stranger things 4

Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ is getting a monster boost from its recent Stranger Things sync, and that sparked controversy earlier this month when it emerged that UK chart rules that penalise older, previously successful tracks were keeping it from topping the official singles rankings.

Robbed! Or maybe not: the ‘Accelerated Chart Ratio’ was designed by the Official Charts Company to stop new tracks being squeezed out by older hits, so there was a laudable thought process behind it. It’s just that the consequence in this case was that what was undeniably the biggest track of the moment – and one that was ‘new’ to many of the people streaming it – was not the number one.

Anyway, it’s all been sorted out now. The BBC reports that the UK’s Chart Supervisory Committee has “revoked” the rule, with EMI having requested a “manual reset” because of the exceptional circumstances around ‘Running Up That Hill’, and the fact that the track is being actively promoted. Bush is likely to be the chart-topper this week as a result.

There are two things to think about more widely around all this. First is the continued blurring of the boundaries between ‘catalogue’ and ‘frontline’ in a world where a TV show (or, indeed, a TikTok video) can pipe an old track into millions of new ears around the world.

Music Ally talked to a senior figure at a major streaming service last year, and during the conversation the topic of TikTok-fuelled catalogue hits came up – and specifically whether they would then be added to the DSP’s biggest frontline ‘hits’ playlists as a result. This was such a tense argument with labels, they declined to answer on the record. But the challenges clearly apply to chart methodologies as well as to playlists.

Second, there’s the Stranger Things effect itself. A great sync with a popular brand sending an old song back into the charts is, of course, nothing new. “We’ve been here before, if you think about the famous Levi’s commercials in the 80’s and how they introduce a whole new generation to artists like Marvin Gaye,” as former Spotify exec Will Page said on Radio 4 last night. But ‘Running Up That Hill’ really does look like an outlier in the modern era.

Data from research firm Luminate, for example, shows weekly US streams of the track pootling along at 167k-175k for most of this year, before jumping to 19.6m in the week ending 2 June, and 34m the following week. What’s more, weekly US streams of the rest of Bush’s catalogue were hovering between 800k and 1.4m for most of this year, before jumping to 3.4m then 5.5m in those two weeks.

(Useful context: in the first 17 days after its release, the fourth season of Stranger Things racked up more than 781m viewing hours on Netflix – its most-watched English-language TV series ever.)

In the week ending 9 June, Luminate says that ‘Running Up That Hill’ was streamed 78.5m times on audio services, and another 7.4m times on video services. One of the biggest hits of 2022 by any definition, but the fact that this hit was originally a hit in 1985 is unsurprisingly creating some disruption for chart compilers and the wider industry alike.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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