Credit Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Universal Music
The Popcast is hosted by Jon Caramanica, a pop music critic for The New York Times. It covers the latest in pop music criticism, trends and news.
Earlier this month, Billboard announced that it would alter the formulas it uses to build its singles and albums charts, moving to a weighted system that will favor streaming plays on paid subscription services (Amazon, Apple Music, the paid tier of Spotify) over plays on free or ad-supported streaming services (like YouTube).
What Are the Billboard Charts Really Measuring?
This marks a shift in what the charts — particularly the Hot 100 — represent. “It is Billboard’s belief that assigning values to the levels of consumer engagement and access — along with the compensation derived from those options — better reflects the varied user activity occurring on these services,” Billboard wrote. Which is to say, how many people listen to and engage with a song matters, but how much money a song earns matters as well.
This announcement follows a surprising and exciting year for the Hot 100 singles chart, which included the meme-driven ascent of Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane’s “Black Beatles” and Migos’s “Bad and Boujee,” the lengthy conquest of “Despacito,” and the breakout success of Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves),” which even Taylor Swift couldn’t halt. The current No. 1 on the Hot 100, Post Malone and 21 Savage’s “Rockstar” is a unique case, too: a cut of the song appears on YouTube that features the song’s hook looped over and over again, and plays of this version of the track count toward its streaming totals.
On this week’s Popcast, Mr. Caramanica discusses the text and subtext of the Billboard Hot 100, and how the rule changes might punish certain audiences and genres, with Joe Coscarelli, pop music reporter for The New York Times, and David Turner, senior staff writer at Track Record.
Email your questions, thoughts and ideas about what’s happening in pop music to email@example.com.