Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fixing the Billboard Hot 100 chart: Part V

So how do we fix the Billboard Hot 100 so that it has meaning again? Before I get into that, we have several more examples of the chart's irrelevanace this week's chart. This past season's American Idol runner-up David Archuleta debuts at #2 on the chart this week with his first single from his upcoming debut album called "Crush." Taylor Swift's "Change" debuts at #10 and Chris Brown's "Dreamer" debuts at #16. Have you heard ANY of these songs yet? I didn't think so. Meanwhile, Kid Rock's mega-format smash "All Summer Long" inches up to #25 on the chart despite moving up from #6 to #4 in Hot 100 airplay! Thanks mostly to the aforementioned hit, his "Rock N' Roll Jesus" album sold over 101,000 units this week, good for the #3 spot on the Top 200 albums chart. Are the three debuts more popular songs than Kid Rock's hit? Of course not.

Once again we have cases where a formatically popular artist (an A.I. winner, a Country star and an R&B/Pop star) released a song to the online sites for download and it debuted high on the Hot 100 chart based almost exclusively thanks to sales. Do big week one sales make a song popular? As I've said before, the answer to this is an EMPHATIC NO! Big week one sales on a new release, whether it be of an album or a single mean the ARTIST is likely popular. As for the song, it's sales over time and how it does on the airplay charts are what determines whether or not it indeed is popular.

So how do we fix what is broken with the Hot 100 chart so that it once again has some sort of semblance of meaning? Following are my three main suggestions:

1. Change the sales component to a rolling six week sales average. As I've mentioned before, sales tend to run quite a bit ahead of airplay, so by getting the sales in sync with airplay songs will more naturally go up and down the chart, rather than having the jagged up and down style that is prevalent today. Also, by making the sales a rolling six week average, you eliminate the biases which currently exist on the chart thanks to the practice of "repressed downloads" and new releases by popular artists and/or American Idol contestants.

2. Factor in album sales for all charting songs, most especially for those which there is no physical single available. Should Kid Rock (or anyone else for that matter) be penalized on the Hot 100 chart just because he doesn't have a physical single available? I think not. The purpose of the Hot 100 chart has always been to reflect the songs that are most popular in the nation. Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" is definitely much more popular than the #25 position currently shown on the Hot 100 chart. For the album sales component, again use a six week rolling sales average, and award 75% of those sales to the current biggest hit track on the airplay chart. If this were done, Kid Rock's hit would be in the top 5 of the Hot 100, which is reflective of it's true popularity today.

3. Change the airplay component back to just pop radio airplay. Songs peak at different times at different formats. Those who are in the business and/or follow the charts religiously are very aware of this. Indeed, it's very common for a song to peak at Pop or Hot AC and then not peak for another six months to a year at Adult Contemporary. A country song may similarly cross over to pop radio or Adult Contemporary in a similar way. When Billboard combined the airplay of all formats, this resulted in unnatural jagged runs on their airplay chart. While the intention may have been good, this was not a well thought-out change. This change was also made with the assumption that all formats move sales units fairly equally. From what I've presented previously, this is not at all the case. Urban and Urban AC in particular don't move units. The three main formats which sell singles today are Pop (Top 40), Hot AC and Rhythmic in that order. My suggestion here would be to weight the airplay component so that it's based on 50% pop airplay, 35% Hot AC airplay and 15% Rhythmic airplay. The reason for the lower weight on the rhythmic side is that the format is not open to playing "all of the hits" as are Top 40 and Hot AC.

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1 comment:

gregario said...

Im not really big on billboard and stuff. So forgive my ignorance here. Is this really a big deal? the whole top 100 thing. I mainly download songs from itunes. So don't really pay much attention to billboard and stuff. I just think this stuff doesnt have as much meaning as in years past. Sort of like how titles in boxing dont mean as much. Since there are umpteen titles for each weight class nowadays.