Sunday February 25, 2018
Aug 2013


The Hot 100: The Music Industry’s Definitive Popularity Contest

By: Anthony Villiotti


New-Releases-Top-100-Songs-2013We’ve all heard the phrase “number one single on the charts” or “top of the charts.”  But, what is this so called ‘chart’?  The number one single according to — Aspiring artists, meet Billboard.  The Billboard Hot 100 is the listing of the 100 most popular “current” songs of all genres.  There are Billboard rankings specific to certain genres, but the Hot 100 is the most widely used tool to analyze the most popular songs in the industry as a whole.  There are three sources of data that are used to create this ranking: radio airplay impressions (Nielsen BDS), sales data (Nielsen Soundscan), and streaming activity (Nielsen BDS).

First of all, what qualifies as a “current song?”  A current song is any song that is newly released, or a song that is gaining popularity and airtime for the first time.  That is why you only see new songs on the Hot 100, and while some songs remain timeless classics, they can’t stay in the Hot 100 forever.

Now, what in the world is Nielsen BDS?  Nielsen BDS stands for Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems.  Nielsen BDS tracks monitored radio, television, and internet airplay of songs based on the number of spins and detections.  The service uses a special digital pattern recognition technology to collect data on how many times each “current” song was played on the radio, television, or internet.  I know my first reaction was how can they possibly detect that many instances?  But, the company reports that they receive more than 1 million detections annually.  Wow!  This method takes care of the radio airplay portion of the Hot 100 ranking and the streaming activity portion.

So what account for the sales data portion of the Hot 100 ranking?  Nielsen Soundscan.  Soundscan is the official method of tracking sales data of music and music videos.  Data is collected from both physical and digital retailers, and this data is made available every week (Wednesday, to be exact), which explains the weekly publishing of the Hot 100.  However, in order to see the raw data [not just how each song stacks up to the others via the Hot 100] you must be a subscriber to Nielsen Soundscan.

You might be wondering: What does this mean to me as an aspiring artist?  It mostly paints a picture illustrating how many audience pools there are for you to win over.  Not only do you need to get consumers to purchase your music, but you also need the radio to play your song, and at-home listeners to stream your content.  Additionally, it helps to highlight the relevance that radio still has in today’s music industry.  First of all, it accounts for 1/3 of the Hot 100 ranking.  Second, how do you think consumers know to purchase new music?  The radio.  The radio is still a major promotional force in the music industry pushing new music on the whole market. You must remember to keep in mind that you are not competing with your genre-similar counterparts, but with the music industry as a whole.  Consumers don’t budget their music-spending based on genre, they buy what they like.  So when you’re establishing your brand and creating new material, keep one word in mind: marketability.

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