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NEAR TRUTHS:
CHART WARS

It’s well past time for the most influential charts in the music industry to be taken out of the hands of clueless civilians. Fortunately, there is now a movement coalescing among some of the most powerful players in the biz, who have had enough of the leadership of the Bible and believe chartmaking has for too long been overseen by people who lack a fundamental understanding of the business.

The most recent aggressive, arbitrary action on chart rules was undertaken by the Bible brain trust without consulting the representatives of the music community—including top label CEOs—thus disenfranchising an entire segment of the business. Rock, country and indie music, already reeling from lost touring income, will be disproportionately affected. The unthinking arrogance at work here has somehow made Billboard even more irrelevant, which is an index of how entirely out of touch they are.

Is there a music expert anywhere in this mix? MRC’s Modi Wiczyk and fellow Harvard Business School grad Asif Satchu produce film and TV (they’re best known for House of Cards and Ozark) and specialize in buying media companies. They came out of the film-agency world, working at Endeavor with Ari Emanuel to develop projects for actor and director clients. These two are dealmakers; there’s no indication they ever studied spin increases or drilled down into global streaming data.

Deanna Brown is a digital-world maven specializing in “content strategy solutions,” lauded as a “thought leader” whose CV includes a stint at “the #1 news and information site for millennials.” There is much made, in her bona fides, about efficiency and strategy and mission. There isn’t a syllable, however, that suggests even a passing familiarity with how a record breaks in the marketplace.

That leaves charts guy Silvio Pietroluongo, who’s spent 30 years tinkering with charts that have gone from industry standard to dumpster fire. Nobody in a position of real authority in Bible Land has held a post at a label, publisher, management firm, agency or concert promoter—or worked as a producer, songwriter or roadie.

Unlike so many problems facing us at present, however, this one is easily fixable. It’s time for the labels to begin sharing data, as they do in the U.K., and to have a responsible, informed party assemble that data into a new chart. This would enable the biz to take the power back and save millions at the same time. The opportunity to change the paradigm once and for all is here. Now’s the time.

Each company has its own data to share; all that’s required is a credible entity, such as the RIAA, SoundExchange, Mediabase or a major accounting firm, to handle numbers from the largest platforms. Even amid the disruption caused by the pandemic, this is a relatively uncomplicated process.

What it will require is an inside understanding of how the business operates—something label execs, top managers and other key figures in our industry have devoted their careers to understanding. They spend every waking hour trying to give their artists the best possible chart outcomes; the best outcome for the chart itself will come when their knowledge informs its operation.

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