David Bowie's New Makeover: Rock 'n' Roll Recluse
David Bowie's New Makeover: Rock 'n' Roll Recluse

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

I started my personal chart in 1974 at 12 years old, after discovering "American Top 40" on the radio. I had tracked the local charts in the New York area before that.

Throughout the '70s and early '80s, I made my own personal chart (up to 200 positions a week!) and noted airplay on all stations by flipping through the dial for hours at a time. I still have most of my old charts.

In 1983, I began hosting a yearly party counting down the top songs of the prior 12 months based on the year-end charts of friends and family. This summer will be the 28th annual celebration (and coincides with my 50th birthday). "Modern Love" by David Bowie was the first No. 1.

In 1993, I started a newsletter and community chart called Musicscape as an experiment among friends who produce weekly personal chart data. (Coincidentally, as you wrote, at the time I also compared the activity to fantasy football). "Cantaloop" by US3 dominated the chart for 13 weeks in that era.

Soon after, I became involved in the production of the in-depth Alaska Jim's Music Charts site that provides links to numerous worldwide charts.

In 1995, I started my own site to track personal chart data on the Internet, to showcase charts by genre and to expose the "Untapped Resources" on personal charts that don't receive substantial, if any, airplay.

All this has been a labor of love for me. This work has kept me immersed in the discovery of new music my entire life, truly a gift.

In my teens, I couldn't imagine not doing my own chart but I could never have predicted just how much it would shape my history.

Tim Harris

Dear Gary,

I've been following Billboard's charts and Chart Beat for years and I'm very pleased that Chart Beat continues in good hands! Thank you, bravo and keep up the good work!

I love this feature on home charts. I agree that personal charts are diaries of sorts, as looking at them stirs up memories of years gone by. I've run my charts in different forms since July 1987. The inaugural No. 1 was Aretha Franklin and George Michael's "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)."

I think that the most endearing thing about listener-made charts is how they allow for ties between songs. Most of my late '80s charts had four songs tied at No. 1. With cheeky audacity I would tie songs at No. 2 and even 3. I was practically making all the songs I liked top three hits (happily leaving the difficult matter of actual math to Billboard ...)

Elias Svinos
Kos, Greece

Hi Gary,

I was so excited when I read your article about other people who have created their own versions of music charts. (I thought I was the only weirdo who did this). You are correct, having a journal of music is a great way to go through the journeys of your life.

I have been tracking hits since summer 1991 and finalize my weekly top 10 every Tuesday.

I have also kept tabs on chart records, such as the songs with the most weeks at No. 1:

17, "Only Time," Enya
16, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Green Day
15, "Where Is the Love?," the Black Eyed Peas
14, "Holiday," Green Day
14, "Never Let You Go," Third Eye Blind

Love Billboard and the work that you do,

Kevin Lawrence
Durham, North Carolina

Hi Nick, Bruce, Tim, Elias and Kevin,

Fun to hear about your passion for creating personal charts over the years.

Interesting, too, how each personal chart creator seems to follow a strict set of rules. I can relate, as I, too, would chart only official singles when my chart, the "GT Hot 20," launched in 1989.

As I took my cues from Billboard charts, once songs began becoming hits more regularly without being released as commercial singles (i.e., Bart Simpson's "Do the Bartman"), I opened up my chart to album cuts that, while not eligible for the Hot 100, could appear on Billboard genre rankings. The Traveling Wilburys' "Inside Out" (a No. 16 Billboard Album Rock hit in 1991) was the first such Hot 20 No. 1.

Once I became a country music fan in the early '90s, I liked so many hits in the genre that I premiered a sister chart, the "GT Hot Country 15." As the Billboard Hot 100 back then was primarily a pop chart (with top 40 stations accounting for all airplay data), so was the Hot 20, and it made sense to likewise chart my favorite country songs separately. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Garth Brooks, Doug Stone, Mark Chesnutt and Alabama often took turns atop my country tally in that great era for the format.

When the Hot 100 began incorporating all-format airplay in December 1998, I made the bold move of charting country songs on the Hot 20, as well (eventually ceasing the country-only chart). In 2001, Carpenter's "Slave to the Beauty" became the first core country Hot 20 No. 1. (It was also a B-side).

I've never allowed for ties on my charts, but I understand the idea of wanting as many songs as possible to log healthy chart lives. One of the best (and chart-geekiest) benefits of compiling your own chart is not having to see a song stop at, say, No. 11, if you don't want it to, as can unfortunately happen on Billboard charts over which you don't have such control.

I've also kept a record book of Hot 20 hits, showing the discography of every charted artist, a la Joel Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles." If you're going to take the time to make a chart each week, you might as well keep track of how songs and artists have performed over time.

(The Hot 20's author even made a cameo chart appearance, at No. 20, the week of Nov. 28, 1998, after a reading of a poem for KidSounds magazine, produced by a DJ at WBMX/Boston, where I worked at the time, appeared on a CD insert. Alfred Hitchcock would be proud).

Please keep these stories coming. I'm happy to continue posting personal charts here in "Ask Billboard." Please feel free to e-mail at askbb@billboard.com.