Crushed by the wheels of industry. The Modern and chart hype.
UK retro glamsters The Modern have been unceremoniously thrown out of the singles chart. They have been found guilty of attempting to fix their chart position by bulk buying both CD’s and downloads. The band crash landed in the chart last week at number 13. I don’t think it would have been the sales patterns that alerted the OCC to the fix but the simple fact that a record so shockingly awful could have entered the chart that high.
Chart rigging is an art form that has been perfected by record companies over the years. As an ex record shop employee I have been known to not scan certain records through the reader in a vain hope of lowering chart positions and scan a few sly ones for my favourite artists. Working for what was one of the big chains at the time I never got offered bribes but friends who worked in local independent shops did. Free t-shirts, cd’s or gig tickets where offered in exchange for a few extra swipes of the light pen. This was in the age before electronic tills, yes I am that old.
Payola Scandals (paying for airplay) are as old as rock n’ roll itself. In 1959 the first major investigation in payola began and it quickly gathered evidence that resulted in 25 DJ’s being charged. The highest profile casualties of the scandal where Dick Clark and Alan Freed. Freed the John the Baptist of rock n roll refused to accept or deny the claims had it ruined his career.
Payola is not consigned to history. In 2000 a Texas Radio station was fined $2,000 for being paid to play Bryan Adams records. Its likely that the fine would not have even been the cost of a single play that the station charged. In July 2005 Song/BMG settled with the New York attorney general Elliott Spitzer to the tune of $10 million. According to some unnamed sources, the pay-for-play was quite overt with one Sony executive saying that "Please be advised that in this week's Jennifer Lopez Top 40 Spin Increase of 236 we bought 63 spins at a cost of $3,600.
The UK market in the 80’s used the mass marketing of singles in order to promote/force records further up the charts. Singles released in a varity of format, single, picture disc, coloured vinyl, poster pack, double 7” single the list was almost endless.
The result was that the chart company now restricts formats to only three styles of release. One of these must still be a physical format such as CD, vinyl or cassette. The Gorllias reportedly released just 300 copies of the single "Feel Good Inc." in a 7" vinyl format only in order to get the single into the lower reaches of the chart three before the download became available. It was a kind of promo release with chart in its sights.
The Official Chart Company issued the following statement regarding the modern;
During the course of last week OCC's market research agency identified unusual sales patterns related to the physical formats of this release. Further security checks revealed that significant bulk purchases had been made on this single through one online retailer.
Many of the bulk sales identified were traced to persons and/or organisations seemingly connected to the band. For this reason OCC took the decision to disqualify the record from the chart published on Sunday (March 12) as the vast majority of sales could not be verified as genuine purchases by music buyers.
The OCC added that while they make small allowances for keen fans trying to improve their favourite band's chart placings, in this instance "standard data checks revealed hundreds of copies being purchased by a handful of individuals. Under these circumstances to preserve the integrity of the Official Top 40 the action was taken to remove the single from the chart
So the Modern’s problem seems to be the stupidity of the method that they used and not the fact that they where cheating the system.
Mind the records are so poor that they where bound to get caught.
For reviews of the last two Modern singles go here:
Tony Heywood 2006 ©