Billboard is known for their domination of the traditional mainstream music industry with their top 40, top 100, and top 200 charts. But recently, the entity made a startling announcement. They said that in 2018 they will weight the rankings differently than before.
To understand the meaning of this change, it’s important to understand that until 2012, streaming services like Spotify didn’t count toward rankings at all. It was all about album sales and radio play. But times changed, and so did Billboard, thanks to major artists like Taylor Swift pushing for more recognition of their music in other forms.
Now, Billboard is shaking things up again. They recently announced that they will decrease the amount that Youtube views and Spotify listens count toward the top 100 and top 200 rankings.
The reason is supposedly to reflect more on sales, like a movie would. You wouldn’t rate a movie as one of the best before it came out, but rather when the ticket sales proved it was a success.
With music, it seems that the short listening time and smaller file sizes make it easier to distribute online. People have parties, drive, and do homework with their earbuds in and speakers on. And when they do this, they often go to Youtube or Spotify.
And that’s the problem that we are faced with today. Is radio play really relevant in 2017 and beyond? Are album sales really reflective of how popular a song is and how often it is listened to?
For example, a song with 100 million views but small album sales could not be deemed irrelevant in common sense reality. But Billboard and the companies it serves are interested in their mainstream music agenda. It’s not about what’s getting listened to but what’s bringing in the money and what these entities can control.
For Indie music it’s clear that connecting with fans is worth it at any cost. Even if it means a drop in rankings, bands should continue to use Youtube and Spotify to get noticed. After all, who checks Billboard anymore anyway?
Indie music has always been like the little brother of mainstream music. While entire award ceremonies, music videos, and huge amounts of cash are injected into big artists, the indie market gets left out on a lot of this.
Now, Billboard’s new move to change how they rank their charts in 2018 could shake things up even more for indie artists.
A lot of young and growing bands are relying on free streaming and video sites like Youtube. And in 2012, Billboard realized this and started incorporating these into their top 100, top 200, and other rankings.
But now the industry wants to move things in the direction of more money, unsurprisingly. Instead of giving sites like Youtube as much weight in the rankings (where most of the indie and up and coming artists connect with fans) they are taking those away while adding more strength to paid services like Apple Music and Amazon Music.
In a way, it is more fair because if people truly enjoy a certain kind of music they will often buy some sort of track from the artist. Then again, with today’s younger generation (who move the needle in terms of pop and hip hop) they are looking more to online and free sources for their musical content.
Indie music could get help from the new ranking system if it turns out that their fans are loyal enough to pay them. But there still seems to be a big difference between what people are willing to pay for and how people listen to their music on the go or at parties.
Then there is the question of relevance. Do young people even care about Billboard anymore? Do you know any under-25 people who actually cares about the official charts, or who even listens to radio instead of Spotify, Youtube, or Podcasts?
As Billboard and traditional pop music struggles with staying relevant, one has to wonder if this move away from Youtube and Spotify (where most young people go for their favorite tunes) is going to help them as their influence wanes.