A reminder that music charts are marketing tools

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Apparently there’s some brouhaha over the real-time Korean music charts nixing midnight releases.

Will this help or hurt Block B? I dunno–they’re doing well enough these days I doubt it will make a difference.

But is it just? Is it fair? Is it right?

Oh my God don’t ask these questions!

Obviously I am all for justice, fairness, and rightness. However, music charts are not, and they never have been about any of those things.

What are music charts? They are marketing tools. That is all they ever have been, and it’s all they ever will be.

I know fans often take the view that there is a Just, Fair, and Right Way to run a music chart: Whatever way will most benefit their favorite group. So when fans argue over What Is Fair? they are in truth arguing over which group should benefit the most from the way the charts are run.

That’s the moral high ground here–I took it in the second paragraph of this post: What about me and my group?

Not surprisingly, the people who run the music charts and the labels who rely on music charts to market their acts don’t worry about stuff like fairness–life is unfair, charts certainly are, so get over it and start gaming those rankings like a fucking professional, OK?

What do the people in the industry worry about? They wonder: Is this chart still an effective marketing tool?

That is a very important question. And the problem with things like BTS songs occupying every spot on the Melon chart is not that it’s unfair to other groups–after all, is it fair to all the BTS fans who went to such efforts to undo their hard work?

The problem with it is that 1. if the Melon chart is all one group’s songs, it’s really boring, so people will stop paying attention to it, 2. the other labels say, “Hey, Melon! Where are our groups? Your marketing sucks ass!”

So, that’s what’s going on here. The charts couch this in the language of fairness because they know that’s what fans want. The whole song-and-dance about the fairness and integrity of bestseller lists and charts is, in itself, marketing–yes, they market the charts that market the music!

A chart might actually police itself in various ways, but the purpose of that is to help keep the chart interesting to people. Fairness in and of itself is not, and will never be, a true factor. And it actually can’t be, because charts are inherently unfair and biased–even the most basic things like making a chart coincide with the calendar year will help some song rankings and hurt others.

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One response »

  1. Pingback: More on the inherent unfairness of charts | My Other Blog

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