Garland says one of the chart’s goals is to feel authoritative in an popscape overcrowded with charts: College Music Journal, better known as CMJ, has tracked the most popular acts on college and public radio since 1978; the Hype Machine, a popular MP3 blog aggregator, ranks songs and artists based on blog activity; iTunes offers various sales charts that constantly churn in real time; and Billboard maintains more than 50 individual charts, measuring artists, albums and songs by genre and format.
“No one has a way of absolutely tracking every time a song hits an eardrum,” says Werde at Billboard. “But are we constantly looking at the different ways that music is hitting eardrums and deciding if it’s worth putting a Billboard chart behind? Absolutely.”
We Are Hunted’s 10-person staff measures the excitement of music fans by tracking “blog posts, news articles, comments, likes, tweets, shouts” and other online fan activity, general manager Richard Slatter said via e-mail. He said the company generates revenue by licensing technology and providing media marketing and development services to various companies in Australia and the United States.
Next Big Sound’s Social50 chart measures activity across major social networking sites — Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, about 10 in all — and tallies a weekly weighted total of plays, views and fan activity. The company’s 10-person staff also produces another chart, the NBS25, which monitors which artists are creating the most online activity the fastest.
Billboard liked Next Big Sound’s two charts so much, it decided to license them late last year. Big Champagne, meantime, says that We Are Hunted’s rankings factor into the algorithm of the Ultimate Chart.
There’s a lot of data out there. Is it possible to surface meaning from it?
“That’s what’s cleverly referred to as ‘analysis paralysis,’ ” says Garland. “There’s too much data, unless you have good curators who are helping you make sense of the data and make it manageable.”
The popularity contest — and the race to accurately measure, analyze and monetize that popularity — continues.