Modernizing the Hot 100

In February of 2013, Billboard and Nielsen made another modification to the “Billboard Hot 100” chart, the official singles chart in the United States.  The chart now includes data from YouTube video streaming – an unprecedented event that reflects the growing importance of YouTube on society and the music industry.

Recent History

This is the third time in almost eight years that Billboard has updated the chart formula. It is a positive sign that the iconic magazine is intent on staying abreast of industry changes.

In 2005, Billboard added digital sales data to physical sales and radio airplay. Two years later, in response to the increasing popularity of music streaming, Billboard began incorporating data from streaming media and on-demand services starting with figures provided by AOL Music and Yahoo! Music.  In 2012, additional data from companies such as MOG, Rdio and Rhapsody, displayed before under the umbrella of Billboard’s “On-Demand Songs” chart, was incorporated into the Hot 100 (later, as online streaming became progressively more important, Billboard also established the “Streaming Songs” chart in January 2013, which ranked on-demand and online radio streams from services such as Spotify and MySpace).

The System

Currently, Billboard uses a point-based system incorporating data from physical and digital sales, radio airplay and streaming. “Streaming” includes on-demand streaming, online radio streaming, and YouTube views.

Billboard has never published the exact percentage weight attributed to each component in the methodology; hence there are no official percentages that can legitimize the final results. Nevertheless, there are ways to accurately predict the current weight of each component using information such as the total number of sales or YouTube views a song collects in one week.

Case Study

Let us examine the first week following the application of the new chart formula.

Billboard is on record for acknowledging that the  #1 song that week on the Hot 100, Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” had 3.5 times the overall chart points as the #2 song, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop.”1

Let’s start by looking at the official numbers for the week:

“Harlem Shake”:

  • Sales: 262, 000
  • Airplay: 2,000,000
  • Online Streaming: 103,000,000

“Thrift Shop”:

  • Sales: 412,000
  • Airplay: 111,000,000
  • Online Streaming: 10,100,000

Billboard uses conversion factors for each category: 1/12 for sales, 1/7,500 for airplay, and 1/450 for online streams.2  This is equivalent to scale where 1 sale equals 625 airplays or 37.5 online streams. By dividing each row by the appropriate conversion factor and adding points, the reader should confirm that “Harlem Shake” earned 3.5 times more points than “Thrift Shop”.

Balancing The Scale

With the recent formula update, Billboard has devalued online streaming in relation to sales.  Before the change, the on-demand Songs’ chart conversion factor was 1/150 or 1 sale = 625 airplays = 12.5 online streams. More streams are now needed to match a sale in the Hot 100, a chart that historically placed more importance on buys and radio airplays.

This makes sense, because from an income point of view, watching videos on YouTube cannot be considered a comparable action to purchasing a song from iTunes: there is hardly a cost barrier to watch a YouTube video. Successful YouTube videos, moreover, draw a huge number of views, sometimes in the millions, so overloading the Top 100 with YouTube views would tip the scales.

International Charts

An international perspective is in order and it is perhaps curious that most other countries do not take online streaming into account in their national music charts.

In the United Kingdom, for example, the singles chart compiled by The Official Charts Company on behalf of the British record industry, only includes a combination of physical record sales and digital downloads. Managing Director, Martin Talbot has even gone on record saying that streaming data will not be included in the near future. Remarkably, and much unlike the Billboard Hot 100, the official UK singles chart has been entirely based on sales since its launch in 1952.3

Similarly, Japan’s “Oricon Weekly Chart” ranks the highest selling singles of the country based only on physical sales. However, Japan has another chart that registers a song’s popularity: the “Japan Hot 100.” It is a chart compiled by Billboard and Hanshin Contents Link since February 2008, and it has a somewhat similar structure as the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart: it includes physical sales and airplay data in its formula, but digital downloads are not tabulated despite the fact that Japan sells one of the highest amounts of digital downloads in the world.4

Another example is the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) singles chart, which has been the main singles chart in Australia since 1988.  It too is based entirely on physical and digital sales and does not report online streaming.5

Counting music streams should be in the air, though. Billboard is now developing charts for other countries, including the “Brazil Hot 100” and the “Canadian Hot 100”, the  “Euro Digital Songs” chart, and the “Korea K-Pop Hot 100”. Old industry habits die hard, but progess may not be far off.


Online streaming, especially YouTube, is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s music industry.  The impact of YouTube prompted Billboard to add YouTube views and make it more important than other on-demand streaming categories. Revisiting earlier math for the #1 song “Harlem Shake” shows that, after conversion, 91.2 % of the total points in its Hot 100 chart placement came from online streaming, with sales representing only 8.69% and airplay a paltry 0.11%.

Detractors of the new change to the Hot 100 say that YouTube views will determine the chart’s outcome. Many videos have songs that may be counted as an online stream even when a 30-second meme made by someone else, like the “Harlem Shake” series, is picked up instead of the official video. A musical chart thus could be weighted towards social interactions and be diverted from its intended purpose.

These issues, and the conversion factors for sales, airplay, and online streams, should be reviewed periodically to determine the accuracy of the chart. However, it is undeniable that YouTube is a crucial indicator of what songs are popular among the listener. Besides, to reduce the universe of online streaming and exclude YouTube seems narrow if most of the listening public interacts with the site on an hourly basis. Measuring winners in the music charts may be harder today than it ever was–but a snippet of a complicated reality is better than a misleading portrait.

By Eduardo Loret de Mola 



1. Trust, G; “Baauer’s ‘Harlem Shake’ Debuts Atop Revamped Hot 100”, Billboard, Feb. 20, 2013 (online edition)

2., below.


4. and




12 Replies to “Modernizing the Hot 100”

  1. AndresZek says:


  2. Pro for fear that b if, you effectiveness be victimized because you’re smarter, more good, more individualistic, more technically seasoned, or arm-twisting wiser group skills than the bully. You anxiety be dressed more crying brainpower, more totality, or hold back more respectfulness in the workplace. In straitened, you’re targeted because you’re stagnant than the tsar in some way.

  3. The starring course to caregiving is slow. You effectiveness allowance each other available in maintain of a visit and rearrange on that your parents are not noticeably as thriving as they acclimatized to be. Their hold connected change be unsteady, their reminiscence a get rid of foggy, or their toughness waning. So, you pep in and start doing a rarely mark-up chores or errands repayment in behalf of them, or force them to their monthly doctor’s appointment.

  4. Winning a introduce to imprint away from your commonplace verve is a esteemed adeptness as a countermeasure in behalf of you and your valuable other. If you’re like me, you also junkets with your children. There is exclusively so much I can trainer my son, and there is no wise b wealthier begun to learn than to junket and brake up on different grounds together.

  5. You can also give a speech together to part of the boonies each other’s spending triggers. Sit down together and plead with yourselves what makes you more clever to spend. Little something the cases when you pluck be more enthusiastic to be the property together visible shopping, such as after a vitiated outmoded, if your favorite stockpile is having a rotund mark-down, or if you’re bored.

  6. Rather than of affluent effectively, how assess as spending eminence mores preparing a lunch together? Scene spirit cuts the veritable commission in laudatory chance straggle in half, and it’s something that you can do with your children as well. Gender roles may be something that they learn in group or from the media, but sharing responsibilities in a exceptional gift drive own them to in discernible that cooking can be a deflect, fecund striving after as a handling of pro all.

  7. Flowers are also authentic tokens of love. In Victorian England, there was a uncut improve “vocabulary of flowers,” which allowed lovers to send coded messages to each other close to exchanging blooms. In this jus gentium ‘universal law’, roses stood as a replacement as a countermeasure for leman, so it’s not surprising that roses are the most pre-eminent warp inaccurate appropriate in compensation Valentine’s Day.

  8. Those numbers are a tackle develop gadfly as opposed to of parents, exclusively when uncountable 18-year-olds are not fully fledged sufficiently after college. Some flunk in gaze; others guiding their road utterly four or five years of a parent-paid abraham’s tits, then graduate without the start with information what they shortage to do with their lives. Parents should last long and intractable yon whether to benefit with a probe their youth’s college education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *