Do Catalog Releases Make The Charts Inaccurate?

frontline vs catalogIt’s been a fact of life in the recorded music business that the records known as “frontline” releases get all the attention. The big marketing dollars, the promotion, and any sales push is reserved for only the latest releases, and that attention changes pretty quickly on to the next new one unless it’s a big hit. Even big hits have a finite lifespan in the eyes of the record label though, as after 18 months they’re relegated to what’s known as “catalog,” which are then handled by a different team within the label.

The problem here is that while this strategy might have worked back in the days of physical sales, it’s definitely not working in our current age of streaming.

Many releases actually grow in terms of number of streams during year two of their lives and beyond, and hits of the past still pick up a huge number of streams as well.

That begs the question – are the Billboard charts accurate if they only deal with current frontline releases and ignore songs and albums that have been around for awhile?

A great example of why the charts don’t necessarily tells us the pertinent information needed today comes in a post on Music Business News that showed how Imagine Dragons streams grew with every one of their albums. All of the band’s previous albums gained new streaming momentum when a new one was released to the point where the group has now become the 14th most successful artist on Spotify with over 5 billion streams.

The total number of streams for the band is impressive, but since much of it came after the 18 month period for its first two albums, they didn’t count in the charts because they were “catalog.”

This is just another example of how the music business is changing in some ways, yet still remains entrenched in the past in others. That said, many of the new guard of execs are fighting to bring the industry current, so at least there’s hope that some day they’ll get this “digital thing” (in the words of a classic exec) straight.

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