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Sunday, 19 December 2010

2010 xmas chart campaign: Bird Is The Word vs X-Factor's Matt Cardle post-mortem

Following the success of last years campaign to get Rage Against the Machine's "Killing In The Name" to the Christmas number 1 slot in the UK to "prove a point" against X-Factor (For non-UK viewers it's sort of like 'American Idol' etc., includes Simon Cowell on the judging panel and is coming to the US next year) there was inevitably going to be attempts to do the same this year. Ultimately Matt Cardle got the top spot by a huge margin. There were various efforts including these main contenders:

The sheer lunacy of trying to get people to buy a track of silence defies belief, especially a cover where you get people into a studio to record the sound of them doing nothing apart from some background noise and a cheer at the end. Clive at WE7 amused me by saying "I'm just waiting for the kareoke version". Even if proceeds are going to charity, you're better off performing a Gift Aid donation if you want to benefit the charity properly, since it's not as though the nonsense you've bought has any significant replay value, so seriously, what is the point? Much as I dislike Reggie Yates presenting the chart, at least I have to give credit for not playing the whole thing, or people might think they're radio/streaming had broken.

The attempt to get "Many Of Horror" to the top of the charts makes sense. Matt and X-Factor has rekindled interest in the track, as has been the case with many tracks which have been performed on the show. It is however seeing all the abuse for Matt for covering it though. It's not an 'I'm amazing and living my dream' sort of track like many previous X-Factor tracks, and it gives extra publicity to Biffy Clyro, and has got them extra sales with a number 8 hit. Quit whinging please.

Ultimately the track and campaign who got the most traction was the one for "Bird Is The Word", an intriguing track from 1963 which many people probably won't have been aware of prior to the Family Guy episode or the campaign to get it to Christmas number one.

Now a quick bit of history - ultimately lots of people got behind Rage Against The Machine last year and it had a lot of publicity. Despite not having been particularly successful sales wise on it's original release, it had the support of the X-Factor haters behind it. They succeeded, although not without trying to convince people to use every possible tactic to distort the figures, such as encouraging legimate (for chart purposes) multiple purchasing. I suspect a much higher proportion of the sales of the X-Factor single were purchased by distinct individuals who watched the show, and who watched the progression of Joe McElderry through the episodes and decided to buy it based on that - what's wrong with buying a track from an artist they've spent a significant amount of time watching and voting for? Same goes for the people buying Matt Cardle's track this year (who is a more respectable winner than last year, although not the best pop act in my opinion - Go Cher!).

The "Bird Is The Word" campaign attempted the same thing this year, and ultimately failed with the track stalling at number 3. Why did it fail? Maybe one of these reasons:

  1. Apathy after last year?
  2. People finally realising that throwing money into a nonsensical campaign when they could spend on something else was a bit stupid?
  3. The realisation that "Beating X-Factor" ultimately doesn't affect the number of copies of the X-Factor single sold and so doesn't affect any profits for the people in question?

While the original campaign was commendable, the multiple purchases issue for me meant that the significance of it was overplayed in the media. I'm not really sure what it was a victory for, and ultimately it couldn't be repeated this year with what is, lets face it, hardly a 'respectable release from a high quality act". I personally don't really understand the obsession with saying that people who aren't singer-songwriters aren't 'real' artists. Why can't two people collaborating, each doing what they do best produce something superior to one person trying to do both?

Worse was that this year the amount of utter nonsense being posted on the campaign web site (not by the organisers I should add) who clearly didn't understand how the chart worked was absurd. The bad language posted by many people reduced the respectability of the whole thing in my opinion. But seriously, if you don't know what you're talking about, don't post. Between people quoting figures from iTunes or sources other than the official chart as played by Radio 1, or saying "we can still do it" encouraging purchases on Sunday (which count for NEXT week you idiots). Finally there were the posts from people during the countdown complaining about the quality of some of the songs. Clearly people who actually couldn't give a damn about the charts most of the time and had no real idea what they were competing against until today, and just automatically dismissing what people are actually listening to - they just wanted to crash a party they didn't understand. And seriously, when you're supporting "Surfin' Bird" the moral high ground doesn't really exist in that respect. This xkcd cartoon just about sums up the whole thoughts of some of these people posting. The organisers aren't completely innocent either, since having a go at the people who 'liked' the campaign but didn't buy it (there were over 600k in the group) and accusing them of not knowing how to use facebook isn't a good way to treat people. That's like saying that people who like xfactor and don't buy the single are somehow wrong.

The other point of note is that people talking about the immense failure of Joe McElderry last year (true, his last single hit the not very dizzy heights of #68 this month) had more to do with the fact he was nothing special rather than due to the campagins. it's not necessarily the case that matt will be forgotten this time next year. Look at JLS, Alexandra Burke, Diana Vickers - all acts from previous X-Factor shows that have had number one hits during 2010. Talent will shine through, whether from X-Factor or not. Yes the should has a lot of rubbish in it, but there are exceptions, and they get the success they deserve (Although I still think we should have buried Jedward and not let them release anything!).

Finally, I'd just like to congratulate Rihanna on having 5 tracks in the top 40 this week, including the track she duetted with Matt Cardle, arguably her best track 'Unfaithful'. She also has the number 2 slot which gives her an 'honorary Christmas number 1' with 'What's My Name' as the top selling track which wasn't tainted by external forces.

To clarify matters, I'm all for a proper competition for the Christmas number one chart position, I just wish it was by artists who wanted to compete by releasing relevant new music at that time. It seems strange to focus so much on 'number one or bust' in what is usually the biggest selling week for music in the entire year.

You know I'm right, now get over it and look forward to 2011 ;-)