Homicidols Investigates: How soft are the iTunes J-Pop charts?

Congratulations to REBEL REBEL!  Their producer tweets:

Tweet by @richy259: REBEL REBEL's "ZUGZWANG" ranked 43rd in the iTunes Store (UK) "J-Pop Top Albums"!

Wow!  I love REBEL REBEL, nice to see them get some success!  Strange though, despite some efforts from this site, you don’t really see much chat about them from overseas idol fans.

And the iTunes Store?  Who still uses that?  Who purchases albums when you can get the choice from millions of songs on a cheap or free streaming subscription?

Well actually, I still do.  Not because of any altruistic desire to give those producing the music more money, although that’s a nice bonus, but because of the horrifying thought that the music I love may just disappear from the service one day.  You know what I’m talking about, BILLIE IDLE fans!  Plus I like to listen to all my music offline, along with a bunch of stuff that was never on streaming, idol and non-idol.

But hundreds of “Your Spotify Wrapped” tweets on my timeline every year shows that I am in a very small minority here in still using the iTunes store.  And the amount of J-Pop fans in the UK using the iTunes store must also be quite a small number.  I did buy that REBEL REBEL EP but given their relatively low profile it seems conceivable that I may be the only person in this country that did.  Is it possible that one sole purchase is enough these days to get something into the top 50?

Time for an experiment!  Let’s see if I can get something old and obscure, that’s highly unlikely to be being purchased by anyone else this week, into the UK iTunes J-Pop chart.  REBEL REBEL’s producer used to be responsible for a group called PiGU who we loved here but never seemed to catch the attention of overseas fans in any big way.  I bought all their songs off Amazon back then so I’m free to buy them off Apple again for the purposes of this investigation.  My favourite song of theirs was (Try Sometime) Do The Shake It:

So on to the iTunes store I go and download that very song.  Apparently iTunes refreshes its charts every hour or so.  I wait an hour and open the iTunes UK J-Pop Top 200 songs to see where PiGU have entered…

Nowhere.  I wait another hour.  Still nowhere.  It seems the songs chart is not as soft as I had hypothesised.  But wait!  It was the album chart that Producer-san was excited about up the top there.  And it stands to reason that far fewer full albums will be sold than individual songs.  Time for another experiment.

It seems that any release with over four songs counts as an album for the purposes of the chart, so sticking with PiGU, I go back to the iTunes store and buy their 2018 EP Roots Rock iD.  And wait an hour.  And open the chart again…

Number 87!!  One single download was indeed enough to get an album into the top 100 of the UK iTunes J-Pop chart!  Still though, 87 is quite a bit lower than the 43rd place REBEL REBEL achieved.  Then again, all the albums below 87th place here, and presumably quite a few above 87th, will also have received only one purchase.  I would not be surprised if everything outside the Top 20 achieved only one download.

Time for one more experiment.  What would happen if we doubled PiGU’s sales?  I went and sought the co-operation of my wife, who didn’t bother asking questions, but kindly downloaded another copy of Roots Rock iD to her own device.  I waited another hour.

Buhwha?!  Number one!!  Top of the UK iTunes J-Pop albums chart with a grand total of two sales!  It’s official, the iTunes national J-Pop charts are virtually meaningless.

So next time you see an idol excited to have cracked, for instance, the Slovakian Top 30 – well let’s leave her with her dreams of riches and international stardom – but you’ll know it was just one Slovakian luddite who refuses to enter the streaming age.