Billboard embraces the digital revolution! Now, will it make a difference?

Go on any Duran Duran message board and I’ll bet you’ll find at least one thread talking about chart figures.  Duran fans cannot seem to get past the bands absence on the Top 20.  Or the Top 40.  Or even the Top 100 at times. Naturally this leads to discussions of all kinds, going from the somewhat obvious “Why aren’t they on the charts?” to the more obscure but still ever-popular “Why isn’t this band being promoted properly?!?“.

What I don’t necessarily see being discussed often is Billboard charts do not include figures for Spotify and Rhapsody, among a few others.  Granted, Spotify and Rhapsody are subscription based services – and users do not necessarily own the albums or songs they are hearing when using those services.    However, one could reasonable debate that point by saying that when we listen to radio – a FREE service unless you’re talking satellite radio – users do not own those albums or songs either, and yet radio figures have been used in Billboard charting for years.

Well, discuss no more!  Today, Billboard announced the inclusion of Spotify & Rhapsody figures in their charting.  Here’s the blurb from Hypebot below:

Billboard Magazine‘s Hot 100 chart is finally joining the digital revolution with the addition of digital music services like Spotify and Rdio to the radio airplay and digital song sales that currently define it.  Editorial Director Bill Werde, told the Wall Street Journal that the magazine had waited to update its charts because music streaming services “have only recently hit a critical mass”.  A full list of the services added to the chart:
  • Spotify
  • Rhapsdy
  • Rdio
  • Slacker
  • Cricket’s Muve Music
  • MOG
Still missing is, at the very least, music on Youtube.

Personally I think that streaming services hit critical mass a while back and Billboard is just extremely slow to react to major industry changes.  I picture them, along with most everyone else in the industry – label and artist alike – being dragged kicking and screaming into the new reality.  That said, it’s a welcome change and a good beginning to an overhaul from the last century to the one we’ve been in for the past ten years.  
Until Billboard starts including YouTube music figures though, it would seem as though the chart definitions will continue to be lacking.  It seems to me as someone who is admittedly “Just a Fan”, that until Billboard and similar start giving proper credit to services such as YouTube, and stop relying so much on land based radio play lists for these charts (does anyone really listen???), we’re still not going to be getting the full picture.  Let’s be honest – radio playlists are based on whatever the programmers (who once again are hamsters kept in a very dark basement in New York City) decide.  Artists who want radio time know how to get it. (and if you want to talk payola with me and how it’s illegal….I’ve got a bridge to sell you in the California desert!)  Spotify, Rhapsody, the other services mentioned and even YouTube are slightly different animals because, oddly enough, the consumer – that would be you and I – decide what we LIKE and WANT to listen to.  According to what I’m reading, that is what will be tracked (in addition of those nasty NYC hamsters spinning their wheels!) What a concept!   
Will this change a single thing?  Time will tell.  
-R

5 thoughts on “Billboard embraces the digital revolution! Now, will it make a difference?”

  1. As an addendum to this…I found the following, courtesy of The Daily Swarm:

    “From the mailbag:

    This new Billboard chart, in coordination with digitalmusic.org’s Subscription Music Work Group, and powered by Nielsen BDS, which began tracking streaming activity in 2005, measures every on-demand play request and plays from unlimited listener-controlled radio channels on MOG, Muve Music, Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker and Spotify; data from Zune and Sony Music Unlimited is expected to be added in the coming weeks. The plays tracked for the On-Demand Songs chart include streams and tethered downloads by both paying and free/trial tier users. Through the first 70 days of 2012, Nielsen BDS has captured more than 4.5. billion audio streams.

    Billboard.biz:

    The first-ever No. 1 atop On-Demand Songs belongs to New York act Fun. and its hit “We Are Young,” featuring Janelle Monae, with a total of 1.1 million streams, according to Nielsen BDS. The track also tops the re-formatted Billboard Hot 100 for a second consecutive week. The rest of the On-Demand Songs top five are as follows: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Rack City” by Tyga, “N——as In Paris” by Jay-Z & Kanye West and “Take Care” by Drake featuring Rihanna. Each of those songs posts a better ranking on this week’s Hot 100 than it would have had the chart not undergone this week’s addition of greater streaming data. For instance, Gotye’s track ranks at No. 5 on the Hot 100, instead of No. 8, while the Drake/Rihanna collaboration re-enters the top 10 at a new peak of No. 7; it would have remained outside the top 10 under the old formula.”

    What do you think??

  2. Does Billboard consider Satellite radio? My husband has it in his truck, Duran gets played a lot on it. And what about Pandora? Or is that the same thing? I just listen to CD's in my car and don't follow billboard so, please excuse my ignorance 🙂

  3. Would you say that it is the masses of young people that drives the charts? If that's the case, we're doomed. Most young fans for some reason want to fawn over the likes of no-talent abusive Chris Brown and the perhaps talented but over-produced, over-hyped, over the top, gimmicky Lady Gagme. Err, Gaga and don't know what good music is.

  4. Sales are what drive the charts, and if you believe what the industry is saying – then no, I wouldn't say young people are driving the charts (and good luck knowing what does) because nobody BUYS MUSIC.

    Nielsen has been collecting and tracking streaming data since 2005, but up until now (yesterday, actually) the company largely kept that information to itself . What they did share yesterday was kind of eye opening – in the first 70 days of the year Nielsen (the TV data company) tracked more than 4.5 billion audio streams. 625 in the last week alone. (I came upon this data from the The Blog behind the book Music3.0 – which you can find and follow at http://music3point0.blogspot.com). While I don't know what data that includes – I can honestly say that is a TON of data that, up until yesterday – was being completely ignored by the charts. Going forward Nielsen is apparently partnering with Billboard to compile the streaming charts for the struggling music magazine.

    One very obvious flaw I see at the moment – along with YouTube being ignored – is that they are not following Pandora. Pandora has 20 million customers and I can only imagine the amount of information that is being cast aside from just that one service. They are also not considering satellite radio at this point. I have to wonder what will constitute “critical mass” so that perhaps Billboard will begin to recognize that the most important change in this “digital revolution” is that the public doesn't buy music and doesn't listen to land based radio. Interesting. -R

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