that the people who influence what is and what isn’t popular music also continues to change.
If you’re an artist or a record label, getting Kevin Rose, Stephen Fry or even Oprah Winfrey (perhaps an extreme example) to tweet one of your tracks is going to take you to the top of the music charts. This is going to lead to more exposure and ultimately a bigger fan base and more opportunity to sell something (if that’s your goal). Therefore, you really need to start taking a look at who you’re servicing with promos… a point also raised very eloquently by Dubber recently.
What’s going to have more impact? Sending 100 CD mailers out to an anonymous list of generic print publications and radio stations; to the people who are getting a hundred other CD’s each week (and probably selling them on Ebay). Or sending out a link of your track to some key influencers in your community who speak directly to your audience and are actually quite likely to enjoy your music and want to tell others.
Now don’t get me wrong those influencers could still be professional music journalists and other traditional players. A lot of these people are respected curators, who’s word on music is to be trusted. But those influencers are increasingly new players. So get ready to find out who they are! Because if you’re an artist/label, your success could depend on it.