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Thread: Interview with the Billboard’s director of charts

  1. #1
    Ultimate Carrie Fan
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    Interview with the Billboard’s director of charts

    Billboard’s director of charts explains how a track like “Harlem Shake” can shoot to No. 1
    By Marah Eakin March 8, 2013

    Last month, Billboard updated the way it formulates its Hot 100 chart, adding the influence of things like YouTube streams to the way it calculates a hit’s reach. It’s a move that’s made a big difference and allowed for Baauer’s “Harlem Shake”—a track that’s basically more of a soundtrack to a meme now than an actual “heard it on the radio” song—to shoot to No. 1. It was a controversial move on Billboard’s part, but one that speaks to the state of music these days. An insanely popular song—Psy’s “Gangnam Style” for instance—might have taken the world by storm, but that doesn’t mean that it’s setting the radio or retail worlds on fire. With the music industry’s sales numbers consistently circling the proverbial drain, The A.V. Club thought it would be interesting to find out how Billboard’s charts actually get put together. We talked to Silvio Pietroluongo, the magazine’s director of charts, about SoundScan, record sales, and how his team determines whether Taylor Swift is country, pop, or both.

    The A.V. Club: Would you describe some of the different charts Billboard has?

    Silvio Pietroluongo: Billboard has dozens of charts. Some measure single actions, like a sale, radio airplay, and streaming. Then we have charts like the Hot 100 and some of our other song genre charts that are a hybrid of multiple streams. For the Hot 100, for instance, we measure radio airplay, digital downloads, and now streaming data. We added a large piece of streaming data a year ago this March. We added a lot of the subscription, on-demand services like Spotify, Slacker, Rdio, and MOG. We’ve had that in the pie for a while, those three pieces, but just recently, YouTube became the new member of the streaming contributors.

    AVC: Sales-based charts are based on UPCs scanned and reported to SoundScan, correct?

    SP: Yeah, scanning or when you buy a digital download. It’s registered, and it’s reported to Nielsen SoundScan by all the retailers. They track everybody.

    AVC: For something like the Hot 100, how does streaming data or radio airplay get to you guys? You’re tracking so many things at once.

    SP: It’s all processed for us by Nielsen Entertainment. A digital download is a sale, so it’s tracked similar to how they track albums. Nielsen BDS [Broadcast Data Systems] has radio-monitoring technology that monitors over 1,200 radio stations that report to the Hot 100. Any time a song is played, it’s electronically fingerprinted and processed via computers and registered as a play on various radio stations. For streaming, it’s a little bit different. It’s sort of similar to the retail portion, where the retailers provide data to Nielsen SoundScan. In this case, the streamers provide data to Nielsen to process. They match the data, they clean it up, and they send it to us to incorporate into our charts.

    AVC: What’s the time period you measure? Tuesday to Monday?

    SP: For sales and streaming, we use a Monday-to-Sunday cycle. The reports we get for sales and streaming cut off end-of-day on Sunday. Radio is a little different because we get real-time information from the monitoring system. We use a Wednesday-to-Tuesday cycle, and we create the Hot 100 chart on Wednesday morning.

    AVC: Why did Billboard just now decide to add YouTube streaming to the Hot 100?

    SP: We’ve been talking to them for quite some time. It’s been nearly two years since we’ve had open discussions on a serious level. There were various obstacles to overcome along the way. Part of it was making sure the data they’re sending us is sent in a timely manner. It’s a large volume of data, and we want to make sure it’s accurate, and we weren’t going a period of two weeks without getting new data.

    So there’s that, and there’s the negotiation of trying to acquire data. When I say acquire, I don’t necessarily mean monetarily acquire, but just working out a deal for us to have that data as part of the chart. It’s been a combination of that, and we talked to a lot of companies.

    A year ago, we were able to line up a bunch of other types of audio streaming services, like Spotify, and it was just getting together at that point. It’s not a matter of, “Hey, we wanted to do it now.” It just happened that we did it now. “Harlem Shake” is a pretty big song out there that sort of shines a light on what kind of effect it can have on the chart.


    AVC: How do you decide what goes on which chart? If Taylor Swift puts out a record, she’s obviously going to be on several charts. She’s going to be on the country chart, she’s going to be on the Hot 100, she’s going to be on the Billboard albums chart. But is that also a bluegrass record? Who makes that decision?

    SP: [Laughs.] We have chart managers that are responsible for the various genre charts that we have. For something like Taylor Swift or Mumford & Sons, it can be tricky. The sound of rock changes. You could go back to the New Order, Depeche Mode days, and now Postal Service. That’s still rock, but it’s electronic.

    ... the entire article is at: Billboard?s director of charts explains how a track like ?Harlem Shake? can shoot to No. 1 | Music | Expert Witness | The A.V. Club
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  • #2
    Ultimate Carrie Fan clh_hilary's Avatar
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    This doesn't explain anything. "Red" and all her other album tracks have not been promoted to Country radio but charted on Hot Country Songs. And for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", the only thing going for it was that her team pushed it to the format, as its success very obviously was driven by her multi-format success - In this case, it means songs like Train's "Hey, Soul Sister", Kelly Clarkson's "Mr. Know It All" would have their chart-run on the Hot 100 counted the day they released the countrified versions of the singles and gave it an add date (or at least after the add date) - and that Mumford & Son's "I Will Wait" can debut at #1 on HCS any week now, whenever their label bothers to give it an add date (Same goes to "Ho Hey", but of course if they both do they'll have to compete for that #1).

  • #3
    Carrie Fans Maniac robinannhunt's Avatar
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    He didn't answere the question of a song's genre. "It is difficult" is not an answere.

  • #4
    Ultimate Carrie Fan clh_hilary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinannhunt View Post
    He didn't answere the question of a song's genre. "It is difficult" is not an answere.
    "Oh well...It depends on how much the labels pay us, if at all. Big Machine, for example, has a premium deal with us to guarantee at least 80% of their releases are considered Country when requested."
    teesharky likes this.

  • #5
    Carrie Guru pklongbeach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinannhunt View Post
    He didn't answere the question of a song's genre. "It is difficult" is not an answere.
    That answer says alot to me:

    "It is difficult, only if the artist is intentionally trying to make their music ambiguous and take advantage of multipe charts at the same time. If they do that, it makes it difficult."

    I think that is the truth in his statement, but he just went with "It is difficult".

    btw, it doesn't have to be. Grow some, and put the song where it belongs and stop the nensense.
    Then it wouldn't be difficult at all.

    This article sort of intentionally did not shed light on anything. Everything about it left open the reality of working with large corporations to get their product the highest visibility.
    rainbow1 and teesharky like this.


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