In an era when fewer and fewer people are buying physical copies of albums, album sales charts have become increasingly meaningless. As a result, it’s becoming harder to get an idea of just how many people are spending time with new records. Thankfully, Last.FM automatically tracks all of its users’ listening habits and I always find it interesting to analyze some of the Charts on the site.
Radiohead are almost always in the top 3 (usually #2) of the Overall Artists chart but, unsurprisingly, upon the release of The King Of Limbs, the band jumped ahead of The Beatles and have been there the last couple weeks now. This will likely not change for a while (especially considering how long Radiohead held the top spot after the release of In Rainbows).
For the Radiohead trainspotter, however, the far more interesting chart is the Top Tracks chart. Last.FM sorts the top songs by the total number of listeners in a given week rather than a total number of plays (so if I play a song once or twenty times a week, it still counts the same toward the chart). Since the release of The King Of Limbs two weeks ago, the album’s eight songs have been the top eight songs played by Last.FM users. Again, not really that surprising given how popular Radiohead is amongst the Last.FM community.
What is interesting to note is the placing of the songs. Songs featured earlier in any record are bound to get more plays but Last.FM’s top song is Lotus Flower, indicating listeners are skipping to that one and maybe not always playing anything else from the record. Codex is another song that really seems to be connecting with people given its #3 chart spot. Morning Mr Magpie, however, is at #8 on the chart despite being the second song on the album. While I might be wrong (!), I think this has less to do with people skipping it (it’s one of my favourites, actually) and more to do with some people retagging the song with a full stop after the Mr (like this: Mr.) rather than leaving the song tagged as it was when it was sent out from Radiohead.com. This results in two separate listings for the same song on the Last.FM site. Oh, the exciting details of mp3 tagging!
Much like the Top Tracks chart, the Loved Tracks chart (indicating the most “Loved” songs on the site) also indicates that Lotus Flower and Codex are many people’s favourite songs from The King Of Limbs as they place at #1 and #4, respectively. The next song from The King Of Limbs to appear on the chart? Separator at #29. Clearly the closing track is connecting with a lot of people as well.
While many of Last.FM’s charts are currently dominated by the band, Radiohead fans shouldn’t be completely pleased with themselves; despite placing tenth on this week’s chart, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way has the second most total plays on the site, sitting behind Lotus Flower. Maybe people just keep listening to see if she really did rip off Express Yourself so blatantly?
Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the tracks from The King Of Limbs do over the next few weeks on Last.FM. It may not be the Billboard charts but I think in some way it does capture the current musical zeitgeist pretty accurately.