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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
New singles formats to save the charts
Beyonce's Crazy In Love was one of the year's most popular ringtones
A raft of new music single formats are shortly to be released in the UK in an effort to reverse the dramatic decline in sales over the last two years.

Following on from the recent introduction of cut-price, two-track singles, three new types of single release are set to be available in the near future - one of which will take advantage of the boom in mobile ringtone demand.

James Gillespie from Official UK Charts Company told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme that the changes were "part of what's going to be quite a long-ranging review of the singles market in the UK".

The plans included a "ringtone single," a pocket-sized single, and a new type of release that would contain even more data than current multimedia CDs, which usually include video and weblinks.

"At Christmas we'll be launching a brand new format, and that will have even more content on than you can have at the moment," Mr Gillespie said.

"It will be designed to be sold at a slightly higher price - probably around 2.99 to 3.49."


Mr Gillespie also explained how new technology was shortly to radically shake-up the market after a sales slump since the peak of singles buying in 1998.

Teenagers on mobile phones
Kids don't mind spending 3, 4 on a ringtone, but they're not so keen to spend the same amount of money on the master recording
James Gillespie

"We're also looking at some really exciting new formats, like the pocket single," he said.

"The pocket single is a credit-card sized single which has music on it and videos. It fits inside your wallet."

And before that - in November - the "ringtone single" will be released, with companies hoping to profit from the massive numbers of children and teenagers who want the latest songs on their mobile phones.

"It's going to be a very key artist - one of the biggest artists of this year," Mr Gillespie said.

"It's going to be a one-track single - but with a ringtone as well, a monophonic and polyphonic ringtone for all platforms.

"Trials in different parts of the world have found that it's been really, really successful."

He added that trying to find a way to cash in on the demand for ringtones had been perplexing the industry for a while - but there were hopes the innovation would prove successful.

"We're finding at the moment that kids don't mind spending 3, 4 on a ringtone, but they're not so keen to spend the same amount of money - or less money - on the master recording, which we find quite strange," he stated.

"Obviously people like the song, otherwise they wouldn't want it on their mobile phone, they wouldn't want to have that identity with it.

"So it's important that we look to the future. I think music will be constant but the way that people buy that music is going to evolve over the years, and it's really important if we're going to keep the chart relevant that we take that into account."

Saving the charts

Mr Gillespie said that the UK singles chart, which started in 1952, was not at "crisis point" but it was important that the current decline was arrested.

Oasis were one of the first groups to have a DVD release as a single format
"The single really peaked about five years ago, when we saw huge sales," he said.

"It's not been a steady decline since then - it's been quite a sharp decline over the last couple of years.

"It's not at crisis point, but obviously the single is a very important format in this country.

"It's a way of getting kids interested in going out and buying records.

"Certainly the record companies and the retailers in this country are very interested in seeing it continue and seeing it thrive."

Mr Gillespie also pointed out that other countries had either combined sales with airplay to get a listing or abandoned sales-based charts altogether.

"A lot of countries don't sell singles anymore, or their singles market is marginalised," he stated.

"In America four or five years ago, they noticed that singles sales were declining, and there was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction which meant that the Billboard charts are now 75% airplay and just 25% sales.

"A lot of singles that get to number one haven't been released on single, or if they have it's been a very specialised club release."

This was something that most in the UK were resisting, he said.

"No-one, it seems, wants airplay to be included in the charts.

"It takes the charts away from the people, the people who actually buy the records.

"We think that's still the best way to determine how popular a record is - by how many people are buying it.

"[Airplay] takes control away from those people and puts it into the hands of what would be five very powerful men, and they would be the people who decide the playlists for the UK radio industry."

Slump for UK record industry
12 Feb 03  |  Music


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