Revamp means digital and bilingual radio will have more of an impact.
Visitors to the Latin charts page this week will encounter a revamping of Hot Latin Songs, which is now based on the Billboard Hot 100-style formula blending airplay, sales and streaming data, as measured by Nielsen BDS and Nielsen SoundScan. The chart will appear weekly on the page with Latin Airplay (the former basis of Hot Latin Songs) and Top Latin Albums, along with the regular rotation of genre airplay and album charts.
The new chart will exclusively measure the performance of Spanish-language songs by taking into consideration multiple measurements: digital downloads, airplay from the Hot 100 panel of more than 1,200 stations in all formats and streams from services that include Spotify, Slacker, Rdio, Cricket/Muve, Rhapsody and Xbox Live.
The hybrid songs chart is launching not only for Latin music but also for country, R&B/hip-hop, rap and rock (see story, page 12). But its appearance is particularly timely for Latin music as the genre becomes more vested in the digital landscape, and also, as stations increasingly cater to a bilingual listener.
On the radio end, in the last year an increasing number of stations have flipped formats from all-Spanish to bilingual, playing mostly a mix of top 40, uptempo English-language fare and uptempo dance, urban Latin fare. Those stations, including KXOL (Latino 98.3 FM) Los Angeles, currently don't fall under the Latin panels because their playlists do not include enough records in Spanish. The hybrid chart, however, will include their Spanish-language fare as well as any Spanish track played on any BDS-monitored station, including English-language outlets. In other words, if bilingual is indeed a new reality, then the songs-at least the Spanish-language songs-that cross into the English realm will finally be adequately represented on a Billboard chart.
As far as digital sales and streaming is concerned, never has Latin music relied so much on these platforms. This may sound redundant; after all, isn't every genre in the market in the same boat? Not really. With the decline of Latin retail space in the United States, developing strong digital sales has become an urgent matter for Latin that is far from reaching its potential.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, sales of Latin albums (those predominantly in Spanish) through the first three quarters of 2012 stood at 7.2 million compared with 8.9 million for the same time period a year ago-more than 1 million in lost sales. Of those sales, this year 1 million were digital albums, compared with 800,000 in 2011. That's merely a 200,000-unit gain, but a 25% gain nevertheless.
In terms of Latin digital song sales-which will be part of the makeup of the reconfigured Hot Latin Songs chart-they stand at 17.1 million year to date, compared with 16.2 million last year, a gain of nearly 1 million. Measuring those sales together with what presumably is a major driver-streams-may provide a very different picture from that currently presented by album sales and radio charts.
"Truth is, no one talks about streaming in the Latin market," says Tony Mojena, who manages Luis Fonsi. "Everybody talks about Twitter and Facebook." But now, he says, with the creation of a new chart that measures results in black and white, "everyone's going to start paying attention to this and numbers will begin to grow."
The hybrid Hot Latin Songs, which will pick up the 26-year history of the former airplay chart, runs 50 positions deep, while Latin Airplay and Top Latin Albums will run 25 positions in length in print, with the full charts (50 positions for Latin Airplay and 75 for Top Latin Albums) appearing on Billboard.biz each week. The history of Latin Airplay dates back to November 1994 when the ranking first began incorporating BDS data.
"Great masses of people are listening to music via many outlets and it's great that they can be measured," Universal Music Latin Entertainment president Victor Gonzalez says. "And the correlation with radio is not always 100%. It will be very interesting."