How the official German music charts are created

Status: 11/11/2021 12:16 p.m.

The new album by the Swedish pop band ABBA should land at number one in the official German charts tomorrow. How are these determined and how important are they to the music industry?

By Till Bücker,

“Dancing Queen”, “Waterloo” or “Mamma Mia”: With these songs ABBA became world famous, enthusiastic fans all over the world and sold a total of more than 400 million records. Almost 40 years after their breakup, the Swedish band has returned to the big music stage and released their new album “Voyage” last Friday.

Just a few hours after the official release, it jumped to first place in the Amazon download charts – where it still stands today. The two singles “I Still Have Faith In You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” released in advance made it to number three and five on the official German single charts – even if they weren’t even in the for a month Top 100 could hold.

More than 2,800 dealers provide data

No wonder that the new album is also expected to top the charts. “You don’t need a crystal ball for that,” says Hans Schmucker from GfK Entertainment, a subsidiary of the market research institute GfK, which has been determining the music charts on behalf of the Federal Association of the Music Industry since 1977. The trends already showed that the ABBA album had one of the best starts in recent years – both in terms of numbers and sales.

But how are the charts even determined? “The basis is based on several pillars: physical products from stationary sales and e-commerce, music downloads, streaming for many years and, for a short time, what is heard on the radio again,” explains Schmucker in an interview with “Whoever was most successful across all of these channels within a week will ultimately end up at number one on the hit list.”

Sales and streams in the period from Friday to Thursday would be taken into account. The charts will be published on Friday. According to its own information, GfK Entertainment receives the data for the various sales channels from more than 2,800 retailers. The market coverage is around 90 percent.

Streaming as the biggest driver

According to Schmucker, the approach chosen in Germany is unique worldwide: Instead of the number as in other countries, in this country it is based on the sales achieved. “Ultimately, it is the consumer’s decision to buy. If he decides on a certain offer and is prepared, for example, to pay 30 euros for the deluxe version of an album, it will be shown in the charts,” explains the expert. However, there is an upper price limit for the determination, which is 40 euros per album and four euros per single.

According to the Federal Association of the Music Industry, streaming accounted for the largest share of 70.6 percent of the revenues in the music industry in the first half of 2021. In the album charts, however, Germany is one of the markets where physical products such as CDs have held up well, according to Schmucker. In the single charts, on the other hand, Spotify & Co. are by far the biggest driver.

“All streams receive a regularly updated average value,” explains the GfK representative. This is applied to the respective song from a playing time of 31 seconds. But: Only paid streaming offers are taken into account. In addition to YouTube, the ad-financed and free Spotify model does not flow into the official singles and album charts.

“First place is worth a lot for the artists”

According to the GfK researchers, the official German charts are still very important in the music industry. “The market is growing steadily, and there is more and more competition. To land on one in a week these days and have created the most successful product is worth a lot to the artists,” says Schmucker.

In addition, there is now the so-called Chart Award, which is given to the musicians: “This is a great opportunity to show the fans: ‘Hey, we achieved this together!'” That is very well received by the artists, because the Interaction via social media plays an important role for many. Recently, for example, Helene Fischer received a “# 1 Award” for her new album “Rausch”.

Helene Fischer recently received a “# 1 Award”.

Image: Sandra Ludewig / Universal Music

The charts are also an orientation aid for fans, as there are many different and unofficial lists that often only show a sub-market. The official stamp ensures that many media also pick up reports on the charts, according to Schmucker.

Important for communication

This is also confirmed by Gregor Friedel, head of music at SWR3, the second strongest radio program in Germany with 3.35 million listeners a day, according to the media analysis working group (agma). “Most radio stations use the charts at least for publications like ‘The summer hit of the year'”, Friedel told In the music journalistic context, the charts are also quoted again and again.

The official list is still of great importance for the German music industry – at least in terms of communication. “Otherwise, not so many clever people would worry about which special editions would increase the likelihood of reaching number one in the sales charts,” says Friedel.

“Radio brings music into the mainstream”

For the music selection of SWR3 and many other radio stations, however, according to the long-time music journalist, the charts play a rather subordinate role these days. The situation is similar with streaming: “We follow the figures, but here too the market between streaming services and their users and radio stations and their listeners is sometimes very far apart.”

Basically there are different pieces of the mosaic that are looked at, but have no direct influence on the music programming. The one survey that is prioritized does not exist. Often it’s the other way around, says Friedel. “A high-ranking manager of a major label once said to me: ‘You can make a hit with streaming, a smash hit only with radio’ – because radio brings music into the mainstream.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *