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How They Rank The Hits On The Billboard Hot 100 Chart

Posted by John on March 16th, 2012

You’ve heard the radio DJ’s talk about hit songs on the chart.  “This song is number ooooonnnnnneeee!!!”  Or as Casey Kasem used to say “moving up 10 spots to number 3 here’s…”

So where do these chart numbers come from?  There are lots of music charts for lots of different music formats, from Latin to country to dance/club to college radio.  The song ranking that people quote most often comes from the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

How does Billboard generate those numbers?  It’s not just one guy, or “a panel of experts”, or a group of music hipster geeks slotting the songs to their liking.


Billboard Hot 100 in 1988

Billboard Hot 100 online in 2012

The Billboard Hot 100 has a formula.  They track airplay on about a thousand terrestrial radio stations (AM/FM radio in the USA).  Digital download song sales and physical singles sales (data from Nielsen SoundScan) is factored in.  Radio airplay and sales are the ingredients that carry the most weight in the formula.

Just added to the Hot 100 formula is the streaming data that makes up Billboard’s new On-Demand Songs Chart (song plays from MOG, Muve Music, Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker and Spotify), as well as plays on non-demand radio streams from Rhapsody and Slacker. The Hot 100 chart rankings formula now also includes plays on video request service Akoo and audio on-demand streams from MySpace and Guvera.

All these methods earn a song points which are weighted in a points system, and added together.  More points equals higher rank in the Hot 100.

Sales are calculated for the previous week, not total sales since the song was released. The tracking week for sales runs Monday to Sunday; the airplay tracking week runs Wednesday to Tuesday; a new Hot 100 chart is compiled and officially released by Billboard on Thursday.

Billboard published its first music hit parade in 1936; the first Music Popularity Chart was calculated in 1940; and the first Hot 100 chart, combining singles sales and radio airplay, started in 1958.

See the latest Billboard Hot 100 chart here.

Now you now where the numbers associated with hits come from.  Those chart numbers stick with a song for eternity – that’s one reason why a high chart position is so coveted.  Try going back in time and see what song was number one on your birthday.

Our music curators at Custom Channels use the Billboard Hot 100 chart, both current and archives, to stay on top of new releases, and to stay in touch with what the popular mass appeal hits are to play or avoid (depending on client taste) on our music-for-business channels.

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