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Billboard chart keeps current with how people listen to (and watch) music

Posted by John on February 21st, 2013

Here’s an update to a blog I wrote last year about how the Billboard Hot 100 music chart is created.  The Billboard chart matters.  It’s been around since November, 1955 (there were also music charts prior in the 1940s and 1950s). Back then, three music areas went into making the Billboard chart position – sales of singles, airplay reported by disc jockeys at AM radio stations, and plays on jukeboxes.


The Billboard chart is still an important way to measure the popularity of music in 2013, but wow, have the monitoring systems changed over 57 years. Jukeboxes and DJ’s at AM radio stations are gone; Internet videos and digital downloads are mainstream.The Billboard chart matters today because labels, managers, artists and the media judge a song’s success, or failure, by the Billboard chart. Did it have a bullet? Did it reach top 10? Is it Number One?

The Billboard chart matters for historical purposes. Music fans, trivia nuts and the media cite chart numbers as fervently as sports fans cite baseball or football statistics. “Which artist had the most number one singles in 1988?”The source for such questions and answers is always the Billboard Hot 100 chart.Data gathering seemed much simpler when there were only three ways to listen to music in the 1950s (buy it, listen on the radio, listen on a jukebox), albeit the data was rife with exaggeration and manipulation. Modern life has given birth to so many ways to listen to, be exposed to, buy, share and stream music that’s it’s getting difficult to track it all.

Here’s a glimpse of the ingredients of today’s Billboard Hot 100 chart.  This helps explain the basic idea of why “that song” is number one and why “that other really good song” isn’t.  Of course, there’s a secret formula that goes into the final numbers.  While a song can be massive in one medium it can be absent in another. That’s why Billboard’s goal seems to be to pull together the many music platforms and be the ultimate measure of success in music.

The Billboard Hot 100 chart ingredients

  • YouTube video streaming, including Vevo on YouTube
  • digital download track sales
  • physical singles sales
  • airplay from a thousand mostly FM radio stations
  • on-demand audio streaming from Spotify, Slacker, Rdio, others
  • online radio streaming tracked by Nielsen

Here’s Billboard’s chart explanation.

See this week’s Hot 100 chart (it’s updated every Thursday).

Read here how incorporating videos on to the Billboard chart had a dramatic effect for one song.

Wikipedia has a good history and explanation of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

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