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JMD1961
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Posted: 14 October 2012 at 8:26am | IP Logged Quote JMD1961

I don't know if anyone has been following the controversial changes that Billboard made to its genre (Country, R&B, Rock, Rap) charts this week. They've changed them to include sales data. The controversial part is that each will now include airplay from all radio formats in their calculations of each separate chart. (That's right. Pop radio airplay will now be used to determine what the top country hits are.)

But I digress...

My reason for posting is that in the course of discussions (fights) on another forum, an interesting fact about how the Hot 100 was compiled was revealed.

The following is from an article that appeared on page 3 of the May 11, 1968 issue of Billboard. (You can find it using Google Books.)

"BB SHEDS AIRPLAY FACTOR IN TOP HALF OF HOT 100

The top half of Billboard's Hot 100 chart will no longer utilize the airplay ingredient it had been using in the past because of the number of Top 40 format stations which have changed the tabulating process of their printed playlists. This part of the chart is now being tabulated solely from dealers' sales reports from 21 markets across the country.

For the past several months, Top 40 stations have been leaning toward a tighter printed playlist. Many records on their way up have been dropped from station lists making room for stronger new product, or because the station management decided the sound of the disk was not what they desired for their audience, despite the fact that there were sales in the market.

The bottom half of the "Hot 100" and the "Bubbling" chart still involves the ingredients of dealer sales reports and the Top 40 stations' printed lists. In this area of the chart, the airplay reflection is required for the newer product to enable chart movement.

With this change, in the first 50 positions, the "star performer" rating in that area is now based upon a 25 per cent increase in dealer sales reports for the individual record from one week to the next. Similarly, disks in the bottom half of the "Hot 100" chart must reflect an across-the-board increase of 25 per cent in both dealer sales reports and Top 40 airplay combined."

How about that? I never knew this before. And while listening to "American Top 40: The '70s" rebroadcasts, I've always smiled when Casey would say that the countdown was based on sales only. Turns out, he was telling the truth.

Thought you guys might like to see this.
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EdisonLite
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Posted: 14 October 2012 at 9:25am | IP Logged Quote EdisonLite

That's a very interesting article, but just because that's how the chart was compiled in 1968 doesn't mean it remained that way years later. For all we know, by 1972, airplay was incorporated into the top 50. Certainly, by 1998 it was - when album cuts like "Don't Speak" and Fugees "Killing Me Softly" were allowed into the top 100 and had no sales. There may not even be a Billboard article as to when this decision was reversed. I thought that most of the '70s charts included airplay for the top 50. Does anyone know when they started incorporating airplay back in?
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JMD1961
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Posted: 14 October 2012 at 9:44am | IP Logged Quote JMD1961

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to suggest that it had remained that way. I should have been more clear.

My actual point was that I believed that it had always been part of the formula. I just found it interesting that at one point, the top half of the chart was strictly sales-based.

I think I can even pinpoint when it changed back. I have the Whitburn chart reprint books. On the chart for June 9, 1973 the last week's position column is blank except for a note to see the article on page 1 of that week's issue.

I went to Google books and found that article. It states that indeed airplay was being given a GREATER part of the chart than sales due to a decrease in sales outlets at that time. Interestingly, it also says that it was going to include one-stops, that mostly serviced jukebox companies.

Edited by JMD1961 on 14 October 2012 at 9:45am
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Brian W.
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Posted: 15 October 2012 at 9:31am | IP Logged Quote Brian W.

AWESOME info, JMD!
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Brian W.
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Posted: 15 October 2012 at 5:20pm | IP Logged Quote Brian W.

JMD1961 wrote:
I think I can even pinpoint when it changed back. I have the Whitburn chart reprint books. On the chart for June 9, 1973 the last week's position column is blank except for a note to see the article on page 1 of that week's issue.

I went to Google books and found that article. It states that indeed airplay was being given a GREATER part of the chart than sales due to a decrease in sales outlets at that time. Interestingly, it also says that it was going to include one-stops, that mostly serviced jukebox companies.


I think you're right about that: I see also that from June or July of 1969 (there are missing issues online) up through 6/9/73 (the week of the blank "last week" column), the notation at the top of each chart explaining what a "star" meant read: "STAR PERFORMER--Records showing greatest increase in retail sales activity over the previous week, based on actual market reports." (It had previously defined it as "Sides registering greatest proportionate upward progress this week.")

Then beginning 6/16/73, the notation was changed to: "STAR PERFORMERS: 'This Week' and 'Last Week' stars are conveyed to show records that have the greatest increase in point values."

So there you have it. It appears that, from the 5/11/68 through 6/2/73 issues of "Billboard," the top 50 of the Hot 100 was completely sales-based -- no airplay info incorporated at all.

Thanks for posting this and doing the research, JMD!

EDIT: That's through 6/2/73, of course, not 6/2/68 as I'd originally posted.

Edited by Brian W. on 15 October 2012 at 6:00pm
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EdisonLite
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 12:56am | IP Logged Quote EdisonLite

That kind of blows my mind that no airplay was factored into the top 50 from '68 to '73. I had no idea. I always felt both airplay and sales should factor in. I wonder how different the charts would be during those 5 years if Billboard had factored in airplay.

Edited by EdisonLite on 16 October 2012 at 12:56am
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Hykker
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 6:10am | IP Logged Quote Hykker

Curiously, how did Billboard get anything even remotely resembling an accurate airplay reports in those days? Most stations didn't even keep spin logs for internal use, let alone to report to the trades. There were no independent monitoring services (ie-Mediabase). For the most part they'd just mail in a copy of their printed survey, which wasn't necessarily indicative of amount of play (ie-how much more often was a top 10 song played than, for example #28?).
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Brian W.
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 7:07am | IP Logged Quote Brian W.

Hykker wrote:
Curiously, how did Billboard get anything even remotely resembling an accurate airplay reports in those days? Most stations didn't even keep spin logs for internal use, let alone to report to the trades.

They did if they were a Billboard reporting station.

Though, as you say, accuracy is questionable. I think I've said on here before that a relative of mine is a former radio program director for a classic rock station, and he told me, laughing, that they used to put whatever songs they wanted on the list they submitted to Billboard (though this would have been used for some other chart besides the Hot 100). "Now," he said, "they have SoundScan, and you can't cheat."

But that was cited in that 1968 issue of Billboard as the reason for dropping the airplay component for several years -- they questioned its accuracy.
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EdisonLite
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 8:56am | IP Logged Quote EdisonLite

Well, even once the airplay was incorporated back into the charts in 1973, from '73 to '98 (pre-SoundScan), there would always be inaccuracy in the charts the radio stations sent in.
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Brian W.
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 10:54am | IP Logged Quote Brian W.

Right. I remember reading, when Billboard first started using SoundScan, how shocked they were at how different the results were from their manual polling. They expected them to be a little different, but they didn't expect them to be THAT different.
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Paul Haney
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 1:06pm | IP Logged Quote Paul Haney

Brian W. wrote:
So there you have it. It appears that, from the 5/11/68 through 6/2/73 issues of "Billboard," the top 50 of the Hot 100 was completely sales-based -- no airplay info incorporated at all.


The key word here is "appears". We don't know for sure that's the case. Also, we don't know what the exact ratio formula was for each component.

Edited by Paul Haney on 17 October 2012 at 3:13am
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JL328
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 2:03pm | IP Logged Quote JL328

Following up on what Paul Haney said (and what JMD earlier emphasized), note that the cover story in the June 9, 1973 edition of BB also states that the methodology of the Hot 100 was being changed to provide a "greater emphasis on radio airplay." I suppose going from zero to anything technically constitutes a "greater emphasis," but the fact that they used the word "greater" seems to imply that there was at least some radio component immediately prior to 6/9/73. If you were introducing radio airplay into the equation when it had previously not been a part of the equation, you would likely word it differently.

Anyway, I don't understand what it means when they say they shed the airplay component for only the top half of the Hot 100. How could the bottom part of the chart have an airplay component and the top of the chart not?

How does that work? If you look at just sales, you get the top 100 singles. Do you then just calculate the airplay for the singles below #50 and rank them (under a combined formula) 51 to 100? If that is the case, I imagine there could be some songs that spent a few weeks holding at #51 due to good airplay but relatively weak sales--- did that happen?

Also, I imagine there were some huge drops once singles with strong sales and weak airplay fell out of the top 50 in sales. If they didn't have the airplay, they weren't able to compete with the other songs ranked 51-100. Come to think of it, weren't the late 60s full of songs falling from the Top 40 out of the Hot 100 altogether? Is this why?
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Paul Haney
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 2:32pm | IP Logged Quote Paul Haney

I'm pretty sure that Billboard had a policy that once something dropped out of the Top 50 (after a certain number of chart weeks), that it would fall totally off the Hot 100. This appears to be the case from about 1963-73. This is an educated guess based on the weekly chart positions.

Edited by Paul Haney on 16 October 2012 at 2:42pm
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Brian W.
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 3:43pm | IP Logged Quote Brian W.

JL328 wrote:
note that the cover story in the June 9, 1973 edition of BB also states that the methodology of the Hot 100 was being changed to provide a "greater emphasis on radio airplay." I suppose going from zero to anything technically constitutes a "greater emphasis," but the fact that they used the word "greater" seems to imply that there was at least some radio component immediately prior to 6/9/73.

Well, there always was some airplay component, because positions 51-100 always utilized airplay. So putting greater emphasis on airplay could mean restoring it to the upper half of the chart, because it was never at zero for the Hot 100 as a whole.

As far as what Paul wrote, it would be technically correct to say that a chart where the top 50 positions were sales-only and the bottom 50 had an airplay component was "Complied from national retail sales and radio airplay."

That said, yes, you're both correct -- we don't know for sure how long this lasted, which is why I used the words "it appears."
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musicmanatl
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 5:52pm | IP Logged Quote musicmanatl

A few thoughts on this very interesting thread... I've always felt that sales were a much better indicator of popularity than radio airplay. As has been discussed here, before SoundScan, airplay reports were subjective at best. I interned at B-97 in New Orleans during the summer of 1984 and I worked in sales at a long-gone top 40 in Charlotte for about six months in 1987, and in both cases, the weekly top 40 charts were simply made up by the program director. Each record company rep worked their records each week with the PD and did whatever it took to keep the record moving up the station's chart. In '87, I remember hearing how the Virgin rep was pushing "Heart and Soul" by T'Pau by offering boxes of free Virgin CDs to give out on air. I'm sure much more serious payola/bribery went on that I was unaware of as well. :)

I do have faith that the public won't buy records/mp3s that they don't like, though. No matter how much reps pushed certain records, they just didn't sell. I remember B-97 choosing to add "Strangers In A Strange World" by Patrick Jude and Jenny Burton (back in '84) for some strange reason, and that one never took off, for example. I wondered at the time why we were playing that record. I think I can guess the reason now.

Using airplay for the bottom 50 also makes sense to me because recently released records probably didn't have very strong sales. Billboard could use airplay to help determine which songs should enter and move up the bottom half of the Hot 100, but once they hit the top 50, then sales would need to continue to move up or the record would top off around that part of the chart.

I know that many of you worked at radio stations as well and have your own stories. From my very limited experience, I can understand why Billboard removed the airplay component during that time. :)
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Brian W.
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Posted: 16 October 2012 at 10:50pm | IP Logged Quote Brian W.

musicmanatl wrote:
I've always felt that sales were a much better indicator of popularity than radio airplay.

Me, too. I hope you'll have a look at the "Variety" singles sales charts from 1976-1985 that I've posted, if you haven't already. (Just search for "variety" in the Topic Subject.
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jebsib
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Posted: 17 October 2012 at 5:51am | IP Logged Quote jebsib

Paul, do you still work at Record Research? Does Joel recall this period of
non-airplay Hot 100 data? (Or when it officially lifted)

Keep in mind that pre-Soundscan, sales reports were as inaccurate as airplay
reports. It was always a vague idea and a very small sample.
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Hykker
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Posted: 17 October 2012 at 6:22am | IP Logged Quote Hykker

musicmanatl wrote:
A few thoughts on this very interesting thread... I've always felt that sales were a much better indicator of popularity than radio airplay. As has been discussed here, before SoundScan, airplay reports were subjective at best. I interned at B-97 in New Orleans during the summer of 1984 and I worked in sales at a long-gone top 40 in Charlotte for about six months in 1987, and in both cases, the weekly top 40 charts were simply made up by the program director.


That is my experience as well. I only worked at one station that was a Billboard reporter. I was just a part-timer and don't know what the PD did when he sent in his weekly reports, but I do know that we as jocks did not keep track of the number of times we played a given song (though we did keep a request log).

By the time I'd moved into a programming position, we were using Selector and music-on-hard-drive automation, so it was a simple matter to determine spin count when we reported to R&R.

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Yah Shure
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Posted: 17 October 2012 at 1:09pm | IP Logged Quote Yah Shure

From a programming standpoint, one thing to consider is that not every radio listener is a music buyer; therefore the sales figures may or may not accurately reflect what is popular with a given station's overall audience. As a music director, I did track local sales, but they were usually a comparatively minor consideration in determining airplay rotations. The station's in-house call-out research played the most important role, which was not surprising, considering the fudge factor surrounding the national airplay and sales figures in the trade papers.

Country radio had its own Billboard chart-related peculiarities. Within a week or two after I'd become MD at a Radio & Records reporting station, I received word from several record reps that we'd been named a Billboard reporter, too. It didn't take long at all to realize that to the Nashville record gang, Billboard was, by far, the more important of the two trades.

The record reps' game was pretty simple: report their records at number one to Billboard until Billboard charted them at number one and then drop them. Immediately. That wasn't going to be the case with our station, which was hit-driven and recurrent-heavy and tended to play the records we did add for as long our listeners said we should. Our published chart sent to area stores and the trades reflected the ups and downs of our actual airplay.

On the other hand, the weekly chart we'd receive from another big country station up the turnpike typically listed sixty or more current singles, none of which ever showed any downward movement. Even a major country hit on that same station would move to the top and then - poof! - immediately disappear. Whether they still played said records after the fact, I don't know, although it would have been tough to fit them in with the dozens of newer records on their chart which were vying for airtime (and assuming that some of the latter weren't merely paper adds.)

Billboard's country chart reflected the effects of this gaming of the listings by the sheer number of songs that made it to number one during each of those years during the early-to-mid '80s:

Year........Total #1 hits
1981..............47
1982..............47
1983..............50
1984..............50
1985..............51
1986..............51
1987..............49

That's an incredible amount of turnover at the top position. During that same seven-year stretch, the longest stay at #1 was only three weeks (Randy Travis' "Forever And Ever, Amen" in mid-'87.) Only eighteen other records managed to notch even a second week at the top during that period. That leaves the other 326 (!) chart-toppers at one-week-and-done. This pattern persisted until January of 1990, when Billboard began tracking country airplay via BDS monitoring. BOOM! The very first number one out of the chute (Clint Black's "Nobody's Child") ran up three weeks on top. In short order, others were racking up three, four... even five weeks at number one that very same year. Billboard went from listing 49 number ones in 1989 to a mere 24 the following year.

Small wonder, then, that such fun and games led to R&R becoming a much more valuable programming tool to radio folks than Billboard.
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torcan
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Posted: 17 October 2012 at 2:16pm | IP Logged Quote torcan

Just some comments about this thread:

--I first heard about this on another board a few months ago and was very surprised. I thought the Hot 100 was ALWAYS compiled with sales and airplay information for all records. I guess this explains why singles would sometimes drop from just outside the top 20 all the way off the Hot 100 the next week up until the early '70s

--I always thought sales of a record were more important than airplay. When I first started subscribing to Billboard, I was surprised so much weight was given to airplay. I figured if someone was willing to pop down their money to buy a record, that should be more important...however, reading others responses above make sense

--listening to old "American Top 40" episodes from the early '70s, I believe on some episodes Casey stated it was sales information from 100 record stores and airplay from 53 stations. Didn't seem like much - that's an average of 2 stores and 1 radio station per state. When I started subscribing in the early '80s, there were 125 reporting stations

--re. the Country chart - that rule led to some incredible falls from the No. 1 position. I can't remember the record, but I know at least one single fell from No. 1 to something like 44 or 47 in the early '80s.
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