This past year has seen an interesting shift in the music industry, specifically on the Billboard charts. Once decidedly sure-fire number one artists have found themselves in the number four or five positions. Artists such as Dave Matthews Band or Metallica have found their once safe haven at number one, are topped by acts such as Morgan Wallen.
Rock still has its place in the world; Noel Gallagher and The Foo Fighters are currently battling it out for the top album slot. Despite changes in the publics taste, catering more towards pop stars like Dua Lipa, or dare I say it, country. While these superstar bands lost the number one album spot, they continue to see their songs in movies and selling out stadiums, it begs an important question, does chart position matter? Recent trends in how music is distributed point all signs to the sad fact that it no longer does.
A brief history of the Billboard album charts, they started as far back as 1894 as a trade magazine to advertise performers on a bill. The company focused on various aspects of the music industry in the 1920’s. They were primarily focused on physical sales and in 1936 when they published their first chart, The Hit Parade. Billboard, like the times, expanded and grew to include radio airplay, streaming, video plays and digital downloads. The effects of chart positions on records were primarily aimed toward record execs to see which artist the public demanded. Getting top positions consecutively helped make artists’ careers, while those without them, faded into obscurity.
Since music has shifted towards streaming, it no longer matters where the records chart. What really is on everyone’s minds, how do the charts affect the artists? More importantly, do the artists even care about the chart positions in the first place?
With tours such as Kiss’s End of The Road Tour, the band has seen themselves sell out stadiums over the last three years. The bands last record, 2012’s Monster, debuted at number 3. Despite the high chart position, low sales, and lack of live appetite for new songs resulted in Simmons shying away from new material. Yet the band is still a hot commodity, thanks to expert marketing and an explosively fun live show, the band continues without having had to chart in the last decade.
Metallica have also kicked off their 72 Seasons tour, taking its name from their latest record. News broke recently that Metallica’s 32-yearlong streak of number 1 album releases ended. The streak began with their self-titled record back 1991, before the metal titans reign came to an end in 2023. Yet the band still carries on a two-year long world tour, creating music videos and getting regular airplay on stations.
The charting position is no longer the be all end all that it used to be for artists. There are other metrics in terms of a band maintaining its status within the industry. Social media has been a huge way for artists to connect to their fans. Even live, bands have opted for career spanning setlists rather than focusing on one specific chart-topping record.
What was once a make-or-break metric for artists, now is no longer as relevant as it was. With new ways to measure artists’ success on social media, charts matter even less. Even live shows are becoming more career centered than albums or single based.