For as long as certainly I can remember, Billboard charts have been the guidepost for commercial success in the music business, and if a song “went to number one on the charts” it was because Billboard said it was number one, based on a formula that relied heavily on radio plays and record sales. But that is finally about to change.
Reports the New York Times:
This week the Billboard Hot 100, the magazine’s 55-year-old singles chart, takes a evolutionary step by incorporating YouTube plays into its formula. The move comes just in time for Baauer’s song “Harlem Shake,” the latest viral video phenomenon, which will make its debut at No. 1 this week thanks to the change.
“Harlem Shake,” a bass-heavy hip-hop track with no lyrics beyond a few samples, got little mainstream attention when it was released in May as a free download. But this month its popularity exploded on YouTube, as thousands of fans uploaded videos of themselves dancing — some might say simply flailing — along to the song. By last week more than 4,000 videos were going up each day.
Download sales and Spotify streams of the track also skyrocketed. But the remarkable trajectory of “Harlem Shake” led Billboard to move forward right away on its methodology update, something it had been in discussions with YouTube about for nearly two years, Bill Werde, the magazine’s editorial director, said on Wednesday.
“The notion that a song has to sell in order to be a hit feels a little two or three years ago to me,” Mr. Werde said. “The music business today — much to its credit — has started to learn that there are lots of different ways a song can be a hit, and lots of different ways that the business can benefit from it being a hit.”
In case you’re wondering, Billboard‘s formula already includes data from streaming services like Spotify. Thank God Rebecca Black’s Friday came before this move otherwise we’d all have to explain to our grandkids how that shitty song made it to number one on our watch. Whew.
(Via Shortform Blog)