Readers share thoughts on YouTube data joining the Hot 100, Baauer's big points lead at No. 1 and the sales of the original 'American Idol.'
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A WHOLE LOTTA 'SHAKE'-IN' GOING ON
I'm writing you to express my deepest disappointment about the recent change in the Billboard Hot 100's chart methodology to include YouTube data.
It's true that with the rise of social media it is indispensible to have YouTube added to the chart's calculation, but you have given YouTube nearly complete power to control it. This power comes in the form that every video that has the song in it will be counted for overall streaming and chart points. They shouldn't, because what's popular is the video, not the song.
Baauer's "Harlem Shake" is popular, indeed, but the 100 million YouTube views it's generated each of the past two weeks are mainly from a 30-second meme, not the song. It's foolish to think that for that reason that the song is somehow popular.
The Hot 100 has become a puppet of YouTube and it's really sad that after years of hits, and an impeccable legacy, this is being washed down the toilet by foolish decision-making by the Billboard staff. What will be the difference between the Hot 100 and a YouTube ranking? Barely none.
I am really hoping you rectify this. Thirty seconds cannot count as a complete stream of a song … because it ain't.
The decision to add YouTube streaming data (from users only in the U.S.) into the Hot 100's formula hasn't been without controversy. But, I think few would argue, as you concede, that YouTube is clearly a key indicator of music popularity now.
Certainly there's the question of whether a 30-second video (by the thousands, in the case of "Shake") that features audio of a song should count equally as that song's complete video. I know that the possibility of weighting user-generated videos less - an extremely valid stance, certainly - remains a point of much discussion among the ultimate decision-makers in Billboard's chart and edit departments, so surely the topic will be under review and discussion going forward.
Ultimately, Billboard editorial director Bill Werde summed up Billboard's thinking in a "Letter from the Editor" published in last week's print issue (dated March 2). That week, "Shake" debuted atop the Hot 100 concurrent with the addition of YouTube data to the chart (and to Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, R&B Songs, Rap Songs, Hot Rock Songs and Hot Latin Songs). "The timing of 'Shake' is a bit of a gift and a curse," Werde wrote. "I'm thrilled we have this immediate example of how responsive the Hot 100 is now to hits on any platform. But the staggering, singular furor of activity around the viral phenomenon actually doesn't represent what will happen in a typical week. Generally speaking, our Hot 100 formula targets a ratio of sales (35-45%), airplay (30-40%) and streaming (20-30%)." [The current splits for "Shake" are 89% streaming, 11% sales and less than 1% airplay.]
In citing PSY's "Gangnam Style," which possibly could've topped the Hot 100 with the inclusion of YouTube data but instead peaked at No. 2 last year behind Maroon 5's "One More Night," Werde specifically addressed 30-second memes as they relate to measuring fans' engagement with songs on the Hot 100. I.e., if people take the time to record a video featuring a song, doesn't that clearly reflect a level of interest in that song, perhaps regardless of the length of the song used? "Some ask why we would include the 30 seconds of 'Shake' as a play that should count. There is some technological logic, such as the already existent inclusion of Spotify streams or radio mixshow plays that all can count with much less than the full song. As well, YouTube and other companies are matching the rights on these Baauer plays so that advertising revenue shares can be paid to the rights holders.
"But perhaps most important?" Werde concluded about "Shake," "It's a hit! It's fairly obvious that no other song was more listened to or discussed last week."
In the future, who's to say now what other data fields will factor into the Hot 100? While sales and airplay had been the chart's two components for decades prior to the addition of streaming, jukebox plays once factored into the equation. As long as music is consumed, the ways in which it is should be under consideration for Hot 100 tabulation.
In a recent charts department back-and-forth, the comment was made that "Happy Birthday" is perhaps the most popular song each week, as it's sung at countless parties around the world (and in the U.S., per the Hot 100's scope). There's just not one recorded version, though, being played at those parties. If there were, and, more importantly, if Nielsen could monitor homes across the country, would it make sense to include those plays in the Hot 100? (Our poor Nielsen colleagues would probably have to bring a present each time, though. That would only be right.)
Essentially, then, could the Hot 100 expand to further platforms? Would it make sense to, include, say, plays of songs at sporting events, where up to 60,000 or more fans hear them? Or, if an act plays a song in concert at Madison Square Garden in front of 20,000, would that reach not be worthy of measurement? Those fans paid perhaps hundreds of dollars to hear it. And, how about TV reach? We note when a show like HBO's "Girls" features a song like Icona Pop's "I Love It" and how that translates to radio play and sales. But, what about the more than 1 million people who watched the show and heard the song that night. Should (and, how would) that reach be counted? And, how about weekly plays of songs in your iPod? Or, tape … record … or … 8-track collections?
To how far, ultimately, should (or, more logically, could) the Hot 100 extent of measurement expand?
Please feel free to weigh in in the comments section below or by e-mailing email@example.com.
Ultimately, I'd guess that the Hot 100 of the future will, and should, be more even more inclusive than it is now. The addition of YouTube data, regardless of any tweaks decided going forward, seems like a clearly logical latest step.