For the past month, CoS’ Tony Hardy has been covering Storm the Charts, a Rage Against the Machine-inspired campaign with hopes of getting 40 relatively unknown independent and unsigned artists on the UK Top 40. Today, Mr. Hardy brings the results and his thoughts…
The fourth of July came and went. The campaign known as Storm the Charts was rallying supporters to download specially chosen tracks from 40 independent and unsigned artists all week in a bold bid to take over the new UK Top 40. Sadly for the team that had worked tirelessly to lobby for new music, the storm blew over and hardly had Katy Perry quaking in her Jimmy Choos. When the new chart was announced on Sunday, there wasnt a single STC contender to be seen.
It is difficult to chest beat when no one got into the Top 100, let alone the 40. Spin down the actual chart and what do you get? Well, plenty of disposable pop and so-so samey R&B. The very letters ‘FT’ alongside the main artiste makes me want to examine the bathroom. After Englands ignominious World Cup exit how on earth can anyone still be buying the official song?! Scroll down below the 40 and you ask what the fuck is Journey doing there! Has anyone seriously not got a copy of I Gotta Feeling or Sex On Fire? Maybe these are people who lose their iPods and smart phones every week, or think that mp3s wear out?
For solace, I reach for the Independent Singles Chart. When I see Vindaloo by Fat Les [World Cup 1998 tune, albeit an amusing one led by Lily Allens Dad] at No 8 in there, I’m already on the plane hoping for a Lost experience. Any desert island will do as long as there isn’t a gramophone player included. But it gets worse… Safety Dance by Men Without Hats at No 40. I’d safely assumed that I’d have managed to see out the rest of my days without hearing this again but hey some agency thought it would be the icing on the cake for a shit TV ad. Thank God for Ingrid Michaelson, proving that TV ads can still have decent tunes. And since when was Katie Melua classified as Indie?
Final rant. Where were the 30,000 Storm followers on Facebook? Not enough of them hit the download button and maybe social networking as a free to air promotional device for bands is getting a bit too congested for its own good. Its hard not to sound frustrated by the collective inertia I sense so lets put the contra case now. Look closer and there are plenty of positives that have come out of STC. It may be too soon to put numbers to achievements but participating bands have gained new fans and much needed sales while people have heard new music they otherwise wouldnt have uncovered. While causing less than a ripple at iTunes, STC seems to have done wonders for Amazon sales. Among the artistes that especially shone was Gabby Young, who topped their Rock and Folk charts virtually all week. Unfortunately market shares being what they are, it would have worked better for Storm acts if iTunes had echoed that success.
STC organiser, Wes White, was upbeat in his analysis. Im not displeased with what we’ve done. The positive show of support that came out spontaneously after the download week ended has been fantastic and shows that people have found new music they love as a direct result of the project, even if not in the sheer numbers that we needed to make an impact on the official chart. On Amazon, the UK’s second biggest download retailer, we had the top 5 places on the Folk chart at one point, we topped both Rock and Blues and had 19 artistes in their Indie & Alternative chart by the end of the week. At the peak we had 10 in their Top 100 at the same time.
White acknowledges that there are lessons to be learned and is not ruling out another crack at the Top 40. Lots of people want us to do it again. We’ve proved that there’s interest out there in finding new music from scratch, far more than I think most industry people imagined. We’ve also found that it’s harder to sell records than many supporters realised.
For any Stormers who felt a bit of rage against the system, though, there was some particularly good news today when the BBC announced that its under-threat specialist digital radio channel, 6Music, had won a reprieve. Result!