Hard News by Russell Brown


I'm marking Youth Week by being down with the kids

The incorporation of music download sales into the national singles chart isn't so much a good thing as a complete and utter no-brainer. The not-so-secret secret of the singles charts for years has been that the sales of physical singles are so low - and cover such a limited range of music - that it has been possible to "top" the charts with a record that isn't even for sale.

That's because the single chart has largely been driven not by sales, because there aren't any - but by radioplay. So the decisions of a handful of programmers have helped determine the charts, which have in turn vindicated the decisions of a handful of programmers.

But something different has happened in the past year or so. People are downloading singles - across a range of services, but most of all on Vodafone Music - to the tune of 40,000 a week.

Now, each album track purchased separately counts as a "single", so that's not quite the same as 40,000 hot new digital platters. It is more than likely that the chart will be clogged with a few old favourites. But it is the difference between a number one single selling, at best, 400 physical copies in a week, and 1600 paid downloads.

Under RIANZ' new chart rules, a song can chart if it registers no physical sales, but it cannot now chart on radioplay alone (I'm still not clear about exactly how much influence radio now has on the charts). To make it up to the programmers, a new radioplay chart is being launched, to the interest, I suspect, of no one outside the music and media industries.

One thing I like about this is that it brings us into the game. If I like a tune and want to get behind it - and the download services make it nice and easy to extend the linkylove - then there's an actual, published result out the other end. I look forward to wallowing in payola from craven and unscrupulous independent artists.

One problem - at least in terms of the way the singles market used to work - is that it's kind of hard for kids to shop online. They can't have credit cards, and even on the phone company services, they have calling plans to keep to. This is one significant reason that kids pirate music.

Anyway, I'll be discussing this and related issues with RIANZ president Adam Holt and Chris Hocquard of Amplifier (which is now a full-fledged iTunes aggregator) on Public Address Radio, 2pm Saturday on Radio Live. (Speaking of which, apologies for the interruption in podcast supply - I'll post heaps of them real soon now.)

Meanwhile, Mauricio at Geekzone ponders what happens to DRM-protected music from CokeTunes after CokeTunes shuts down. Sure, it'll play - but what say you want to move your tunes to your new PC?


There are all sorts of implications to Google's "Universal Search" revamp - which ropes the various dedicated search engines there into a single set of results - even greater world domination, the first step on the way to a future of multimedia intent-driven marketing, or just way more copyright suits, but the coolest thing is definitely the ability to actually play videos inline from the results page. Problem: the video search only finds clips from YouTube and Google Video - there's a advanced search option that lets you target videos on any other site, but it doesn't work. People putting up loads of video every day only to have it be non-discoverable will presumably have thoughts about that.

I also like the vertical searching. Narrowing down searches by category is smooth and easy. But this from a Slashdot thread is interesting:

Exactly - and now I have to enable JavaScript for the whole of Google.com, or the entire menu bar vanishes! Not hard to do with Firefox's NoScript extension, but Google needs to have a sensible fallback when JavaScript is disabled.

I won't write any more, because I've already written a Listener column, but feel free to share your opinion. Note that Universal Search hasn't been propagated to google.co.nz yet, so you'll need to choose google.com.

PS: Not many people seem to have noticed the item I posted to OurTube yesterday: you can watch the pilot of Flight of the Conchords' HBO series in full, online.

PPS: How about someone at TV3 news gets down with the geeks and puts the clip of Tuesday night's item on the blogger-solidarity initiative with Fiji (featuring our own David Haywood) on teh internets? And then send me the link? Meanwile, Chris at NZBC surveys events.

Update: It's here

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