Billboard, Stop the Use of Multi-Format Airplay in Determining 'Hit' Country, R&B, Rock Songs
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Note: Multi-Format Radio Airplay is a fancy way of saying "crossover appeal." The new changes affect ALL major genres, including Country, Rap, Rock, R&B, Latin and more.
ORIGINAL BILLBOARD ARTICLE:
"Billboard unveils new methodology today for the long-standing Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Latin Songs charts. Each receive a major consumer-influenced face-lift, as digital download sales (tracked by Nielsen SoundScan) and streaming data (tracked by Nielsen BDS from such services as Spotify, Muve, Slacker, Rhapsody, Rdio and Xbox Music, among others) will now be factored into the 50-position rankings, along with existing radio airplay data monitored by Nielsen BDS. The makeovers will enable these charts to match the methodology applied to Billboard's signature all-genre songs ranking, the Billboard Hot 100.
In addition, Billboard is launching a new chart, R&B Songs, which will incorporate the same airplay/sales/streaming hybrid formula to rank the week's top R&B-only (non-rap) titles. R&B Songs and Rap Songs will serve as 25-position distillations of the overall Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, highlighting the differences between pure R&B and rap titles in the overall, wide-ranging R&B/hip-hop field.
The immediate beneficiaries of this week's methodology change are Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Mumford & Sons.
Swift, who holds down the top two slots on Hot Country Songs with "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "Red." Her new country radio single "Begin Again" jumps 37-10. The pop-crossover No. 1 title ranks at No. 36 on Country Airplay (but also gets points associated with its pop-crossover play) and No. 1 on Country Digital Songs, while "Red" is absent from the Country Airplay list, but ranks No. 2 on Country Digital Songs. "Begin Again" appears at No. 29 on Country Airplay and No. 3 on Country Digital Songs."
Rihanna shuffles from No. 66 under the former Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs methodology all the way to No. 1 with "Diamonds," aided by crossover pop airplay of the track as well as strong digital sales (No. 1 on R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs). "Diamonds" also tops the inaugural R&B Songs tally. On Rap Songs, Psy soars 20-1 with his current No. 2 Hot 100 hit "Gangnam Style."
While fun. claims the No. 1 slot on Hot Rock Songs with its former Alternative No. 1 and current Hot 100 top 10 hit "Some Nights," Mumford & Sons ride increased curiosity about their new album "Babel" to overwhelming streaming activity, placing all 12 songs from the set (as well as two others from the album's deluxe version) on the chart. All but first single "I Will Wait" (No. 4) chart with almost all points attributed to streaming; even "Wait," which rises to No. 1 on Alternative this week, boasts 53% of its points from streaming.
On Hot Latin Songs, Wisin & Yandel move to No. 1 with "Algo Me Gusta de Ti," featuring Chris Brown and T-Pain, matching its Latin Airplay rank. The track is No. 3 on Latin Digital Songs.
Billboard has been charting the popularity of R&B songs since 1942, with numerous changes in methodology implemented through the years. The most recent formula sports an almost-exclusive reliance on radio airplay. The Hot Country Songs chart similarly dates to 1944 and has also undergone multiple changes in its formula, with the most recent incarnation being one fueled solely by radio airplay since the advent of BDS data in 1990.
Hot Latin Songs, meanwhile, has been based solely on radio airplay since its launch in 1986. In its new incarnation, only predominantly Spanish-language titles will appear on the chart. Titles mostly sung in English, which often receive Latin airplay and appear on the radio-based chart, are no longer eligible for inclusion. Dual-language songs (those recorded independently in both Spanish and English) will have only their Spanish-language airplay, sales and estimated streaming factored into their Hot Latin Songs rankings (see story, page 13).
Radio charts for each of the aforementioned rankings will be spun off and live in Billboard's print and/or online properties, each keeping its history from its first date utilizing BDS data: Rap Airplay (1989), Country Airplay (1990), R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay (1992), Latin Airplay (1994) and Rock Airplay (2009). Digital Songs charts for each genre, which have been in existence since 2010, will continue to be represented as separate rankings as well.
The move to the Hot 100-based formula will ensure that the top-ranked country, R&B/hip-hop, Latin and rock titles each week will be the top titles listed on each genre's songs ranking. This will be in line with how the Billboard 200 albums chart aligns with the albums charts for each corresponding genre. Because of the switch to new methodology, the week-to-week movements on the charts for some songs (in either direction) could be quite dramatic.
Until now, only country stations contributed to the Hot Country Songs chart, or R&B/hip-hop stations to Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs; the same held true for Latin and rock. The new methodology, which will utilize the Hot 100's formula of incorporating airplay from more than 1,200 stations of all genres monitored by BDS, will reward crossover titles receiving airplay on a multitude of formats. With digital download sales and streaming data measuring popularity on the most inclusive scale possible, it is only just the radio portion of Billboard chart calculations that includes airplay from the entire spectrum of monitored formats.
How Billboard’s New Chart Rules Affect YOU
When Billboard announced new rules on how the songs on their “Hot 100″ country chart would be tabulated, it caused a tizzy amongst folks who pay attention to these sorts of things. But the average Joe fans out there may have a little trouble understanding why the issue is something they should care about, and how it could negatively affect the music they enjoy. Make no mistake about it, I and many other folks who keep an eye on music charts as part of our jobs believe that these new rules could cause the largest wholesale power shift to superstars that music has ever seen, while sending the already existing trend of genres coagulating into on big mono-genre into hyperspeed.
There are many losers in the new Billboard format, and what I have been struggling with since they were announced is to name the winners. On the surface, they are the superstar names like Taylor Swift and Mumford & Sons, but at the same time the new rules take away the power of these artists to control the amount of attention their music receives over time. The new rules render the the music “single” virtually irrelevant since they include digital download data for songs that haven’t been released in single form.
Below are detailed explanations of how the new Billboard chart rules could affect you as a music fan.
As Fans of Major Country Music Stars with No Crossover Appeal
Not just small, up-and-coming artists will be affected by the new rules. Huge, major country music mega-franchises are feeling the effects already. Taylor Swift songs rocketed up the charts to #1, #2, and #10 when the rules were implemented, while Miranda Lambert’s latest single “Fastest Girl In Town” for example went for #9 to #16, Jason Aldean’s “Take A Little Ride” went from #1 to #5, and Toby Keith got knocked out of the Top 25 all together.
If the new rules hold, you can almost guarantee labels and artists will begin to produce more “crossover” songs to take advantage of the revised format, meaning more pop-oriented country songs, more pop songs that call themselves country, and more non-country artists “going country” to take advantage of the new rules.
Meanwhile artists as far ranging as George Strait and Alan Jackson, to Justin Moore and Brantley Gilbert will have trouble getting their singles to attain chart success. Only artists with crossover appeal, or top tier superstar artists who can really drive digital sales will get any advantage from the new format, and will likely completely monopolize the chart with most or all of the songs off a new album once it is released, just like Mumford & Sons is doing in rock right now (see below), and Taylor Swift will do in a couple of weeks when she releases her new album Red.
It is a very real possibility that upon Red’s release, Taylor Swift will own every single top spot on Billboard’s country chart. Literally she could have #1 thru #16 sewed up because of the amount of downloads the songs and album will receive upon release.
Mainstream artists still in the developmental phase of their career can pretty much kiss goodbye any chance of having a breakout single rocket up the charts. The top of the charts will be so locked down with crossover artists, and the middle of the charts filled with names that used to be at the top, it will be nearly impossible to break through. The one exception seen on the charts so far is Florida Georgia Line’s song “Cruise”. Florida Georgia Line, like Taylor Swift, is signed to Big Machine Records, clearly one big winner under the new rules, at least on the surface.
As Fans Of Independent/ Underground Music
I bristle at the idea that none of this matters to folks who don’t listen to the radio or mainstream music, that this is a bunch of hubbub not worth caring about because their favorite bands don’t have a shot on the charts anyway. That’s like saying you don’t care that 20% of the country doesn’t have jobs because you do. If you are a fan of music, and music being better than worse, then these rules will effect you. Sure, not everybody needs to get exercised over the issue or get involved if that’s not their thing, but to get annoyed that other people are or to act like the issue is irrelevant is an exercise in musical elitism.
Everyone has a right to good music, and every artist with true artistic talent has a right to make a living off that music. Fair, equitable charts are one tool to help make that possible. Charts that pander to incumbent superstars and crossover material get in the way of talent development and discovery by both fans and industry.
And the truth is, Billboard’s charts do matter to many of independent/underground fans’ favorite artists. When Hank Williams III’s Damn Right, Rebel Proud debuted at #2 on Billboard, upstaging albums from Taylor Swift and Darius Rucker, this was a huge victory for underground country. Red Dirt albums from folks like Cody Canada and Jason Eady have recently received chart play, and the elevated name recognition from both fans and industry the accolade conveys. Maybe one of the best feel good stories in country music in 2012 is Will Hoge’s song “Even If It Breaks You Heart” that became a #1 hit for Eli Young Band. This song and many others written by honest, hard working, and relatively obscure songwriters will likely never get the recognition they did before under the new format.
The royalties a small-time songwriter can receive even off of one song can set them up for life. It can take a struggling artist from being poor and having to work part-time jobs, to being able to make moderate living off of music. It can also take a musician already making a moderate living off of music to the point where they can afford to raise a family, pay for health health insurance, own instead of rent their home, etc. And I don’t want to hear anyone say they want their favorite artists to stay poor so they continue to write good songs. Being poor should be a choice for an artist to make if they decide that is where they draw their inspiration from, not some benevolent state-of-being foisted upon them by the industry.
The fight might not be yours and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean the fight is not worth waging to make the overall music world a better place.
As Fans of Rock, R&B/Hip-Hop, Latin, & Other Genres
That’s right, the counting of crossover radio plays isn’t just affecting country, but other genres as well. You thought Taylor Swift benefited from a chart boost under the new rules? Rihanna’s song “Diamonds” went from #66 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart before the changes, all the way to #1. Why? Because it is being played on pop radio too.
And the same monopolizing of charts that we see in country with Taylor Swift is happening in the rock charts, only worse. Mumford & Sons have the #5, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23 songs on the rock chart right now. Literally every song on their new album Babel is charting. This is based on the strength of digital downloads, but only one of the songs, “I Will Wait” has actually been released as a single.
As Fans of Taylor Swift
Oh, so you think that Taylor Swift is the big winner under this new system? In some respects she is, but in others this brings the country pop princess under renewed scrutiny.
First off, Taylor Swift doesn’t need the additional attention having multiple songs at the top of the country charts brings her. She’s already in the public eye, enjoying the utmost exposure any artist will ever get from media. Her new album Red will be the best-selling debut in 2012, trust me, and probably by 200,000-400,000 copies.
So what does Taylor Swift’s chart success bring her? Additional scrutiny. What are the two big knocks on Taylor Swift? That she can’t sing and she’s not country; the latter already at the top of public debate because she released a succinctly pop song and another “dub-step-inspired” tune off her new album. Taylor Swift doesn’t have to worry about creating exposure for herself, she has to worry about managing the exposure she’s already getting, lest that exposure turns into overexposure, backlash, and burnout of her brand. The new system doesn’t allow her to do that because it takes away the power of the radio single.
Numerous times in the past, Taylor Swift’s career has been diagnosed with overexposure. This happened with Taylor shortly after the 2010 Grammy Awards; the whole off-pitch singing situation with Stevie Nicks that led to her panning by critics across the country and her writing the song “Mean”. Afterwards, even the “Country Music Anti-Christ,” Taylor’s label owner Scott Borchetta admitted she was over-exposed, and was happy she was headed to Australia for a tour, and then on a hiatus from the public eye.
The Australian dates had been planned all along, but it actually worked out great…as far as the talking head of Taylor Swift, that one’s gone into hiding for a little bit, at least on this continent.
Another overexposure moment happened in September of 2009 when Kanye West accosted Swift at the MTV Awards. Just in August, Spencer Cain of StyleCaster asked if Taylor Swift has become overexposed from her previous episodes and her recent headlines for dating an 18-year-old Kennedy son.
When Taylor Swift’s new album Red is released and every single song charts under the new Billboard protocols, it could cause massive negative exposure to Taylor Swift’s career. Meanwhile the benefits Taylor Swift receives from her chart success are only parliamentary, etching her name as the best-selling songstress of this moment in time, but not effecting her sales, or her success overall.
RESPONSE TO BILLBOARD -- COUNTRY
"First, and probably worst, pop airplay is now counting for the country genre chart. This week’s “#1 country song” would’ve been #36 if the methodology hadn’t changed. A song that was most notable for being the first song that country radio refused to play by Taylor Swift, because it had no business being on country radio in the first place. It is not a country hit that crossed over to pop. It’s a pop hit that failed to cross over to country.
#2 isn’t even a country single. It’s an advance download track previewing Swift’s new album. It will drop like a stone next week, much like it will on the Hot 100, where it enters at #6. But the Hot 100′s breadth is able to absorb tracks like this more easily, and it is almost impossible to get that high without at least some radio support. The #2 country single of the week wasn’t played on country radio this week.
Despite all the new methods of delivery, country music’s primary method of distribution remains the radio. It may be the only thing left that is identifiably “country” in mainstream music. The vast majority of country artists do not pursue the pop market in lieu of the country market. At most, they pursue pop as well as country, but usually wait until the song’s a hit at their home format first.
The big crossover hits of years past – “Need You Now”, “You’re Still the One”, “Before He Cheats” – would’ve done very well under this new format, but would likely have spent more time at #1 when they were dominating top forty radio and the song was already a recurrent at country stations. Instead, they went #1 on the country chart when country radio was playing them, then flew up the pop charts a few weeks later, while a new single was hitting the country market.
This new chart methodology is bad enough as it is now. But what will happen when the labels realize the only way to have a #1 country hit is to get your song to be a pop hit, too?
There are so many other problems with this, including the increased challenges of breaking new country acts and the likelihood that digital single releases will now become more strategic than ever. (Remixes! Acoustic versions! Buy them separately so they each count as their own sale!)
I guess I just don’t see the point of having a country chart at all if it isn’t going to measure just the country market."
Via Country Universe
RESPONSE TO BILLBOARD -- R&B
How Billboard Rule Changes are Killing Not Only R&B Music But All Music and Disrespecting the Fans!
On yesterday it was announced that billboard would now be incorporating digital sales as well as streaming data into the R&B/ Hip Hop charts. This method had already been introduced into the hot 100chart positioning but now that it has been introduced into the more urban charts it is an issue because many urban acts don’t receive large digital downloads.
Although the aforementioned is an issue in itself this spells out a bigger issue. It is almost disgusting how the rules of the music industry are changed to be favorable to certain artist while lowering the standard and quality of music. They have a digital chart, so therefore digital sales should only be factored into that chart. The other charts should be based on airplay and request alone.
What introducing digital sales does is introduce a false sense of popularity. Just because someone downloads a song does not mean they like it, and does not mean they even listened to it more than once. So to factor that into charts is unfair to those artist who receive airplay simply on creating good music, not by creating fan download days.
Also why do the rules of music have to change because the status of the industry has changed? Yeah the internet has grabbed the music industry by the balls, but why not fight it? Why lower the musical standard? Does the FAA lower their security standards when their hasn’t been a terrorist attack? Do colleges change SAT standards? No.
What this does is allow for people who aren’t making quality music, achieve quality status.
Why not make these artist work? Why not make them do radio promo tours in order to get spins? Why not make them make better music so the stations will want to play their records? Why not make these artist work? Stop making it easy for lack luster singers to be praised for having a bunch of number ones, but not one of them being classic. STOP IT
Allowing downloads to be factored into these charts is just another way the music industry is allowing the music industry to die. You want to blame leaks and bootlegging, but honestly you give the fans no hope.
The fans can request and request and support their favorite artist on radio, only to have it knocked down off the charts because someone with a big social media team has made their fans all download their single on the same day.
I tell you it sucks to be a fan of music in 2012.
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