Three years ago we devised an idea that we hoped would change pop forever.
We were bored by acts with millions of intensely engaged fans (and millions of pounds' marketing budget thrown at gaining those fans) being judged in the same Top 40 as artists with modest fanbases or modest marketing budgets.
Our idea was this: every popstar should be required to record the sound of themselves shitting into a yellow a bucket; the recording would then be put on sale on iTunes and the resulting sales (or lack of sales) by each artist would be fed into a Bucket Index, which would itself then be added into an equation that could then help make more sense of music sales.
For instance, you'd expect One Direction to be somewhere near the top of the Bucket Index. That Bucket Index placing would mean that if they scored a Top 5 single, we'd know that 'hit' was actually worth less than if, for instance, Gorgon City — whose Bucket Index rating would be comparatively low — also scored a Top 5 hit. The point is that if an act's fans are so engaged that they will literally buy the sound of someone shitting in a bucket, and if the quality of all that act's musical releases is therefore irrelevant, the act is not really selling songs and music — it's selling an opportunity to 'vote' in the charts for 99p, which is quite different.
Sadly for reasons we still cannot fathom, and despite presenting many artists with their first and last opportunity to claim a full writing credit and production credit on a single release, our amazing idea did not catch on.
This is Taylor Swift.
Taylor Swift is probably the planet's best popstar at the moment.
Taylor's got a new album coming out soon and, as she recently wrote on Tumblr, she's experimenting with a couple of different release strategies as that release date approaches.
Some strategies, such as only releasing instant grat tracks to certain counties, have been controversial but not too out of the ordinary. Yesterday, however, Taylor Swift stepped things up a level or two, by releasing a rather strange piece of music. It wasn't quite the sound of Swifto shaking it off into a bucket, but it served a similar purpose.
'Track 3' is eight seconds of white noise. Within hours, it was Number One on the Canadian iTunes charts.
In fact, at the time of writing, it's still there.
Slate report that the release was due to some sort of glitch but Taylor's Tim Berners-Lee in sheep's clothing routine doesn't fool us. We think this was a carefully planned step in Taylor's ludicrously well-orchestrated album campaign and, while she's yet to take credit for this bold move, we can only applaud the way in which Swifto has embraced not only this brave new release strategy but also, of course, our Bucket Index idea.
What can we learn from Taylor Swift's shite bucket challenge?
Naturally, the Bucket Index will only become truly useful when other artists also start to release eight seconds of white noise and we're able to throw the resulting data against chart performance in order to recalibrate our understanding of the Top 40.
Additionally, when you consider that 'Track 3' has appeared at a point in the '1989' campaign when four excellent songs have already been made public, its usefulness as a proper Bucket Index entry is diminished. The success of 'Track 3', rather than proving that Taylor Swift fans will simply buy any old rubbish, is actually more likely to show that people liked 'Shake It Off', 'Out Of The Woods', that one off the cat advert and 'Welcome To New York' so much that they have complete faith in the quality of everything from this album, and will confidently download a song without listening to the music first.
In a sense, then, 'Track 3' goes against everything the Bucket Index stands for.
But that's not to say Taylor's brave experiment is without merit. She has truly pushed an important pop boundary with this eight-second, tune-free, lyrically obtuse release. But we'll only really know how far she's prepared to push that boundary when the 'Track 3' video appears on VEVO.