Understanding Music Industry Charts

Being #1 on the charts is the biggest position in Mainstream Radio and sales. From Billboard to , these charts are compiled from a series of factors:

Billboard uses the Broadcast Data Services (BDS) in order to compile and track Radio Airplay and Soundscan to track sales for their ‘Hot 100′. So now you know why CD’s have UPC barcodes.

The UPC gets scanned and in turn sends that data to the retailer.

The CMJ “Radio 200″ depends upon the feedback of colleges, and non-commercial radio stations to create its’ data. As a result, the amount of responders changes constantly. During the Summer months, when colleges aren’t as filled, the number of responders are much less than when its the Fall. Normally the number of reporting station are a high as 600, but can be as low as 300 during the off-peak months.

These charts mean a lot to the entire industry – because many jobs and futures are dependent upon the feedback. Should a record label keep the band? Should the band target a different audience? Are the ticket sales selling well, but the CD’s not?

Every station that is surveyed has a different ranking. It makes sense, because you shouldn’t consider a popular underground Chicago station to have the same weight as a 5-listener program (unless those five listeners were Bill Gates and Steve Jobs).

But the “Be all end all” of the industry is the Billboard “Hot 100″ which is constructed through several reportings to Billboard. This is the 900-pound Gorilla. Stores decide on what inventory to invest in according to these Charts, MTV, Radio Stations, and Magazines all depend on these charts, too.

Understanding Music Chart Lingo

  • Adds: New songs added to a playlist
  • Anchor: The opposite of a Bullet. Means a single or album if falling.
  • Bullets: A dot or a star next to a record’s number on the chart, and it means the record is moving up strongly.
  • Heatseekers: Same as Bullet
  • Most Added: A term that indicates the albums that were most added by the most radio stations. The small number indicates the number of stations added.
  • Reporters: People or groups who report the numbers and data for the music. Can include retailers, radio stations, clubs, etc.
  • Rotation: Describes how much a song is played (Light rotation, Heavy rotation, etc.)
  • Soundscan: A computer tracking service (similar to the BDS)
  • Spins: The number of times a radio station plays a song within a given amount of time.
  • Spincrease: Shows the artists who experienced the greatest increase in Spins
  • Tracks: Songs that are treated like singles but have not been released commercially
  • Lead: Same as Anchor.

Mediabase is a research system that monitors certain radio stations electronically. Usually, this is all done manually, with the Radio host or manager sending in a survey or playlist of what songs were rotated. Mediabase, on the otherhand does not.Its a stepping stone – As your single (or album) begins to generate press it’ll climb up the non-commercial charts into the CMJ, and then into Gavin Charts – which are no longer used due to the acquisitions by Clear Channel Communications. As this would slowly happen, you stand the chance of getting national coverage and syndication. In addition, industry professionals are keeping a close eye on you and paying attention to your rising fame in search for new talent. It’s about staying in touch. If you were to get #1 on every chart today, eventually you would sink off the charts. So don’t think your work is done! Keep in touch with all the lawyers, radio stations, managers, etc.

Be cautious about ‘professionals’. There are a lot of sharks in the water. As a result, use a level of caution when hiring a manager, gig, etc. But don’t be shy. This is important, because people constantly are worried about ‘selling out’. The truth is, you HAVE to promote yourself hardcore. It’s your art, your hard work, your vision, and YOU have to be the #1 believer and promoter for yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself then no one will.

Mail your PR packages all at the SAME time. Don’t send your CD out 2 years before your tour. Do it all at once, or at least relatively close. Bands who have are taken more seriously, and therefore stand a much better chance of getting media exposure!

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