I have written about the charts and the processes in the past, but sometimes old blogs get lost and new followers are more inclined to read new posts. So I thought it was time to update this a bit, plus with us fast approaching our year end Countdowns, it is a very good time to show how we approach things.
The KB Radio slogan is What Radio Used to Be. The idea is that terrestrial broadcast FM/AM stations have lost their way, and I want to bring back a style similar to what was in the 70’s and 80’s. Now I don’t run with DJ’s 24 hours a day, so there are some differences but those are for those who want to be picky.
Its more than just the DJ’s and shows, its how I approach things programming the stations and how we work our chart system. There are lots of methods for charting music, and I am not going to touch on anything but our system. I often say to think of how The charts on Billboard, Radio & Record, and every local radio station worked. When people turned into Casey Kasem, Rick Dees, Scott Shannon or Bob Kingsley for Country music it wasn’t the 40 most popular tunes every week, with each week being an absolutely brand new Top 40.(ie This weeks 40 could potentially be 40 different songs) There was consistency from week to week, and people turned in to hear their favorite Artist or Band and see if they can make it to number 1.
No matter how high their favorite song did go though, when it peaked it started to decline and fall down the charts. These charts weren’t just random ideas, it was a well thought out and developed process. An artist releases a song, usually tied to an album release as well, and that song would climb as high as possible. The length of time it took to climb depended on the popularity of the song, the artist, and more. The big charts looked at stats from Radio Stations across the US and Canada, or in other regions of the world, the same thing but for that region. The record companies were marketing the hell out of these songs, with chart success came sales. But everyone also knew that listeners get tired of songs, and like new music and variety.
Lets face it how many songs have you heard in your life and liked? Do you have every single one in your playlists? Of course not, there are too many but some songs survive the years with different fans and are forever in our minds and playlists. So once a song had peaked on those charts and started the decline down, that meant the sales for the single were slowing down, requests were down, etc. At this time it was when they looked for the next release to put out.
When Garth Brooks released No Fences he had 4 hits off of that album, or when Michael Jackson released Thriller he had 7 singles hit the Top 10 and 2 number 1 songs. The key in that last line is he had 2 number 1 songs. You can’t have two number 1’s if you release everything at the same time or you don’t follow up with new music. When you look at the two years each of those albums was released, and the respective charts, the artists dominated the charts. Those albums and the music was there every day and when we started to get tired of one song, they went on to the next single and it picked up where the previous one left off. No Fences to date has sold more than 17 million albums and Thriller topped the 100 million mark worldwide.
Now before anyone thinks I can help you sell 100 million albums, that’s not what I am saying. That album didn’t sell itself, the music did it. The fact that every day Michael Jackson or Garth Brooks was on the radio sold it. People also didn’t buy albums if there was one song they liked on it. People were more fickle with their music purchases, and if an album suddenly had two hits on it, it changed the sales and when you get to 3 or 4 hits they went higher.
So when it comes to programming that has been my approach from day 1 on my stations. Play the new Indie Music like new releases and put it into rotation for a period of time. After a certain amount of time has passed, we than hope for another release from the artists to update our music. This works with the charts that we use and publish, and the most popular songs from our listeners perspective will climb the charts. When that song has peaked its time for it to get out of the way so listeners can hear some fresh new music. I know there are a lot of artists that with promoters or on their own work in a similar fashion releasing one song, and than waiting a month or two for the next release.
I don’t want to single anyone out, but I will mention one band on our Top 25 as an example. They are the band Transistor @transistorband who early on in the year sat down with me to have a conversation of how the charts work. Steve who is usually the one online and the face of the band I guess, took hold of that information and they have worked the process for an entire year. As of today, and heading into the year end they are the only band or artist to have 4 songs that hit the Top 10, of which 3 went to number 1, that will be on the voting list for the year end Top 50. Now this is not a shot at anyone else or meant in a negative way. Its not easy being a musician and working with different Internet Radio stations and podcasters, who each operate in a different fashion can be difficult.
One of the biggest complaints I get from artists is that they hate the charts because its a popularity contest. For some stations, you are right. Who ever just gets the most votes for the week is the number 1 song. Our process is different in that voting is only a portion of what goes into the calculations. After the voting is completed the list of music that is eligible is than presented and is submitted as well for outside assessment. What that means is its not just me going, I like this song and don’t like that one. That are categories that are rated and ranked and it is done from more than just my perspective. so let me give you a simple example of how it works. For the example only I will use a Top 10 chart.
Each week for consistency we look at where the song sat for the previous week on the chart. So what you would get would be something like this;
#1- 50 Points, #2 – 45 Points, #3 – 40 Points, #4 – 35 Points, #5 – 30 Points, #6 – 25 Points, #7 – 20 Points, #8 – 15 Points, #9 – 10 Points and #10 – 5 Points.
That is again as an example the base points to start. Now we look at the voting, and we look at the position in the voting, not how many votes. So once again we use a similar points system, starting at who finished first in the voting down to the 10th position. When asked why only 10 spots, because that is how many spots are on the chart. Why would you give someone in 50th place points. They didn’t get the support needed to crack the Top 10, so why give credit. So first in voting 50 Pts, second 45 Pts. etc and exactly the same format.
The next area is where not only my data is used but I reach out for outside rating and judgement as well. There are a group of categories, and each category, has a simple rating of 1 to 10. Let me give you an example; If there are 4 categories, and in two categories I rank a song with 6 and the other two categories I give and 8, my total points out of 40 possible would be 28. Now for a broader perspective we now add in the other analysts points, so if they had higher or lower rankings, there totals would get added to mine. So to not complicate things, if one other had a total of 32 for the combined total on the same song, we would than add those totals together. This gives that song 60 pts from the analysts.
Lets say the song was last weeks #1 so they got 50 points for that, and this week they finished 4th in the voting, so they get 35 points for voting. Now we start the math! lol
We will add the 50 and the 35 and that total of 85 will than represent 60% of the final vote. So (50 + 35) = 85 and 85 x 60% = 51.
The analysts had 60 pts, but that only represents 40% of the total, so we have 60 x 0% = 24
Combine the two totals and we have 51 + 24 for a total of 75. This process goes on for not only all the songs on the Chart, but also any song that got voting points, which is how we get new entries week to week. When we have all the totals we now put the songs in order based on the highest points to the lowest and that gives us the next weeks chart. There is a great deal of effort goes into the chart system each week, time 2 because of 2 charts on 2 stations, but I also believe that is one of the fairest and most consistent systems on a week to week basis.
The final product is a chart like I talked about in the beginning, with songs that go up and go down. We actually had a song from the band Matlen Starsley drop out of the #1 spot this year and than go back up a week later. They called it a dead cat bounce, because to be completely honest, its not supposed to happen that way. But every once in a while, things happen and the numbers don’t lie.
So a band like Transistor will have 4 songs eligible this year for the top 50. Other bands will have 2 or 3 songs as well, but you can only list so many for voting, and many of those will qualify as write ins. Our year end Top 50 voting list will have 100 songs approximately on it. That is a lot of music for voters to sort through. That number represents every song that made the Top 10 this year. Every song that made the chart is eligible, however if it didn’t crack the Top 10 it will need to be a write in. We just can’t have 500 or more songs on the voting list. LOL
Does this mean Transistor is a favorite? From an outside perspective when you have 4 choices from the same band I call that pretty good odds. But the other side of that is this, at the end of the year when we present that Top 50, no matter where they finish, wouldn’t you say they are better off if they manage to get 2 of their songs on the list? What if they get 3 on the Top 50 or even all 4 manage to crack the list. Where one of them is the number 1 song or not, I would still call that a really damn good showing.
We often see fans show up to vote for their favorite song week to week, finish high in voting, but than disappear the following weeks because they don’t understand the system. This blog hopefully helps to explain, and truthfully I am going deeper in my explanation than ever before. I honestly don’t like to, because its a system I developed years ago, so to share some of my processes hurts. Too many others are known to use others work for their own gain. However transparency is the ultimate goal, and more success for artists is also a priority.
So be it week to week or the year end, good luck to everyone on their chart success. For those that embrace it and bust their asses each and every week begging fans for votes, I thank you. There are benefits for songs that make the chart, starting with website listing and visibility and extra weekly spins. We can talk about more beyond that another time.
Any questions we always have the doors open, so please ask.