'A cheap look' is the secret of charity single success, says researcher

Study starting with Band Aid says singles that look unprofessional do best in the charts

Band Aid
Band Aid

Charity singles should look cheap and unprofessional to be successful, according to new research by the University of Sussex.

Lucy Robinson, a lecturer at the University of Sussex, studied the success of 65 charity singles released in the UK from 1984 to 1995 - the period she calls "the heyday" for charity singles on vinyl - for a book she is working on.

She tracked their success by the position they reached in the Official UK Singles Chart and how much airtime and visibility they got. She then looked at the factors the most successful singles had in common.

Robinson said the main finding was that the video for and promotion of the single needed to look cheap. She said that because giving to charity was a spontaneous act, people never wanted it to feel too corporate and polished.

"Successful charity singles have to fulfil the expectations of charity fundraising in general," she said. "People get suspicious if it’s overly slick."

For any charity single, there were two phases of donation, she said, the first one being the musicians and production crew donating their time towards making the single, and the second being the public buying it.

"A successful single has to document the first donation," she said. "It has to show people giving up their time for free, with all the glamour stripped out. And successful ones bring together surprising groups of people."

Robinson said a great combination would be an older, established band, a younger, attractive girl group, a puppet and someone from a punk band.

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