Monday, August 2, 2010

Points System

Each week, ARIA puts together a weekly chart tracking the highest selling singles of the week. Previous to that, the Kent Charts provided information, while the GO SET charts in 1965 become Australia's first official list of the most successful songs on a weekly basis. While this is adequate enough for the general population, there are a few of us who require something on a bigger scale. Something that represents an entire year. Maybe even an entire decade. Well, why stop there, how about all time?

Well, unfortunately there is nothing provided for us, and realistically, if something was, it would be a farce. Sales figures, population growth, music availability and format, and inflation adjustment are difficult variations to overcome to provide an accurate list, but there's one thing that does stand, and it's back to that good old weekly list of songs.

Personally, I think it's important to keep track of these weekly charts into a bigger picture. It keep those times relevant, and puts them up against the music of today. While radio, and its listeners may be happy to forget certain songs because they aren't the most obvious of past hits to play, I believe we're all missing out on some true gems that would certainly sit nicely against some of the more, shall we say, overplayed hits. Who better a judge of a good song than the people buying music during that time, all contributing towards that weekly Top 100 chart.

I've been tracking the charts for as long as I can remember. While I may not have been configuring them into some sort of all time list, I must say I was probably only 5 or 6 at the time, and not terribly good at book-keeping. It was more my fascination that songs were ranked, and counted down, and if something went up the charts, it must be something good. It was the end of 1989 when I bought two scrapbooks, and pasted in my first two charts to keep. One was for Singles as I pasted the End Of Year chart for 1989, and the other, likewise, for Albums. For the next eight years, I tracked and collected the printed charts of which I still own today, and with possibly a little bit of value attached, if only just sentimental.

As the human race progressed onto the internet, so did the charts, and the printed charts stopped. As much as I tried to stay in touch, I lagged behind so much as to lose my interest somewhat in the charts. I always kept and ear out, but my knowledge became less encyclopedic as it had previously been. Eventually I did catch up again, alas almost a decade later, and I had a lot of chart action to catch up on. Becoming an ARIA subscriber, I shall never miss a chart again, no matter how bad its music gets.

Well, enough about me, and more about this thread.

Going back to that weekly chart being enough for most, and the prospect of an all-time list being compiled being pretty much nil, many of us resort to our own points systems. They can be as basic as a 50-1 system issuing 50 points to the #1 song of the week, down to 1 point for #50, or something a little more intricate as mine, which I have fought with, tweaked, and wasted much of my life trying to perfect.

Twenty years later, taking on board the logical barriers, and using a few abstract ideas, I've finally brought all chart entries down to a single formula...

=((SUM(Weeks 1-50)*4.5+SUM(Weeks 51, 52)*6.75+Debut+MAX(Top 3, Gold))+MAX (#1, Platinum)+2xPlatinum+3xPlatinum+4xPlatinum)*Accreditation

OK, so its as clear as mud, and also possibly quite far-fetched, but as I said, this comes from 20 years of creative formula constructing, and as long as single fell within the sales limits of their accreditation (which they do for about 95% of the time), I was happy. So now for the explanation.


There's quite a few of us out there who like to put a points system together for the charts, with most adopting the simplest 50-1 system, assigning 50 points to #1 down to 1 point for a #50 placing. That surely is the easiest and least time consuming, and had I adopted such a system I could have probably built a small house with the extra time I would have. I was never comfortable with this, as I thought of the charts being a little less equally spread. I thought of a system where I started at 1 point for #50, and then added 2 points for #49, 3 more points for #48, and so on until I added an extra 50 points for #1. This was something I took on completely quite early in my chart studies, maybe even as early as 1990. It would be until just recently when I had to describe it to somebody that it actually had a name - The Triangular System.

The allocation of points for the Top 50 is as follows...


It makes sense to me that the top end of the Top 50 should be significantly further spaced that that of the lower numbers, and as far as number systems are concerned, think this is the simplest way to convey that.

Quite a few years later, I started including below Top 50 information which was not easily available to me until I was able to afford a subscription to ARIA sometime in the mid-2000's. I was kindly brought up to date by a fellow chart lover, and soon I began the daunting task to filling in #51-#100 information. But I had already committed to the triangular system, on paper and in my head.

My solution was to add 100 points to each of the Top 50 positions (a round number, an ideal I use a lot in this formula) which gave the #50 position 101 points. From there I counted down from 99 for #51, 98 for #52 and so on, until #100 was given 50 points.


While we can still get a good indication of the most successful singles from the points, I always wanted it to be more in line with a sales figure than just simply a point value. I set about finding a way to bring this figure up to that mark. My formula uses 4.5 as the multiplyer, and while it's easy for me to tell you this now, it was a long and tiresome task to find the most suitable process. Keeping it to "round" numbers, I tried all kinds of multipliers, 3.5, 5, 4, etc. I even tried to tailor them to the years to make the points more in line with ARIA's End Of Year charts. But in the end, I wanted everything universal, and 4.5 hit the mark the most times. Let's see how this worked with one of 1990's Gold hits, "Lambada" by Kaoma.

Weekly Points using the Triangular System = 15,473
Multiplier .................................................... x 4.5
Estimated Sales ........................................... = 69,629

This was actually the highest placed Gold single in 1990's End Of Year charts, suggesting it just missed the Platinum mark of 70,000 units. To compare to another Gold single that didn't make the EOY Top 50, let's see how "I Remember You" by Skid Row fared.

Weekly Points using the Triangular System = 8,840
Multiplier .................................................... x 4.5
Estimated Sales ........................................... = 39,780

This single was one of the lowest placed Gold single for 1990, suggesting it just scraped through the Gold status mark of 35,000 units. For this period of the charts, and for anything Gold and below, this system worked beautifully.


The Triangular System and multiplier falters when it comes to the handful of singles that manage to exceed Platinum status for the year. A higher multiplier was needed to accommodate these singles to a higher and more accurate estimated sales figure.

Again using "round" numbers, I assigned a increase of .25 to the multiplier for each advance in Platinum status. Gold singles were left as is, which in actual fact was assigning a multiplier of 1 for that accreditation. Adding .25 to that for Platinum singles, they would then be further multiplied by 1.25. 2xPlatinum singles would be multiplied by 1.4, 3xPlatinum by 1.75, and finally, 4xPlatinum multiplied by 2, the most I've ever had to multiply a single by for a complete year.

To use another example from 1990, Concrete Blonde's "Joey" was nestled midway amongst other Platinum singles for the year, and my estimated points reflect this nicely.

Weekly Points using the Triangular System = 17,209
Multiplier .................................................... x 4.5
Preliminary Estimated Sales ....................... = 77,441
Platinum Accreditation Multiplier................ x 1.25
Estimated Sales........................................... = 96,801

But, of course, there's more than come...