Was Christmas busy for you? Mine was, and not just for the usual work-related reasons either.
December saw me spend much of the month popping up as the invited expert in a variety of media, all of which helped nicely to expose both myself and the Chart Watch site which saw a welcome boost in visitors over the same period.
So where did I end up? First in the queue was the gloriously talented Laura Snapes who was writing a piece for The Guardian about the hottest lady of 2017 – Dua Lipa. Read the article and you will see quotes from me, noting, in particular, the extraordinary way in the spring that she landed herself quite by accident with three simultaneous Top 20 hits which instantly made her one of the biggest names of the moment. I never really made the link myself when New Rules became a hit, but there is little doubt this was the momentum which propelled her to the top of the charts for the very first time.
This was one of those occasions when it only occurred to me after the fact to note one more pertinent point. Tolerating the slow burn of a brand new act is far easier than it used to be, given you can release ‘flop’ singles with minimal overhead beyond the actual recording. Digital distribution means you don’t have to press physical copies that might go unsold, and as countless big-name acts have proven you don’t even have to fund the production of a video until the track has become a substantial hit. If at all. If your first attempt fails, bin it and move on. You’ve actually lost very little. And that’s something that artists like Dua Lipa will find works increasingly to their advantage in the future.
Next, it was Christmas Number One season and things became a little frantic. First in the queue was Mark Savage from BBC Online, a reporter I’ve spoken to on and off for a number of years now. He quizzed me over the phone on the Monday morning about the Christmas Number One race which at that time was by no means the clear-cut race it turned out to be. So the resultant piece features me hedging my bets just a little but noting that Ed Sheeran has the nap hand with his multiple versions, plus the fact that he did the Strictly final that weekend and so was benefitting nicely from that exposure.
In fact, your favourite Chart Watch writer ended up quoted in several BBC News articles that week, largely based on quotes I gave in that Monday morning interview. So here is me noting how the Christmas songs on the front page of Spotify are by a strange coincidence the highest charting ones that week, followed a day later by my thoughts on how long it takes a Christmas song to turn into a bona-fide classic given our fondness for nostalgic hits rather than newly-recorded attempts at an artists’ pension plan.
However, it was to be Friday 22nd, the day that the Christmas chart itself was unveiled which would turn into my big day of media. It began with a tweet from a producer for the Drive show on 5 Live. Would I be interested in participating in a conversation about Christmas Number One hits generally later that day, and could I make it to a BBC studio somewhere? Would I ever. I told them I could attend at New Broadcasting House at their convenience and was duly booked in for a chat. It was a fun 20-minute segment featuring some other guests with their own unique perspective to add. Second only to the rather naughty thrill of appearing as an invited guest on the direct rival to the radio station I actually work for was the fun surprise of noting that the BBC’s security system still recognised me from when I’d had cause to visit the building two months earlier and they still had my picture on file for the security pass.
Here it is then, my big 5 Live Drive debut:
Yet there was more. Earlier in the day, I had also been contacted by a researcher for the BBC News TV channel, someone also alerted to my potential as a pontificator on all things Christmas Number One. I noted to them that my booking on 5Live meant I was actually going to be present in the building around the time they wanted me to appear so it should all work out nicely. This necessitated a trip to the wardrobe to select a shirt, my first choice vetoed by Mrs Masterton who pointed out I was wanting to wear the exact same outfit I had used to appear on TV five years earlier. And these things matter apparently. Shirt and tie duly knotted, I was off into town to turn myself into a global superstar. Of a kind.
I was actually glad I’d done the radio appearance first. Because I am at home in a radio studio and was relaxed and happy and had already warmed up my opinions. It meant that being guided down to the green room by the enthusiastic intern who had become my personal runner for the evening and awaiting makeup was by no means as nerve-wracking as it might have been. So it was, to the surprise of several relatives and one or two colleagues who happened to be tuned in at that time, I made my first live TV appearance in 18 years. And all three minutes of it is captured below.
So there you are, another in my sporadic bursts of minor celebrity as I prove that if you try hard enough you can have multiple 15 minutes of fame, just spread out a little. But hopefully, this also proves that I give incredibly good copy, make a well-spoken radio guest and can scrub up well to appear on camera to be on television as well. And if you are a journalist or a researcher wanting to add some colour to a story about pop music or the charts, I can probably be of some use.
Oh yes, and this all helped to add to the usual Christmas time spike in interest in the Chart Watch UK site. Rather curiously the most-read piece of that period was not the Christmas Number One announcement itself, but that of the one before. Perhaps it was just a question of timing.