Pop fans anxiously awaited the announcement of this week's No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 today (May 18), with new singles from rapper 6ix9ine ("Gooba") and the pop star duo of Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber ("Stuck With U") likely to be in contention for the chart's top spot.
Ultimately, Billboard announced that "Stuck With U" had debuted atop this week's listing, with "Gooba" landing two spots below at No. 3 in its first week. ("Say So," last week's No. 1 from Doja Cat featuring Nicki Minaj, finished between them at No. 2.)
This was met with some controversy on social media, as 6ix9ine had taken to Instagram shortly before the chart's reveal to assert that streams of his single had been improperly discounted, and allege that the powers behind "Stuck With U" had "bought" their No. 1 through ill-gotten sales totals. (Grande, Bieber, and manager/"Stuck" co-writer Scooter Braun all later took to Instagram to deny the rapper's claims.)
In the interest of transparency, Billboard wanted to clear up the Hot 100's chart rules and tabulation process, the calculations that go into the determinations of its final rankings, and the stats accumulated by the two singles that marked this week's highest debuts. Here are the facts.
The total stream count for "Gooba": 55.3 million combined audio and video U.S. streams for “Gooba” were reported to Nielsen Music/MRC Data and Billboard for this week’s Hot 100.
6ix9ine's claims that not all of his streams were properly counted: Streaming numbers visible to the public on audio and video data platforms do not reflect the volume included in Billboard’s chart calculations. Neither do the stream counts that services make available to content owners (including 6ix9ine and his team) directly through a proprietary data feed or dashboard.
Instead, each data provider provides a post-audit number to Billboard and Nielsen Music/MRC Data -- excluding streams that do not meet long-standing charting parameters, such as U.S.-based-only plays, minimum play length, excessive plays and lack of user verification. This is applied to all songs from all artists.
"YouTube takes abuse of our systems, such as attempts to artificially inflate video viewcounts, very seriously, and take action against known abusers, including termination of their YouTube accounts," a spokesperson for YouTube tells Billboard. "YouTube continues to employ proprietary technology to prevent the artificial inflation of a video’s view count by spam bots, malware and other means, and the data we provide for the charts reflects this process."
The 30 million streams that 6ix9ine said Billboard counted matches the included chart total for all video plays. That number is more than double any single-week video stream total for any song so far this year.
The discrepancy between YouTube's visible play count for "Gooba" (over 180 million) and the number of streams Billboard counted for the song this week (55.3 million): Counts for a video on its YouTube page are for global plays, and absent any other auditing filters mentioned above. Billboard counts only U.S.-based plays for its charts.
The Hot 100 forecast 6ix9ine referenced in his Instagram video: The chart forecast referenced was not created nor provided by Billboard to the industry. Those with access to sales, streaming and radio data from various sources often create their own chart models and update them at their own frequency. Billboard does not distribute any Hot 100 ranking forecast to labels, management or artists.
The late 24-hour sales spike for "Stuck With U" alleged by 6ix9ine in the video: “Stuck With U” was available to purchase through the week as a digital download, as well as in various physical format/digital download combinations through Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber’s webstores. The sales spike is likely referring to sales on Thursday, May 14 -- the final day of the tracking week -- when signed “Stuck With U” singles were put up for sale in Grande and Bieber’s webstores.
A signed single or album is an accepted form of sales available to any artist and has been noted repeatedly within Billboard chart stories when such items have impacted the Hot 100. 6ix9ine, meanwhile, released a non-signed CD single/digital download on the last day of the tracking week via his webstore.
As noted in this week’s story announcing the results on the latest Hot 100, “Stuck With U” sold 108,000 in the tracking week ending May 14 and “Gooba” sold 24,000, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data.
6ix9ine's claims that "six credit cards" were responsible for a hefty percentage of the "Stuck With U" sales: Billboard and Nielsen Music/MRC Data conducts audits on all sales reported with access to purchase-level detail, and works with data partners to recognize excessive bulk purchases and remove those units from the final sales total. All titles this week, as in every week, were put under the same scrutiny. (Billboard has reached out to Fame House/Bravado, retailer and reporter of director-to-consumer sales, for further comment about the sales data provided for "Stuck With U.")
6ix9ine's claims that Billboard would not "disclose" information about data when asked: Billboard and Nielsen Music/MRC Data were open and forthright with all information pertaining to “Gooba” with 6ix9ine’s team. That includes explaining the Hot 100 methodology and how the final ranking and chart points for “Gooba” were calculated. Billboard and Nielsen Music/MRC Data cannot, however, provide granular detail on a title to anyone but its content owner.
How the Hot 100's multi-metric calculations are tabulated, and how it led to this week's results: The Hot 100 has a locked-in methodology, updated at least once a year, with each metric divided by a certain number, which results in an average chart ratio whereby streams are the most heavily weighted factor, followed next by radio airplay and then sales. Each song has its own ratio breakdown based on its specific activity, which contributes to the overall chart average each week .
Overall, “Stuck With U” drew 28.1 million U.S. streams, 26.3 million in radio airplay audience and 108,000 sold in the tracking week. “Gooba” had 55.3 million U.S. streams, 172,000 in radio airplay audience and 24,000 sold.
Those sums resulted in the songs’ respective rankings on this week’s Hot 100.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect YouTube's statement.