The ARIA Chart Is Something To Get ‘Angry’ About -

The ARIA Chart Is Something To Get ‘Angry’ About

by Paul Cashmere on September 18, 2023

in News,Noise Pro

The Rolling Stones ‘Angry’ debuted at 329 on the ARIA chart this week. Flop? Not really. It is another example of the how irrelevant the ARIA chart has become. It irrelevance is also having a negative impact on the perspective of Australian artist’s success.

Let’s look at the impact of ‘Angry’ on this week’s ARIA chart and why it is where it is. The lead track of the first original Stones album in 18 years came in at no 329 on the ARIA chart. That’s right, THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY NINE after a million dollar media launch. The revenue earned in the first week would barely cover Waleed Aly’s Skybus fare to the airport to go to the international launch.

Cold Chisel’s 1978 song ‘Khe Sanh’ is higher on the ARIA chart this week that the new Stones song.

To get to 329 ‘Angry’ had total sales of 1538. That 1538 figure was made up of 452 sales from paid downloads (people actually paying money to own a digital copy, apparently it’s still a thing). The remaining 1086 “sales” comes from the ARIA streaming formula which depending on which way the wind blows can be anywhere with number of streams divided by between 150 and 180.

Looking at just downloads I’m surprised the publicity hasn’t screamed “The Rolling Stones ‘Angry’ Debuts At No 6’ in Australia. That’s right, 452 paid sales gets you to SIX on that chart. It is pretty cheap to buy your way into that column. In streams only, ‘Angry’ debuted at no 533.

The ARIA Chart has no real cultural significance anymore. If ARIA had a food chart, the Big Mac would be the number one album every week and the McDonalds Pickle would be the number one single.

Why is the ARIA Chart so out of synch with music consumers? It is pretty simple. Each week’s chart combines completely different consumers reactions into one list. People who don’t like songs are mixed in with people who do. People who don’t buy music are mixed in with people who do. 180 casual listeners is considered the same as one actual listen. And a steam that no-one ever hears can count towards a sale.

180 people streaming a song once is the same one person buying the song, as far as ARIA is concerned. If one person decides to stream a song 180 times, that could take a year if they played it every second day. The streaming impact has a long tail effect stretching over a long period of time. However, if you buy the song your “180 credits” impact in one chart week and its all over. With a sales, it doesn’t matter how many times its played. There is no way of knowing.

The next problem is playlists. ARIA allow the songs played in a playlist to impact in the chart. With a curated playlist, someone else is choosing the songs, not the person listening. It could also be randomly chosen with no human input and still count towards a sale. A lot of those playlists are curated outside Australia and contain little or no Australian. Yet, you can start a playlist and leave the room or start a playlist and fall asleep and every one of those playlist songs will count towards the chart even if no-one is listening.

Next to no Australian content on the chart is another a problem created by international playlists. There are no Australian songs in the Top 30 this week and only two in the Top 40. Of the two, Vance Joy’s 2013 ‘Riptide’ still makes the chart after all these years and American based Troye Sivan’s ‘Rush’ is in there too. ARIA blames radio for the lack of Australia songs on the chart but when you look at the airplay chart, radio has seven songs in its most played top 40. Australian radio is doing a much better job promoting Australian music than ARIA is.

ARIA disadvantages Australian artists and then has the hide to complain radio 1. Doesn’t play enough Australian content 2. Doesn’t pay enough to play music. The more radio has to pay ARIA to play music, the more Australian money is being channeled back to the head offices of the three multinations, Sony, Universal and Warner. Australian artists won’t benefit from more money being paid to play music. International corporations are the main beneficiary.

Let’s look at another chart “scam”. The pre-sale. Another quirk of the ARIA chart is “the pre-sales”. ARIA has this weird policy of including all pre-sales into the first week of release. If an album is pre-sold three months before release, those three months worth of sales are held back and added up as one figure in the first week. That’s why you see an album debut Top 10 and completely disappear the following week.

Take Tina Arena’s last album ‘Love Saves’ for instance. The album was released on the 14th July 2023 and debuted at no 2 on 24 July with 2023 sales and 1613 physical sales. Those 1613 physical sales were compiled from orders taken in the weeks and month prior. Again, all presales are included in the first week of sale. For the second week when only one week of sales counts the Tina Arena album fell from number 2 to number 371. That second week only had 13 physical sales with the remainder all digital and streams. You wouldn’t find a finer disappearing act at a Vegas magic show.

The Rolling Stones will have the same problem when ‘Hackney Diamonds’ is released. One thing the media blitz of last week did was raise awareness of the upcoming album and it would have no doubt driven pre-sales. The 20 October ‘Hackney Diamonds’ release will mean the first chart the following week will contain six weeks of pre-sales plus one week of sales. Depending what else is released that week, ‘Hackney Diamonds’ will be good for a number one, two or three debut. As there are no other major releases that week as far as I can see, chances are ‘Hackney Diamonds’ will come it at no 1 in Australia but the following week will sink (well as Keith Moon once said) like a lead zeppelin.

Radio stopped using the ARIA Chart as a programming tool years ago. How long since Take 40 Australia disappeared from the air? Stores don’t order based on the ARIA chart. Why would they? It doesn’t reflect their customer base.

We are heading to the end of the year. There is another ARIA Awards coming and that will be another back slapping exercise for record execs. A number one from ARIA can be forgotten in weeks. Few chart songs go on to become classic hits anymore. ARIA hits are as forgettable as a Big Mac Pickle. Maybe that food chart isn’t such a bad idea after all.

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