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date: 22 January 2020


  • Dave Laing


A list of songs or records graded in terms of popularity, generally measured in terms of record sales, radio airplay or both. The charts, also known as the hit parade, are regarded as important marketing tools by the record industry. The earliest charts (of sheet music sales) were published in American music trade magazines at the end of the 19th century. The importance of music for radio in the 1930s led to the introduction of chart programmes of which the most famous was ‘Your Hit Parade’, launched in the USA in 1935. The longest-running British chart programme is the BBC television show ‘Top of the Pops’, transmitted weekly since 1964. Since the 1950s, a considerable number of local radio stations in the USA have based their programming solely on the records appearing in the national singles charts by adopting a ‘Top 40’ format.

The methods used to compile charts gradually increased in sophistication. For many years, telephone interviews were conducted with store managers who listed their best-selling recordings. In Britain in the 1960s this was replaced by a printed list of titles, sales of which store managers were required to register by placing a tick next to the title. With the introduction of bar codes on the packaging of recorded music and of electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems in the retail sector, it was eventually possible to link shop tills to a central computer for analysis. When such a system was introduced in America by the SoundScan™ company (...

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