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  •  The EvO:R Street Journal

    The EvO:R Street Journal
    Editorial statement
    Dedicated to the culture, business and interests of the indie artist. EVJ delivers controversial points of view, hard-news commentary, Industry Insites, artistic prose and photography and welcomes responses (pro or con), feedback and topic suggestions from readers. If you would like to submit an opinionated article, inspired poem, photo or essay to EVJ, forward all copy to Editor ESJ and put To the Editor in the subject field.



    OMD chartsónothing from nothing leaves nothing
    By Frank Cotolo

    The number-one idea anyone ever had at an on-line music distribution (OMD) web site was to include charts. Yes, rankings of popularity, en masse and broken down into genres, struck a chord with the independent music community. That chord, of course, is one tightly wound around the egos of performers who never made it into the commercial-music world.

    Someone must have gotten a big bonus in the early days of OMDs for coming up with the idea of charting the music of all site members. After all, the measure of greatness in the commercial world of music is presence on the charts, which in the real world mirrors sales and popularity, no less lasting power. To be in the top ten of the charts was to be deigned successful, and ever independent knew this. So, OMDs, specifically mp3.com, offered charting. And the independents ate it up, even though it did not have the substance it continues to have at Billboard or Radio & Records.

    Indeed, not only didnít it have the significance of the music industryís charts, but it opened the floodgates for maniacal manipulation, further degrading it, as the blown-out egos began to give charts a meaning that was worth cheating for. Everyone wanted so badly to be deemed successful and popular that they were willing to cheat to do it. They would accept the results and spread the word about being a hit based upon ingenious corruption having to do with digital games, false plays and what is commonly known as "gaming." Pumping the statistics through phony means to achieve numbers that would assure better positions on the charts became a common practice. The independents connived and corrupted the charts idea until they sucked mp3.com dry. And, this played a big role in the decline of the site and of most of the phony performers who benefited from it.

    Not that mp3.com was totally a victim. The chart idea backfired on them. The pioneer web site put enough birdseed on their door to attract flocks of vulture-like independent artists who would stop at nothing to get more than the next guy. Mp3.com, remember, paid royalties for plays at one time. The play-for-pay idea at first, just like the charts idea, seemed brilliant. But there were too many vultures who figured out how to get more money, move up the charts and self-proclaim themselves independent giants of music.

    And the claims that mp3.com was manipulating the charts for its own benefit are still being made by site members. This too is mp3.comís fault, since the formula they created for chart placement was never revealed. They called it a secret formula and asked everyone to trust them. A lethal mistake.

    It was a farce of biblical proportions and it fell apart like a wet cardboard box. It made all independents look like bitter babies whom clamored for the spotlight. Today, the mp3.com charts are moot, focusing on major, label-signed stars. And the royalty money for independents is gone. The very platform for independents has collapsed.

    Still, surviving OMDs continued to use the chart idea. Ampcast.com came up with a rating formula and, to this day, may be the only OMD with charts that cannot be gamed. It is not foolproof. It couldnít be. The independent music world is too cluttered with fools, many who are better code monkeys than they are musicians. Indeed, the new technology is lousy with those who would destroy the useful platforms of the free agent musician (FAM). Ampcast thwarts gamers, true, but the value of charts, even there, is not of major significance.

    Charts, for all due purposes, do nothing to gauge a FAMís success and still prove not to make a difference in the sales of performersí products, CDs or otherwise. If you have a number one on any OMD chart, the fact remains weightless. The same goes for sitting at the bottom any chart. What does it mean? Even when it is an indicator of having more listeners or downloads than the next person, the only rewards are to the ego, an element with little regard to truth in the first place.

    The point is we have all been duped, but no more than we continue dupe ourselves into believing that there is fame or fortune in OMD charts. To the best of my knowledge, all of the former great number-one acts from mp3.comís heyday still have their day jobs. And the powers that be in the commercial music industry arenít spying the OMD charts to see whom they can sign.

    But the attraction of the charts continues to lure new clients to OMDs, where performers erroneously believe it promises any measure of actual success. The great OMD chart position is, in reality, a paper badge that FAMs seem to want to wear with pride, just as the emperor wore his new clothing, unaware he was naked.


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