"Every song reached the top 20 on iTunes," proclaimed the announcer at the beginning of this week's episode of The Voice. That might be true, but iTunes does not equal the charts. How successful are the performers on The Voice on the actual Australian chart rankings?
The Voice has been talking up the chart success of its contestants ever since the show began, and that process has gone into overdrive since it emerged that fans could vote by purchasing copies of songs on iTunes. But every time the show talks about chart performance, it talks about the "iTunes charts", not the actual ARIA charts. And it's the latter that provide a meaningful comparison of how successful songs from the show have been in sales terms in the overall market.
Talking about "iTunes chart positions" is meaningless, because those figures are updated hourly. In the hours following the broadcast of the show, it's not surprising that newly-uploaded tracks are purchased in large volumes. But only a handful of songs will actually sell enough to register on the official ARIA charts, which track a whole week of sales (the basis pop music charts have always used in Australia). That's a more meaningful yardstick.
It's rather like the difference between being the top-rated show in a timeslot and a top-rated show for the week. In the wee small hours, an infomercial might top the rankings, but that doesn't make it a massive success overall.
So what really happened? On this week's ARIA chart, just three performers from last week's episode of The Voice made the top 20: Brittany Cairns (#7), Darren Percival (#12) and Sarah De Bono (#13). Another three made the top 50 (Diana Rouvas at #22, Lakyn Hepri at #26, and Ben Hazelwood at #35).
The performers who actually have the best claim to having a hit are those who have managed to chart a Voice recording for more than a single week. Hepri's earlier recording of 'Big Jet Plane' is also hanging in at #42 after four weeks; Karise Eden is at #9 in her second week, and Rachael Leahcar is #32 after the same time period.
ARIA doesn't disclose how many copies you need to sell to make the charts. It's certainly a remarkable achievement for a single show to get so many tracks on the real chart, but it's not quite as remarkable as the producers of The Voice have made it out to be by emphasising iTunes.
You might be thinking: surely sales on iTunes comprise the majority of sales in Australia? The data suggests a more complex picture. On the Digital Tracks chart, the same artists appeared, but most ranked a position or two higher than on the full list. While that suggests iTunes' dominant role, it also indicates that enough physical copies of the top-charting songs are selling to alter the overall chart. (Note that Australia's charts include only sales, with no airplay component.)
That relative lack of success does not mean some of those performers might not have long-term careers; after all, at this stage they're still being treated as karaoke robots, singing songs many viewers will already own in superior original versions. Charting that material is always going to be harder.
Our advice about voting on The Voice still stands: using Facebook is the cheapest option, and voting by text is more cash-efficient than buying off iTunes. Based on these numbers, it seems most Australians are taking that approach.