Kate Bush is set to top the UK music charts this week with her 1985 hit, Running Up That Hill. But, how is a change of rules responsible?
The internet is a brilliant way for new musicians and artists to get discovered. By sharing music featuring in video content on platforms like TikTok, people have been able to bag record deals. Lil Nas X is a prime example, using a TikTok challenge to promote his new track and see it go viral.
This kind of viral fame isn’t reserved for fresh music only, however. Fleetwood Mac’s track, Dreams saw a resurgence, again, thanks to a TikTok trend. The latest classic song to be revived thanks to online platforms is Running Up That Hill by mystical and enigmatic 1980s singer/songwriter Kate Bush.
The track has seen a surge in popularity since being featured in Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things. As a result, masses of people have taken to social media to share their love for the track, sharing a cappella renditions, lip-syncing to the lyrics, or simply using it as background music to videos.
It’s no surprise then that the number of streams for Running Up That Hill has shot up. But, until a week or so ago, this wouldn’t have been enough to nab the number 1 spot in the UK music charts.
Streams vs Sales
The music charts in the UK originally revolved around sales of physical formats, like vinyl records or CDs. Each in-store physical sale was counted towards the chart.
The age of digital music streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple Music has significantly altered the landscape. Working out positions in the charts based on streams isn’t as straightforward as actual sales. So, how does this apply to Kate Bush?
She’s already sitting firmly at number 2, with an average of 700,000 plays per day on Spotify for the song in question. It’s also currently the most streamed song in the UK at the moment. So, why is Harry Styles at number 1 instead?
Well, Kate Bush’s chances of reaching the top spot have been vastly increased. This is all thanks to a change in the rules, or one rule in particular. That rule is known as “accelerated decline”.
What Is Accelerated Decline
In order to keep the music charts representative of what people were listening to, a new system had to be worked out to include streams. It was also needed to create a fairer playing field for new songs and older classics (although, “fair” is not a word often linked to music streaming, particularly following an inquiry last year from the DCMS).
The record industry agreed that a new record earns one “sale” for every time it’s streamed 100 times on a premium music service. It’s a sale for every 600 plays on an ad-funded service, like the free version of Spotify. For older songs, the requirements are tougher; 200 premium streams or 1,200 ad-funded streams to earn one “sale”.
This was done to keep the charts varied and fresh. If not for accelerated decline, and if streams were counted like-for-life as sales are, songs like Mr Brightside by The Killers would never leave the top 40.
This rule is the reason Harry Styles coolly glided into number 1 position last week with his new single, As It Was. A higher streams-to-sales ratio made this possible. But then, things changed…
The Chart Supervisory Committee, which oversees the UK Top 40, lifted the accelerated decline rule for Running Up That Hill. Now, the song puts it on equal footing with Styles’ new single, and gives it a matching streams-to-sales ratio.
Whilst this is not common, it’s not completely unheard of. According to chart rules, if a single sees its sales increase by 25% week on week, it can become discounted from the rule. In the case of Kate Bush, her label EMI requested a manual reset of the rule, which is also another option.
Normally, one week’s notice is all that is required for a reset. It has taken a fortnight for it to be enacted in this case, but this is unlikely to hurt Kate’s chances. As of Monday, the 80s icon was already 5,000 sales ahead of Harry Styles.
Sharing a message on her website, the singer said “It’s hard to take in the speed at which this has all been happening since the release of the first part of the Stranger Things new series. So many young people who love the show, discovering the song for the first time.”
According to The Duffer Brothers, the creators of Stranger Things, the song plays an even more significant role in the second part of the new series. Set to air in July, we could see an even bigger, or at least extended, spike in popularity for Kate Bush’s music.