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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
How downloads will change the chart
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Stereophonics singer Kelly Jones

The first official singles chart to count legal music downloads will be revealed on Sunday - but how will it change the Top 40?

When UK single sales went into freefall in the late 1990s, battered by the convenience and affordability of albums and downloads, many fans also lost interest in the Top 40.

Now chart bosses are trying to bring those fans back - and stay relevant - by adding download sales to their totals of CDs and other formats used to compile the chart countdown.

Major download services like iTunes and Napster may be less than a year old in the UK, but the number of songs sold on the net is fast catching the total bought in shops.

In the first three months of 2005, 4.5 million songs were downloaded legally in the UK - compared with 5.8 million bought over the counter.

Many of the fans who stopped buying singles are now keen on downloading - and while single-buying is largely left to teenage girls, downloaders are overwhelmingly male and more mature.

1. Stereophonics - Dakota
2. Chemical Brothers - Galvanize
3. Jennifer Lopez - Get Right
4. Nelly - Over and Over
5. Gwen Stefani - What You Waiting For
6. Eminem - Like Toy Soldiers
7. Athlete - Wires
8. Mario - Let Me Love You
9. McFly - All About You
10. Jay-Z and Linkin Park - Numb Encore
January-March 2005
Source: BPI
So their return to the chart returns could have a big impact on the Top 40.

"There are certainly going to be some significant jumps," says James Gillespie of the Official UK Charts Company (OCC).

"And it's going to mean that some records achieve a Top 10 chart position where they may not have if downloads hadn't been included."

Telling similarities and differences between the two markets were revealed in recent sales figures.

In the first three months of this year, big hits by pop, rap and R&B stars Jennifer Lopez, Nelly, Eminem and Mario crossed over to both sets of fans.

And Tony Christie's classic (Is This the Way To) Amarillo is currently number one in the weekly charts for both shop and web sales.

But the download Top 10 for January to March 2005 shows a definite lean towards rock and alternative.

Jennifer Lopez
1. Tony Christie - (Is This The Way To) Amarillo
2. McFly - All About You
3. Jennifer Lopez - Get Right
4. Nelly - Over and Over
5. Eminem - Like Toy Soldiers
6. Mario - Let Me Love You
7. Stereophonics - Dakota
8. Ciara - Goodies
9. Brian McFadden and Delta Goodrem - Almost Here
10. Sunset Strippers - Falling Stars
January-March 2005
Source: BPI
Welsh rockers Stereophonics had the top download - but were only number seven in the sales chart.

The Chemical Brothers, Athlete and Jay-Z featuring Linkin Park also had places in the download Top 10.

But pure pop prevailed in conventional single sales. With Christie at number one for those three months, boy band McFly were second - compared with nine on the download chart.

There were also places for Ciara, Brian McFadden featuring Delta Goodrem and Sunset Strippers - none of whom scored huge download successes.

The biggest hits will stick around for longer in the new chart, Mr Gillespie says - but rock, left-field and minority songs will also get a bigger shout.

"I think we can expect to see the chart maybe slowing down a little bit," he says. "It's going to identify the real big hits out there - we're going to see them staying in the charts a lot longer.

Apple iTunes
The Music Engine
Karma Download
Source: Official Charts Company
"But I think it's also going to open the chart up to genres that maybe weren't so well represented in the singles chart."

Songs cost about 79p-99p online, compared with 1.99-3.99 for a CD single, and the OCC says it will take sales data from specialist download sites as well as major services.

Organisers will try to stop chart fixing by looking out for the same credit card or mobile phone numbers buying multiple copies of the same song.

Some independent record labels have complained they cannot get their music on major download services - particularly Apple, which dominates the market.

There has also been concern that the sales-tracking system has trouble identifying songs sold in special offer "bundles".

One of the primary reasons the chart is not interesting is that you don't see records grow any more
Paul Gambaccini
And a move for downloads to be included in the Top 40 before the song is released on CD single has so far been resisted.

Such a decision could herald a return to the days of tunes slowly climbing the charts as buzz and popularity grow.

Broadcaster and chart expert Paul Gambaccini said that refusal "saddens me tremendously".

"One of the primary reasons the chart is not interesting is that you don't see records grow any more," he says. "You just see the first-week spike."

This market is moving so quickly that it would be absolutely crazy to say that the rules are frozen
British Phonographic Industry
A spokesman for the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) says rules may be changed and the chart would be very different in another six months.

"This market is moving so quickly that it would be absolutely crazy to say that the rules are frozen and that's the way it's going to be," he says.

The OCC started planning the move to include downloads in late 2000 - when Napster was still just a thorn in the music industry's side.

Now there are new plans to include mobile phone downloads in the chart as well.

As technology and habits move so quickly, this week's changes may not be a permanent solution for the charts - but the first step in a new direction.


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