• Hugh Webber

ROLLERCOASTERS & PENNY SLOTS

The first topic in this week’s blog is a behind the curtain look at music releases from the viewpoint of the charts.


THE CHARTS

One of the exciting possibilities of having a song released where you were involved in writing, is the possibility that it could chart.  These days there are lots of charts, from iTUNES to the Billboard 200, Genre charts, etc etc.  For a lot of people maybe this means very little, and it could just be considered a vanity statistic.  However I think if any of us had a No1 charting single, then we would want to talk about it, and it might give a potential new songwriting collaborator a view on your prowess as a writer.  If you are an artist yourself then it might also help to win over a new fan.


I grew up listening to the chart as it came out on the radio, and you still can.  You can also follow a single’s progress in almost real time on the iTUNEs app - although in 2020 this only accounts for 7% of the ways people access music.


I recently did this with a song, and I admit I got addicted to tracking it almost by the hour!  Here is the chart of it’s progress during release day and the following day.  No 1 position is effectively at the top of this graph!  

It's a rollercoaster for sure, highs and lows.  I didn’t start tracking the position until around 9am on release day, so I had no way to know if the song had peaked earlier.  When I started checking it was at No25 in the Country Music genre on iTUNES.  As you can see it tailed off towards the afternoon, and I was thinking it might drop out altogether. Around mid afternoon it picked up again and made its way back to No27.  It then tailed off again, then picked up a third time and stayed level around No35 I guess for most of the night.  It was really only mid morning of the second day that it started to make its exit of the Top40 and reached No80 when I stopped checking.


So What?!

As this song did NOT have a pre-order for iTUNES, the positions observed are by organic fan activity during the day from downloads only.  As I referred to early - in 2015, 25% of global music revenues were from downloads, in 2020 it’s only 7%.  Streaming now accounts for 55% of the global market. So following this kind of chart is probably only representing something like 7% of the song’s engagement.


For what it’s worth, this is my take on what I saw: There was an initial burst of activity first thing as people downloaded the song from early social media pushes that day.  This tailed off until lunchtime where there was fresh engagement and maybe the direct notices, emails, and other social media activities caught the second wave when people were free to check their social media etc.  The final recovery I think is reflective of the American market responding to the single, and perhaps a general summation of the song's response from the whole day.


Why a Pre-order can make all the difference

A Pre-order means that at the point of release all the pre-orders are processed into the stats.  I think that would have made the song peak higher and sooner.  Possibly then to drop out of the Top 40 sooner - but who knows, and this isn’t the whole picture anyway!


Does Charting really matter any more?

I think if you get a high position on any chart, it’s always worth adding this to your musical bio.  As I said before even if it’s only partially representative of ‘success’ (however you define that) it makes for a good selling point when you want people to stream your music or get plays on the radio.


PENNY SLOTS

Moving on to the second aspect which is one area of revenue for the songwriter - payments from your PRO - Performing Rights Organisation (PRS in my case).


The main source of income for a songwriter is likely to be from live performances of your songs.  These are reported to the PRO, who then distribute monies to the rights owners according to the % splits agreed between the writers.  This money is generated from licenced live music venues paying an annual fee to PRS.


As we all know 2020 has NOT been a disaster for live performance, so incomes are at an all time low for artists and songwriters.  My Oct 2020 distribution was probably the lowest it has ever been, £1.64 to be precise.


You will also get income via your PRO / Publisher from Spotify and other streaming plays, however these are micro penny amounts per stream, and then only about 10% (varies by streaming platform) comes through to your PRO account and then that has to be split in turn by the agreed songwriter percentages. I’ve seen ZERO from that route yet!


I am very grateful to have a full time job that allows me creative freedom alongside working, although that does restrict my time to be creative.  This is not true for many artists who were relying on their gig income. Anything you can do like downloading their songs, or buying their merchandise really can make a massive difference to them this year.


I hope that has given you an interesting insight into two aspects of my songwriting world!

Today I help singers and songwriters explore their own potential.  I encourage them to see new ways to view their creative ideas, working alongside to transform them into fully finished songs they are proud of.


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