UK Singles Chart

UK Singles Chart
The Official Singles Chart logo, introduced by The Official Charts Company in October 2011

The UK Singles Chart is compiled by The Official Charts Company (OCC) on behalf of the British record-industry. The full chart contains the top selling 200 singles in the United Kingdom based upon combined record sales and download numbers, though some media outlets only list the Top 40 (such as the BBC) or the Top 75 (such as Music Week Magazine) of this list. Around 6,500 British retail outlets contribute sales data, as well as most UK online digital download stores. Unlike charts in the United States, no airplay statistics are used for the official UK Singles Chart. The chart week runs from 00:01 Sunday to midnight Saturday,[1] with most UK digital singles being released on Sundays, followed by physical releases on Monday.[2]

The Top 40 chart is first revealed on Sunday afternoons by BBC Radio 1 (By Reggie Yates) (prior even to posting on the OCC's own website), with the chart subsequently being printed in Music Week magazine (Top 75 only) on the following Monday, and the independent newsletter UKChartsPlus (Top 200) on Wednesdays. It is also published online on various sites such as UK top 40 chart (generally Top 40 only). Radio 1 broadcasts the Top 40, in reverse order, on Sundays from 16:00 to 19:00. The show had various presenters over the years including Mark Goodier and Bruno Brookes, and Alan Freeman whose Pick Of The Pops formed the chart show throughout the 1960s and into the early 70s. Since October 2007, Reggie Yates has presented the chart show and, until September 2009, with Fearne Cotton. Cotton was the first ever permanent female presenter of the Official Chart Show.[3] A rival chart called The Big Top 40 Show, is based on downloads and commercial radio airplay, which is broadcast on 140 commercial local radio stations.

According to the canon of The Official Charts Company, the official British singles chart is the New Musical Express chart from 1952 to 1960; the Record Retailer chart from 1960 to 1969; and the Official UK Singles Chart from 1969 on.

According to the Official Charts Company's statistics, as of 30 October 2011, 1,179 singles have topped the UK singles chart. The precise number of chart-toppers is debatable due to the profusion of different competing charts from the 1950s to the 1980s, but the usual list used is that endorsed by the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles and subsequently adopted by The Official UK Charts Company. There was no official chart before Tuesday 11 February 1969. Prior to this the BBC compiled their own chart based on an average of music papers of the time, meaning that many of the songs announced as having reached number one on BBC Radio and Top of the Pops prior to 1969 are not listed as chart toppers according to the above canon.


Early charts

Before sales of records were recorded a song's popularity was measured by the sales of sheet music. The idea to compile a chart based on sales originated in America where the music trade paper, Billboard, compiled the first chart incorporating sales figures on 20 July 1940. Record charts in the UK began life in 1952 when Percy Dickins from New Musical Express (NME) gathered a pool of 52 stores willing to return data sales figures.[4][5] For the first British chart, Dickins telephoned a sample of around 20 shops asking for a list the 10 best-selling songs. These results were then aggregated to give a Top 12 chart[nb 1] which was published in NME on 14 November 1952 with Al Martino's "Here in My Heart" awarded the number-one position.[4][5] The chart became of successful feature of the periodical; it was expanded to a Top 20 for 1 October 1954, and rival publications began compiling their own charts starting in 1955.[8] Record Mirror compiled its own Top 10 chart for 22 January 1955 and was based on the postal returns from record stores that were financed by the newspaper—NME, was based on a telephone poll.[9] Both charts expand in size with Mirror's becoming a Top 20 in October 1955 and NME's becoming a Top 30 in April 1956.[8][10] Another rival publication, Melody Maker, began compiling its own chart and telephoned 19 stores to produce a Top 20 for 7 April 1956; it was also the first chart to include Northern Ireland in its sample.[5]

Record Mirror began running a Top 5 album chart in July 1956 and from November 1958 this was run by NME.[11][8] In March 1960, Record Retailer began compiling an EP (album) chart and had a Top 50 singles chart.[11] Although NME had the biggest circulation of charts in the 1960s and was more widely followed,[5][12] In March 1962, Record Mirror stopped compiling their own chart and published Record Retailer's instead.[5] Retailer became independently audited from January 1963 and is used by UK Singles Chart the source for number ones from the week ending 12 March 1960.[8][11] The choice of Record Retailer as the canonical source has been criticised,[13][5] however the chart was unique in listing close to fifty positions for the whole decade.[13] With available lists of which record shops were sampled for to compile the charts, some shops were subjected to "hyping" but, with Record Retailer being less widely followed than some charts, it was subject to less hyping. Additionally, Retailer was set up by independent record shops and had no funding or affiliation with record companies. However, it had a significantly smaller sample size than some of the rival charts.[5] Before February 1969, when the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) chart was established, there was no official chart or universally accepted source.[5][12][13] People followed charts in various periodicals and, during this time, the BBC used aggregated results of charts from the NME, Melody Maker, Disc and, later, Record Mirror to compile the Pick of the Pops chart.[9] However, according to The Official Charts Company and Guinness' British Hit Singles & Albums, the canonical sources for the unofficial period are NME before 10 March 1960 and Record Retailer until 1969.[8]

The official chart

Prior to 1969 there had been no official singles chart.[5][12][13] Record Retailer and the BBC jointly commissioned the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) to compile the charts starting from 15 February 1969.[5][8] The BMRB compiled its first chart from postal returns of sales logs from 250 record shops.[8] The sampling cost approximately £52,000 and shops were randomly chosen from a pool of around 6,000 and they submitted figures for sales taken up to the close of trade on Saturday. The sales diaries were translated into punch cards so the data could be interpreted by a computer. A computer then compiled the chart on Monday and the BBC were informed of the Top 50 on Tuesday ready for it to be announced on Johnnie Walker's afternoon show. The charts were also published in Record Retailer (rebranded Record & Tape Retailer in 1971 and then Music Week in 1972)[14] and Record Mirror.[5] However, the BMRB often struggled to have the full sample of sales figures returned by post. The 1971 postal strike meant that data had to be collected by telephone but this was deemed inadequate for a national chart, and by 1973 the BMRB was using motorcycle couriers to collect sales figures.[5] In May 1978, the singles chart was expanded from a Top 50 to a Top 75. A World in Action documentary exposé in 1980 revealed corruption within the industry and the stores' chart returns dealer could frequently be offered bribes to falsify the sales logs.[15]

Electronic age

From 1983 until 1990 the chart was financed by BPI (50 percent), Music Week (38 percent) and the BBC (12 percent).[16] On 4 January 1983, the chart compilation was taken over by Gallup who expanded the chart with a "Next 25" in addition to the Top 75[nb 2] and began the introduction of computerised tills which automated the data collection process.[5][8] In July 1987, Gallup signed a new contract with BPI increasing the sample size to around 500 stores and introducing barcode scanners to read data.[18] The chart was based entirely on sales of physical singles from retail outlets and announced on Tuesday until October 1987, when the Top 40 was revealed each Sunday, due to the new automated process.[19] The 1980s also saw the introduction of the cassette single (or "cassingle") alongside the 7-inch and 12-inch record formats and in 1987 major record labels developed a common format for the Compact Disc single.[20] In May 1989, chart regulations kept Kylie Minogue's song "Hand on Your Heart" from number one because sales from cassette singles were not included as they had been sold for £1.99 – cheaper than was allowed at the time. Following this the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) reduced the minimum price for cassette singles to become eligible towards sales figures.[21] In September 1989, W H Smith began to send sales data to Gallup directly through electronic point of sale (EPoS) terminals.[18]

In January 1990, the BPI gave notice to Gallup, BBC, and Music Week and on 30 June 1990 terminated its contract with them because it "could no longer afford the £600,000 a year cost".[22][23] From 1 July 1990, the Chart Information Network (CIN) was formed by Spotlight Publications,[nb 3] publisher of Music Week, in cooperation with the BBC and the British Association of Record Dealers (BARD) – representing many retailers including W H Smith, Woolworths, HMV, and Virgin – who agreed to exclusively supply sales data to the CIN.[18][25] A Chart Supervisory Committee (CSC) to represent the BBC, CIN and retailers. The BPI were reluctant to join and "consider[ed] the option of launching a rival chart"[23] but, in September, and agreement was reached and they joined the CSC.[26] For this brief period the chart was produced by Gallup but owned by CIN and Music Week who would then sell it on to the BBC and BPI.[27] Then, in January 1991, the CIN became a joint venture between Link House Magazines (formerly Spotlight Publications, later Miller Freeman)[28] and the BPI who shared the revenue and costs which were said to be around £750,000 or £1 million.[18][27][29] During this time other major retailers such as Woolworths and John Menzies started submitting data using EpOS terminals.[18] Towards the end of 1991, the sample consisted of 500 stores scanning barcodes of all record sales into a Epson PX-4 computer and 650 other stores that gave sales data through their own EPoS computerised tills. These computers were be telephoned six times a week to provide the data to Gallup.[30] In June 1991, the BPI reduced the number of eligible formats from five to four.[31]

In November 1990, the "Next 25" section of the UK singles chart, i.e., positions 76–100 with specially applied rules, ceased to be printed in the official trade magazine Music Week.[citation needed] In April 1991 the publication Record Mirror was discontinued.[14] From this date the "Next 25", which had been published by Record Mirror, was no longer printed.[32][33] Virgin installed JDA EPoS terminals in September 1993 and began providing sales data to Gallup for the first time.[34]

In February 1993, the research contract for the chart was put out to tender with a new four-year contract beginning 1 February 1994. Millward Brown, Research International, Nielsen Market Research were approaced, and Gallup were invited to re-apply.[35] In May, it was announced that Millward Brown had been formally accepted as the next chart compilers signing a £1-million-a-year contract.[18] Millward Brown took over compiling the charts on 1 February 1994 and increased the sample size;[8][36] by the end of the month, each shop sampled used a barcode scanner that linked via an Epson terminal with a modem to a central computer (called "Eric") which logged the data of more than 2,500 stores.[36] Gallup tried to block Millward Brown's new chart by complaining to the Office of Fair Trading about the contractual clause where BARD retailers exclusively supplied sales data to the CIN but the interim order was rejected.[37] In June 1995, the case was dropped after the clause was deleted allowing BARD retailers to supply sales information to other chart compilers; however, because CIN retained the copyright other compilers could not use or sell the information.[38]

From 2 April 1995, the number of eligible formats was reduced from four to three.[31] The decision came after nine months of negotiations with BARD who objected that it would adversely affect the vinyl record industry.[39] Although record labels were not prohibited from releasing singles in more than three formats they had to identify the three eligible formats.[31] This resulted in a large reduction to the number of singles released as a 7-inch format; the most common three formats were 12-inch single, cassette and CD, or a cassette and two CD versions.[40] Curiously, the ruling caused Oasis single "Some Might Say" to chart twice in one week – once (at number 2) with sales from the three eligible formats and again (at number 71) from sales in a fourth, 12-inch format.[41]

Subsequently CIN sought to open new marketing opportunities and sponsorship deals; these included premium-rate fax and telephone services and chart newsletters, Charts+Plus (published from May 1991 to November 1994) and HitMusic (published from September 1992 to May 2001).

HitMusic, sister publication of Music Week listed the top full 200 positions for the singles and albums charts. However, it ceased publication in May 2001.[42]

From May 1991, the newly established newsletter "Charts+Plus" featured the singles charts with positions 76–200 (plus artist albums positions 76–150, Top 50 compilations, and several genre and format charts). In September 1992, a second newsletter was created: "Hit Music" features, among other charts, the singles Top 75 plus a revived "Next 25".

In November 1994, Charts+Plus ceased publication, and Hit Music expanded its chart coverage to an uncompressed (in other words, not applying any special rules) Top 200 Singles, Top 150 Artists Albums and Top 50 Compilations. In November 1996 the Artist Albums chart extended to a Top 200.

In February 1997, CIN and BARD agreed a new 18-month deal for the charts.[43] In 1998 the CSC agreed a set of new rules reducing the number of tracks on a single from four to three, the playing time from 25 minutes to 20 minutes, and the CD minimum single dealer price to £1.79.[44]

On 1 July 1998, BARD and BPI took over the running and managing of the chart from the CIN (a Miller Freeman and BPI venture) with new company Music Industry Chart Services (Mics),[45] but in August they decided to reverted to compiling the charts under the name CIN.[46]

In 1999, Millward Brown began "re-chipping" some retailers machines in anticipation of the millennium bug.[47] However, some independent retailers lost access to the record-label-funded Electronic Record Ordering System (Eros) and it was "too costly to make it Year 2000 compliant".[48] Towards the end of the 1990s, companies looked to distribute singles over the Internet following the example of Beggars Banquet and Liquid Audio who made 2,000 tracks available for digital download in America.[49]

In November 2001 Chart Information Network (CIN) changed its name to "The Official UK Charts Company".

With its edition no.439 in May 2001, Hit Music ceased publication. By September 2001, chart enthusiast Herman Verkade entered a licensing agreement with CIN and created an independent new chart publication: ChartsPlus, covering the Top 75 Singles chart plus compressed positions 76–200, as well as the Top 200 artist albums chart, Top 50 compilations, and many other format and genre charts.

Internet age

In January 2004, MyCokeMusic launched as the "first significant download retailer".[50] Legal downloading was initially small with MyCokeMusic selling over 100,000 downloads in its first three months. In June, the iTunes Store was launched in the UK and more than 450,000 were downloaded in the first week.[51] In early September the UK Official Download Chart was launched and Westlife's "Flying Without Wings" was the first number one.[52]

In 2005 Wes Butters presented the last ever UK Top 40 concluding his time at Radio 1. The chart show was then radically re branded for the chart week ending 16 April, the first singles chart combining physical release sales with legal downloads began. Several test charts, and finally an actual download sales chart on its own, were published in 2004, but this combination within the official singles chart reflected a changing era, where sales of the physical single were falling while download sales were rising. On 17 April 2005, hosts JK and Joel commented during the broadcast on BBC Radio 1 that the incorporation of download sales had resulted in an approximate doubling of singles sales on the week. For the first week's combined chart, however, the impact of this doubling was not readily apparent at the top of the chart, although a few singles in the middle positions benefited.

Initially, the British Association of Record Dealers were worried about the popularity of downloading taking away business from the high street.[citation needed] They also complained that including singles that were not available physically would confuse customers and create gaps in stores' sale racks. But they did agree to the new rules provided that digital sales were only included to a single's sales tally so long as there was a physical equivalent sold in shops at the time. However, as there was no rule for the minimum number of pressings, Gorillaz got round this by releasing just 300 vinyl copies of their single "Feel Good Inc." on 12 April 2005, a month before its general release. This allowed it to debut in the chart at number 22 (eventually reaching number 2) and remain in the Top 40 for a longer period.

After pressure from elsewhere in the music industry, a second compromise was reached in 2006, which now allowed singles to chart on downloads the week before their physical release. The Black Eyed Peas and Ne-Yo charted early as a result, and on 2 April 2006, "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley became the first song to top the charts on music download sales alone. As part of the revised rules, singles would now be removed from the chart two weeks after the deletion of the physical formats, which meant "Crazy" fell out of the chart 11 weeks later from number 5, and a subsequent chart-topper, Nelly Furtado's "Maneater", disappeared from number 10. This was in addition to the already in-force rule that in order to be eligible for the chart, the physical single had to have been released within the last twelve months. This was a very unpopular decision with chart followers, as it made a mockery of the charts apparently fairly representing the biggest selling singles. It meant a song could sell enough to be number one, but because it had been deleted 2 weeks earlier it would not even be in the Top 200.

Over the coming months digital sales continued to increase whilst physical sales continued to fall, which saw more and more artists entering the top 40 early, and fewer and fewer singles entering the chart directly at number 1. Whilst initially the proportion of digital sales to physical sales in the combined tally was relatively low, a majority of singles are now seeing more than 50% of their sales coming from online. Sales through mobile phones are now also counted.[citation needed] , but it is no longer expected that sales data of ringtones will ever be included.

On 1 January 2007 the integration of downloaded music into the charts became complete when all downloads - with or without a physical equivalent - became eligible to chart effectively bringing an end to the UK singles chart, by turning it into a "songs" chart. This saw a few singles gain publicity: the aforementioned "Crazy" and "Maneater", still selling strongly on downloads some time after their physical equivalents had been deleted, both returned to the chart along with several others that had been removed in the preceding months. "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol surged back in at a Top 10 position (number 9, just three places below the peak it had reached the previous September), while "Honey to the Bee" by Billie Piper, following a tongue-in-cheek promotional push by Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles to test out the new chart rules, reappeared at number 17, almost eight years after its original chart run.

The second song to return to the Top 40 several years after its first hit run was "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy & Faith Evans, which reappeared at number 32 a full decade after it originally topped the chart. The impetus this time was Puff Daddy's recent performance of a new version of the track at the Princess Diana Memorial Concert at Wembley. Two months later Luciano Pavarotti's "Nessun Dorma" returned to the chart at number 24 in the week following his death, 17 years after it was first a hit, climbing subsequently to number 12, while a drumming gorilla in a Dairy Milk television advert helped "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins to climb to number 14, 26 years after it was first a hit and 19 years since its last chart appearance as a re-mix. None of these songs had been officially re-issued.

"Blag, Steal and Borrow" by Koopa became the first song to chart without ever being released physically (and the first by an unsigned band to do so). Later in the year they would do it again twice, with "One Off Song for the Summer" and "The Crash" reaching #21 and #16 respectively, while the band remained unsigned until the following year.

Following the cancellation of its physical release "Say It Right" by Nelly Furtado was the first Top 10 hit to get through its entire chart career without a single copy ever appearing in any shop. "Lord Don't Slow Me Down" by Oasis became the second, "Violet Hill" by Coldplay the third, and "Disturbia" by Rihanna the fourth, while "Candyman" by Christina Aguilera had a chart run that took it into the Top 20 (number 17) entirely on downloads.

However, it was only a matter of time before there was a number 1 hit never released physically. This honour went to Run by Leona Lewis, the 11th song in total to reach number 1 on downloads alone, but unlike the previous ten, it did not go on to receive a physical release in subsequent weeks (it should be pointed out though that it has been released physically overseas, for example in Germany).

The second time this happened was on 20 December 2009 when "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against the Machine got the Christmas No. 1 single as a result of a Facebook campaign group urging people to download the song in a bid to prevent The X Factor winning song from gaining the Christmas No. 1 single again after four consecutive years. It is also the first time that a song has reached No. 1 on downloads alone without being a new release, as the song was originally released in 1992 and was a No. 25 hit at that time, but reached the No. 1 spot 17 years later.

New rules were added to the chart on 16 September 2007 to include one track CD singles with a limit of 15 minutes and to retail at a minimum of 40p per one track CD single.

One noticeable effect that the new chart rules have had, has been to show up the staying power of many downloads, especially if a physical copy is no longer (or never has been) available. Despite a seven-week gap in its chart run in late 2006 while ineligible under the old rules, Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars", mentioned earlier, has now clocked up 105 weeks on the chart, an amount bettered by only one other single in the whole of chart history ("My Way" by Frank Sinatra with 124 weeks); "Sex on Fire" by Kings of Leon has made it to 87 weeks, putting it in 3rd place in the all-time list; "I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas is on 76 weeks (4th); "Rule the World" by Take That is on 73 (5th); "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga is on 66 (7th); "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon is on 65 (8th); "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey is on 63 (9th); "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse is on 59 (joint 10th), having re-charted in the wake of her recent death; "Pass Out" by Tinie Tempah is on 57 (joint 12th); "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz is on 56 (15th); "Make You Feel My Love" by Adele is on 55 (joint 16th); "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain is on 53 (joint 20th); "Umbrella" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z is on 51 (joint 22nd); "Rockstar" by Nickelback is on 50 (24th); two other Take That songs ("Patience" and "Shine"), are on 40 and 42 weeks respectively, while many hits by other people have passed the 30-mark. These include two more Amy Winehouse titles: her guest vocal appearance on Mark Ronson's version of the Zutons' "Valerie" on 40 weeks, and "Back to Black", which has made it to 37 weeks whilst improving on its peak position from #25 to #8, also in the wake of her death. Meanwhile, "Say It Right" by Nelly Furtado (also mentioned earlier), despite never being released physically, clocked up 31 weeks purely as a download.

Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", as covered by Jeff Buckley in 1994 charted at number 2 on 21 December 2008 on downloads alone, following the formation of a 110,000-strong protest group on Facebook to get it above (winner of The X Factor 2008) Alexandra Burke's version for Christmas number one.

Another consequence of the new chart rules that was widely expected but which has not so far materialised to any great extent, is that in the event of a high-profile new album release by a major act, all or most of its tracks could appear on the singles chart due to people downloading individual songs (known as "cherry-picking"), rather than the complete album. However, there was no significant example of this happening until early October 2007, with the cast of High School Musical 2 placing six of its songs simultaneously in the Top 75 (although these were credited to their individual performers), with a further four just outside. A month later Leona Lewis placed five tracks from her album Spirit simultaneously on the singles chart. A more pronounced example was heavily anticipated with the long-awaited arrival of the Beatles' catalogue online, with the most optimistic forecasters predicting the entire top 10 being taken up by Beatles songs,[53][54] though in the event (in November 2010), this chart domination never happened; just four Beatles songs re-entered the Top 75, the highest placed being "Let It Be" at number 38.

One effect of the new rules that was expected and did materialise, was the reappearance in the chart of a number of seasonal favourites in the run-up to Christmas 2007, in what looks set to become an annual event. In 2007 a total of 19 achieved this, without any being officially re-issued, and so reappeared on downloads alone. Two of these (by Mariah Carey and The Pogues), reached the Top 5. Two more old yuletide songs, never previously hits in the UK, also charted, by Andy Williams and Perry Como. In the run-up to Christmas 2008, 11 Christmas titles returned to the Top 75; these included the Mariah Carey and Pogues songs, which both climbed as high as number 12 this time. In the run-up to Christmas 2009 nine titles reappeared, with the Mariah Carey and Pogues songs leading the pack yet again, reaching nos. 18 and 12 respectively. Both were among the eight to reappear again in 2010, the Pogues faring best at number 17.

The death of Michael Jackson on 25 June 2009 triggered a surge in sales of his recordings that was as massive as it was anticipated, but this was the first time in the download era that the effect of a major star's death on the chart could be observed. In the week beginning 28 June a total of 16 of his solo hits plus 4 more by the Jackson 5 or Jacksons re-entered the chart, the biggest simultaneous invasion by an artist in history. The following week the momentum continued. 27 Jackson titles charted in the Top 75 (21 solo, 1 with his sister Janet, and 5 by the Jackson 5/Jacksons), with "Man In The Mirror" charting the highest at Number 2.

The second chart invasion in the download era resulting from the death of a major artist has been observed in late July 2011 following the death of Amy Winehouse, with 7 former singles charting and 1 other song appearing for the first time.

On 28 December 2010, OCC announced that a glitch happened during the compilation of the previous week's charts (originally published 26 December 2010, official chart date: 1 January 2011) and that all charts had to be re-run and re-published.[55] Chart subscribers received this notice: "Last night, Millward Brown discovered a bug in the weighting software used to compile the charts, which has affected a number of positions in the charts published on Sunday December 26. As a result, the OCC has decided to re-run all of this week's Official Charts. In relation to the Top 40 Singles and Albums Charts, the errors are minimal. But if you wish to correct any charts which you publish online, or simply use the attached charts for reference purposes, please feel free. Millward Brown is conducting a thorough review of the processes and systems in light of this error. OCC and Millward Brown apologise for any inconvenience caused." The chart pages of the Radio 1 website were updated with the new charts and UKChartsPlus and the print-version of Music Week (though not did publish the re-run charts.

Comparison of singles charts (1952–1969)

With no official chart before 1969 multiple periodicals compiled their own charts in the 1950s and 1960s. The five main charts, as used by BBC's Pick of the Pops, were:

  • New Musical Express (NME): 1952–1988, the first singles chart, canonical source until March 1960, widely followed throughout 1960s
  • Record Mirror: 1955–1962, the second singles chart, compiled the first album chart, published Record Retailer chart from 1962. The Pick Of The Pops average stopped using Record Mirror from 21st May 1960, due to the paper changing publication days
  • Melody Maker: 1956–1988, the third singles chart, canonical source for album chart from 1958
  • Disc: 1958–1967, the fourth singles chart.
  • Record Retailer: 1960–1969, the fifth singles chart, a trade paper, regarded as canoncial source from inception, jointly formed official BMRB chart in 1969

Criteria for inclusion

In order to qualify for inclusion in the UK singles chart, a single must meet the following criteria:

  • It must be available on one or more eligible formats. Eligible formats are CD, DVD, Vinyl, Cassette, digital download, MiniDisc and flexi disc.
  • All formats must contain the featured track or a version/remix of it.
  • Only three formats can be included in a single's sales. Sales of any additional formats are disregarded when calculating a single's chart position.
  • The single must meet a minimum dealer price requirement, to prevent record companies from making cut-price deals with retailers. (Currently 40p for "Digital Audio Track")[56]
  • Each format must have no more than four different tracks on it, though each song may appear in any number of different versions.
  • The maximum running time for any format is 25 minutes if more than one different song is featured, or 40 minutes if only one song is featured in multiple versions/mixes.
  • A "mini CD" format is now recognised for chart purposes. It can have a running time of up to ten minutes and can feature no more than two tracks. It must be an 8 cm CD and sold in a single jewelcase. Its minimum price requirement is lower than the regular CD single. This cheaper alternative was first recognised in October 2003 as part of a drive to make singles more attractive to buyers in the face of widespread music downloading, despite this size of CD being used in many other countries (such as Japan) for single releases for many years.

The full chart regulations also place limits on how chart singles can be packaged and what free gifts can be offered to purchasers. The full regulations can be downloaded from the Official UK Charts Company website.

Broadcasting the charts

The BBC aired Pick of the Pops on its Light Programme radio station on 4 October 1955.[5] Initially airing popular songs, it developed an aggregated chart in March 1958. Using the NME, Melody Maker, Disc and Record Mirror charts the BBC averaged them by totalling points gained in the four charts (1 point for a number one, 2 for a number two, etc.) to give a form of chart average – however, this method was prone to tied positions.[5] Record Retailer was included in the average from 31 March 1962 after Record Mirror had ceased compiling their chart.[5] David Jacobs and Alan Freeman both had stints presenting the Pick of the Pops chart.[57] Freeman took Pick of the Pops to its regular Sunday afternoon slot in early 1962.[58] Freeman, along with Pete Murray, David Jacobs and Jimmy Savile was one of the four original presenters on Top of the Pops which first aired 1 January 1964 on BBC One (then known as BBC TV).[57][59] Top of the Pops, like Pick of the Pops, used a combination of the predominant periodicals until the formation of the BMRB chart in 1969.[5]

From 30 September 1967, BBC Radio 1 was launched along with BBC Radio 2, succeeding the Light Programme,[60] and the Top 20 Pick of the Pops chart was simulcast on both stations.[61] Freeman continued to present the show until 1972 and was succeeded by Tom Browne.[58][62] Simon Bates took over from Browne, and under Bates it became a Top 40 show in 1978.[62][63] Bates was succeeded by Tony Blackburn who presented the show for two-and-a-half years, Tommy Vance who presented for two years, and then Richard Skinner.[62][64][65] Bruno Brookes took over in 1986[66] and, in October 1987, automated data collection allowed the countdown to first be revealed on the Sunday chart show (instead of Tuesdays).[19] In 1990, Brookes was replaced as presenter by Mark Goodier, but returned 18 months later. Goodier took over from Brookes once more in 1995 and continued presenting the show until 2002.[66] In February 2003, Wes Butters hosted the chart show but two years later his contract was not renewed and he was replaced by JK and Joel.[62][67] The duo were made redundant by Radio 1 in September 2007, and Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates replaced them at the helm of the chart show.[68] Cotton left in September 2009 and the chart show is currently hosted by Yates.[69]

From March 2010, Greg James hosted a half-hour show at 3:30 pm on Wednesdays announcing a chart update based on midweek sales figures that were previously only available to the industry. The chairman of The Official Charts Company said it would provide "insight into how the race for number one is shaping up".[70]


In 1999 the BPI offered the BBC an ultimatum that unless they accepted a sponsor they would take the chart over to ITV. The BBC accepted and the chart became sponsored by with the company receiving name checks during the chart show.[71] However, the deal ended when the website went out of business in late 2001. As part of an agreement with Billboard to publish the UK chart in section of their magazine, Billboard required the chart to carry a sponsor. In 2003 it was announced that Coca-Cola had signed a two-year contract with The Official Charts Company starting from 1 January 2004. Although the amount was not officially disclosed it was believed to be between £1.5 million and £2 million. As advertising on the BBC is prohibited under the BBC Charter, and at a time when the government were looking to reduce childhood obesity the decision was widely criticised. Coca-Cola was restricted to two on air mentions during the chart show, with the BBC justifying the deal as they did not negotiate it nor benefit financially.[72] A few days into the contract the BBC came to an agreement to drop on-air mentions of the brand.[73]

Records and statistics

Most number-one singles

The artists credited with the most number-one singles are:[74]

Most weeks at number one

The songs that spent the most weeks at number one are:[75]

Note: Songs denoted with an asterisk [*] had non-consecutive durations at number one

Best-selling singles

Year Song[76] Artist Number
1997 "Candle in the Wind 1997" Elton John 4,865,000
1984 "Do They Know it's Christmas?" Band Aid 3,575,000
"Bohemian Rhapsody" Queen 2,176,000
1977 "Mull of Kintyre" / "Girls' School" Wings 2,050,000
1978 "Rivers of Babylon" / "Brown Girl in the Ring" Boney M 1,985,000
1978 "You're The One That I Want" Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta 1,975,000
1984 "Relax" Frankie Goes to Hollywood 1,910,000
1963 "She Loves You" The Beatles 1,890,000
1995 "Unchained Melody" / "(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover" Robson and Jerome 1,844,000
1978 "Mary's Boy Child – Oh My Lord" Boney M 1,800,000

See also

Chart magazines
Rival charts
Chart books


  1. ^ The first Top 12 contained fifteen records due to tied positions at numbers 7, 8 and 11.[6] The method of numbering was replaced with the more familiar method by October 1953 – two records tied at number six and the next listed position was number eight.[7]
  2. ^ The expansion was not a Top 100, per se, as records were excluded from positions 76–100 if their sales had fallen in two consecutive weeks and if their sales had fallen by 20 per cent compared to the previous week.[17]
  3. ^ Spotlight Publications is a subsidiary of United Newspapers[24]


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