From Jukeboxes to YouTube: How Billboard Is Catching Up With The Times →
So what’s a Top-100 chart to do in an evolving landscape? As Bill Werde, the magazine’s editorial director, told me, Billboard has been struggling with the realization that “a hit isn’t one thing anymore.” The phenomenon of the pop hit was specific to a time in which there were few ways for young people to stumble upon new music aside from the local jukebox or top-40 radio station. Now the term has picked up a new connotation in a new age: virality.
Before now, the Billboard chart wasn’t equipped to track viral sensations; the equation that once predicted, explained, and produced hits no longer worked. Take the case of OK Go: the band was relatively unknown until the low-budget video for its song “Here It Goes Again,” in which the musicians performed an elaborate dance routine on treadmills, was posted to YouTube in 2006. The video went viral and has garnered tens of millions of views to date, but the song barely cracked the Top 40 of the old Billboard list. Radio stations weren’t playing it, and people weren’t paying for it, so it was not technically a hit.
These days, songs and videos can take root in the popular imagination without a single play from a radio DJ. “Gangnam Style” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” were both lavished with industry attention in America only after the internet made them hits. So the cultural role of the Billboard list is changing. It has gone from setting the pop musical agenda to playing catch-up in the wake of a sudden viral explosion, reflecting mass cultural tastes rather than helping to create them. Where it once allowed radio stations to understand just whom they were targeting, it now feels like an appendage of an old system, made redundant by the YouTube play count.
Previously: The Swan Song of the Top 40
Pop music replaces hymns at two-thirds of funerals, survey finds →
Pop music has replaced hymns at two-thirds of British funerals, a survey from Co-operative Funeralcare has found. Pop was the number one request at more than 30,000 funerals over the past 12 months, and only 4% of mourners requested classical music.
My Way by Frank Sinatra remained the favourite for a record seventh year running, requested at 15% of funerals. It was last usurped in 2002, by Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings.
Adele entered the funeral music charts at number 22 with Someone Like You.
In 2005, hymns accounted for 41% of funeral music requests, but in the past 12 months the figure has fallen to 30%.
A glimpse at the piracy habits of a nation [U.K.] →
The data suggests that Ed Sheeran - with his album - is, so far this year, the most illegally downloaded artist in 459 of the 694 cities, towns and villages covered by the research.
Per person, Musicmetric found Manchester to be the most prolific city for piracy - with Nottingham and Southampton coming second and third.
BBC News - On-demand music gets own chart →
The popularity of music streamed on-demand is to be measured in a new weekly chart. The top 100 rundown will be compiled by the Official Charts Company (OCC) using statistics from audio streaming sites such as Spotify, We7 and Deezer. However, video streaming services, including YouTube, will not contribute to the new chart for the time being.
Billboard's tweaks to sales-charts lists have fans, foes - latimes.com →
Lady Gaga’s manager had harsh words for the venerable music publication. “The chart does not reflect music consumption in any given week,” Troy Carter said. “It doesn’t take into account what’s happening on Spotify, IHeartRadio and what’s really happening at digital music stores. Slowly but surely, they’re making themselves insignificant.”
"In a rare photo finish at the top of the Billboard charts, Michael Bublé’s holiday record squeezed past a new album by Nickelback to clinch the No. 1 spot by a margin of only 419 copies."
Music and metrics < PopMatters →
Even in the traditional music industry, the need for bands to self-promote and build a “platform” has become institutionalized, which has to a degree crowdsourced the A&R function. This article from last week’s Economist gets at the dialectics of this shift:
A&R men used to be alchemists, discovering base talent and turning it into gold…. These days they are venture capitalists. Particularly at big labels such as Universal, A&R executives increasingly expect acts to have built a self-sustaining, if modest, business before they offer them a recording contract. Large numbers of Facebook friends and Twitter followers help show that a band has traction. But record labels have become wary of social-media indicators. They know that desperate bands may chatter about themselves or hire marketing firms to inflate their online metrics.
Bands are less artists than entrepreneurial startups, manipulating online social networks to gain leverage with potential investors. The product they sell doesn’t need to be good if the market for it can be posited, and the structure of the industry encourages musicians to focus their talents on that sort of market making. As certain social media metrics get corrupted, new ones will be established, because they serve as an essential proxy for the one metric that will never be perfected, the one that quantifies talent in the abstract.
We Must Be Superstars
I have a problem with Figure 3. Some R&B or most R&B is danceable, as is some Hip-Hop. Are you trying to tell me that 1990-99 R&B #1 singles which account for about 62% of the #1 singles were all Barry White songs? And since Barry White died in 2003, that 50% of the #1 R&B singles from 2000-2010 were all 25 BPM’s or undanceable? Someone should take a look at those pie charts again.
The Swan Song of the Top 40 - NYTimes.com →
Even if I was let down by the music on the charts, I still like the idea of the charts. It’s comforting to imagine that there’s some kind of consensus out there, that we as a pop nation might be united once a week, that Number Oneness still means something. People still refer to “the charts” as though they carry some cultural weight. The Decemberists, we learn, have the No. 1 album in the country, or the cast of “Glee” has racked up more Billboard Hot 100 appearances than Elvis Presley, and it all seems as if it matters, somehow. We want it to say something about the sort of entertainments that connect us, but what it really says something about is our inability to gauge such matters anymore.
From essay (or “Riff”) of mine in NYT Mag today.