Will Billboard’s YouTube Video Rule Kill The Radio Star?
Yesterday Billboard announced a new rule impacting their industry-standard music charts that will take into consideration YouTube views as part of the broader algorithm that determines the chart placement of songs. This is part of a bigger movement by Billboard that started in October of 2012 to update their charting to include data from the new habits of music consumers, including digital downloads and song streaming.
Billboard is now incorporating all official videos on YouTube captured by Nielsen’s streaming measurement, including Vevo on YouTube, and user-generated clips that utilize authorized audio into the Hot 100 and the Hot 100 formula-based genre charts Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, R&B Songs, Rap Songs, Hot Latin Songs, Hot Rock Songs and Dance/Electronic Songs to further reflect the divergent platforms for music consumption in today’s world.
Similar to the effect of the new rules implemented last October, immediate beneficiaries to the new chart rule emerged. Producer Baauer whose song “Harlem Shake” has become a viral YouTube sensation debuted at #1 on Billboard’s all-encompassing Hot 100 chart, hit #1 on the Streaming Songs chart, and went from #12 to #1 on the Dance/Electronic Songs chart. Rihanna’s “Stay” went all the way from #57 to #3 on the charts, and Drake’s “Started From the Bottom” went from #63 all the way to #10 on the strength of YouTube views.
When the new generation of Billboard rules were initially put in place, Billboard’s editorial director Bill Werde said the company was looking into including YouTube numbers in their charts, but were waiting for “cleaner data.” Apparently that cleaner data is now here, and the full spectrum of music consumers’ listening habits will now be factored into the Billboard song charts.
The next question is, what impact will the new rule have on music?
It clearly gives a huge boost to the visual format that tends to be able to react much quicker than traditional radio and has the benefit of the viral event. In fact the new rules will likely feed the viral nature of YouTube. Consumers and industry use Billboard’s charts to determine popularity, and the higher a song charts, the more attention it gets across all media formats. If a song goes viral on YouTube and charts high, it increases the chances that song will be added to radio by programmers, or played in a heavier rotation. Artists and labels who are YouTube savvy will benefit from the rule, and the ones that aren’t will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.
What Billboard’s YouTube data does not consider is quality, and the curiosity factor. Whereas songs on the radio, or songs that people purchase are being consumed because the public has deemed them appealing, music on YouTube can sometimes go viral for how bad or polarizing or offensive it is. Take for example Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” The song would have rocketed to #1 on the charts under this rule, yet the majority of the viewers of the video drew an unfavorable reaction to it. It was the car wreck factor that forced the song viral. This means that songs could chart because the public vehemently hates them instead of universally liking them.
Billboard editor Bill Werde has said that he sees this as a problem, and is considering solutions, including making the stipulation that a song must chart on any of Billboard’s other charts before being considered.
The new rule could also impact the popularity arch. When a song or other media goes viral and becomes ubiquitous throughout culture, it tends to create a tiring factor or a backlash that is measured in strength many times by how quickly the media went viral, how widespread it is, and the polarizing nature of the content. This could result in songs becoming extremely popular for very short periods, but then being almost completely forgotten as consumers move on to the next viral craze.
The new rule also increases the technology paradigm. Since anyone can make a YouTube video, and any video has the potential to go viral, it puts power into the hands of independent artists and their fans that do not benefit from the support of the traditional music business like big stars. At the same time since there is no filter on the content, it adds to the increasing glut of music vying for consumer’s attention every day, making it harder for consumers to navigate through the music world and find quality.
It’s important to clarify that this rule will not necessarily include every single video on YouTube. The audio has to be “authorized” in a way that Neilsen can verify the song and sync it up with other data.
What should artists to to take advantage of the new rule? Any song that an artist or a label wants to release as a single now must be accompanied by a YouTube video, even if it just includes a static picture or lyrics. Those views will be necessary to compete with the other songs in the charts.
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When Billboard made their initial changes in October 2012, there was a small, but fervent backlash from some fans and artists who felt they would be hindered by the new rules, especially the rule that considered crossover radio play in Billboard’s genre charts. Some of the concerns voiced at the time came to fruition. Others did not. Like with Billboard’s other new rules, it will take time to determine this rule’s full impact. But for the first time since the dawning of the digital age in music, virtually all of the avenues that consumers use to enjoy music will be factored into the charts; charts that history will use to gauge the popularity, importance, and impact as song had on us at any given time.
February 21, 2013 @ 7:36 am
Speaking of the Hot Country Songs chart the only artist who has great disparity is none other than Taylor Swift. And while I do not follow this chart this is interesting.
WANEGBT was a “unrecord” breaking 10 week #1 with absolutely no country airplay.
Begin is #4 on airplay. Interestingly though it’s only #15 on the hot country songs.
Luckily for country fans her IKYWT never hit country radio or there be a fit storm.
Carrie Underwood interestingly has 2 songs inside the Hot Country Songs.
Blown Away at #10, and Two Black Cadillac’s at #4.
Anyways I do not like this new rule to billboard.
February 21, 2013 @ 7:43 am
I would also like to know how a person who is unsigned gets paid if there song charts by views alone?
February 21, 2013 @ 9:33 am
Through publishing houses like BMI and ASCAP who pay out a certain percentage based on Nielsen’s and YouTube’s data. The digital royalties for an outlet like YouTube are very low, but if a song charts, they can be significant. And obviously there’s another benefit by the raised popularity that will likely translate into additional sales revenue for a song. You can also put ads on the video to create revenue.
This is why it is important for independent artists to publish their songs. I say this all the time. There’s a lot of independent/underground “labels” out there that have no concept of music publishing, and how important it is to the music process. Music must be published with a publishing house to have the ability to create revenue from other outlets and create new opportunities for songs.
More on the subject:
Chris Lewis "louie"
February 21, 2013 @ 9:18 am
Trig..I guess this means no more posting of shitty country rap or pop country videos in your articles to keep those videos from getting more views. It also means making sure more videos are posted of those that you do promote.
February 21, 2013 @ 10:24 am
I really don’t think that me posting a video as an illustration for a song review is going to garner enough hits to make a significant impact on the charts. Maybe I would like to think it could 😉 but for a video to impact the charts the views have to be in the millions. And even then, it is still part of an overall data picture that considers radio, sales, streaming, etc.
The big question for me is, how can YouTube configure it’s format to make it more like radio or streaming services, where it can offer continuous content instead of on-demand, single views? If it could figure that out, radio would REALLY be in trouble because then you’d have a free music format that can still offer commercials, that also can be catered to listener’s specific tastes.
February 21, 2013 @ 9:38 am
Does this mean we’ll have to pay for watching youtube now? I hope not cuz there’s a lot of good stuff out there. Country and bluegrass stuff I haven’t heard in years.
February 21, 2013 @ 9:45 am
Google who owns YouTube is a strong proponent of the free format. Conversely, the artists you watch on YouTube will still not really get paid (or get paid very very little, see comment above) for your patronage.
February 21, 2013 @ 10:16 am
This is worse than the other change because not only does it count authorized play (ie. VEVO music video or official lyric video), it counts UNAUTHORIZED play (ie. fan-man lyric videos, background music for a video, etc.). Let’s put it this way
*Thrift Shop holds a 412k to 262k downloads lead over Harlem Shake, about a 64% edge
*Thrift Shop also holds a 111 million to 2 million airplay lead over Harlem Shake, or about 56 times more
*Harlem Shake has a 103 million to 10.1 million lead over TS, or 10.3 times more, on YouTube
*Harlem Shake (#1 H100) has three and a half times the chart points of Thrift Shop (#2 H100)
Quite frankly both of these songs are garbage but I’m going to be the one to call bullshit here. More people bought Thrift Shop (a pretty universal symbol of popularity) and listened to it via radio, and it likely holds about 2 times the amount of On-Demand streams (ie. Pandora, etc.) However, YouTube views (the ONLY criterion it has an edge on) “Harlem Shake” puts it on top. The actual, full-length song only has around 13 million views combined it was uploaded in 2012, which means the vast majority of those points come from 30-second videos that only have a small portion of the song and that really don’t highlight the song, but the DANCE. THAT is the crap here.
February 21, 2013 @ 10:58 am
I’m still trying to track down some clarifications about what exactly is counted on YouTube, and what exactly is “authorized” and “unauthorized.” But what Billboard said in their statement is “official videos” and “user-generated clips that utilize AUTHORIZED audio.” So I’m not sure “unauthorized” videos would count, but that depends on your definition of “unauthorized.”
February 21, 2013 @ 12:30 pm
Well, for Harlem Shake to have gotten 100 million views in a week when there is
A) No real lyrics so no real ability for a lyric video
B) No music video
Some of this will undoubtedly have had to come from unofficial usage (ie. the whole Harlem Shake fad). I believe Bill Werde elaborated this on Twitter if you want to see the exact percentages and definitions.
February 24, 2013 @ 12:43 pm
I like that Thrift Shop song. I like thrift shops. I wear your granddad’s clothes.
February 21, 2013 @ 10:18 am
As great as YouTube can be for sampling good but under-the-radar music before you buy (indeed, that’s where I first heard Shoes’ ‘Ignition,’ which ended up being one of my very favorite albums of 2012), it’s a little scary to think the videos that more often tend to rack up the views — annoying fads on the order of “Gangnam Style,” and so-bad-it’s-funny stuff like the aforementioned “Friday” — will have more influence on the charts since “likes” and the general vibe of comments won’t be taken into account. :p
February 21, 2013 @ 11:02 am
Billboard’s Editorial Director Bill Werde has said a couple of interesting things on Twitter that implies they’re open to tweaking the rule.
QUESTION: my only complaint was you said you need to weed out Rebecca’s anti-hit. I just don’t see why that should be treated any differently
Bill Werde ANSWER: I’m not sure we will or won’t. I do like to see intent to listen to a song, as opposed to mocking it. One thought was the mandate that to crack hot 100 would also have to hit one other chart. Any other.
February 21, 2013 @ 11:12 am
It is no longer a song chart then. It is a video chart. All it takes is something to get somebody to watch. Maybe Dale Watson can get some bikini clad girls jumping on trampolines to get the guys vote. It is a joke. That’s why I don’t pay attention to charts anymore.
February 21, 2013 @ 11:28 am
Video is just one data point out of many that is considered in the charts, but I agree, it takes the purity out of the audio format by adding a visual tool that can be used to manipulate the data about how people feel about a song. Something Billboard didn’t consider is that videos have been made for years as promotional tools for songs in the hopes they affect the sales and radio play on songs, and thus affect the charts. Just like artists may give bigger focus to cutting “crossover” songs to benefit from the rule changes in October, artist may now focus less on songs and more on videos to get better chart performance.
February 21, 2013 @ 3:41 pm
I applaud the new rule because first and foremost, it puts power of who decides whats popular back into the hands of who should decide: the fans. Not Clear Channel, not the production heads at radio stations, and not the big labels who need to protect their investment.
In other words, it will be a more honest picture of what public is listening to and what they want to hear Not what some 60 year old label head wants us to hear.
Kids are, and always have been savvy when it comes to discovering cool music. I think the cream tends to rise to the top, and hopefully with this new rule, we will see more honest rock and roll, and maybe a few pure country artists break out of obscurity
As for the Rebecca Black theory…Well, even though it was bad, we were still talking about it. Can you say Louie, Louie?
(the newer) Rick
February 21, 2013 @ 6:27 pm
As I understand it, I-Tunes has roughly 80% of music sales. I now ignore Billboard altogether and go straight to I-Tunes which will show a printable list of their own top 100.
I agree that sales is the only truly valid measure of popularity. Anything can be popular if it’s free, but people value what they pay for. I will listen to lots of different things on Youtube that I would never buy. But if I find myself listening to a song repeatedly on Youtube, I will buy it in support of the artist.
Urban Country News
February 22, 2013 @ 10:58 am
I think they should have waited with this change until they had a better idea of how they were gathering data. Bill Werde saying that they’ll tweak the formula is great and all, but in the meantime songs will hit #1 which perhaps shouldn’t.
I wasn’t going to comment on this but then once I started writing I actually got angrier about it.
If I may be allowed to cross-post from my own article:
“Which brings me to my final point of discontent. Just like the inclusion of non-genre radio station airplay, this will mostly benefit artists who have an appeal outside of their music genre. It”™s worrying for the future of the genre charts (all the genre charts, not just country) that to compete at the highest level you will have to crossover into mainstream airplay. I can”™t help but feel that what Billboard is doing is rewarding artists for further homogenizing music. How long can this go on before having separate country, bluegrass, jazz, hip-hop charts no longer makes sense and you end up with one centralized chart?
What it all boils down to is that this week a song shot to #1 on the charts because someone a few weeks ago got bored and made a silly YouTube video.”
February 24, 2013 @ 9:41 pm
This could provide a good opportunity for the underground country community to get behind one flagship song and push the hell out of its youtube views. Probably a tough task… just an idea.
February 26, 2013 @ 3:41 pm
Just a guess, but I think the big labels knew this was coming, hence the recent craze of “official lyric videos”… I notice the labels pushing these things like crazy and then I hear this? Sounds like its not a coincidence.