Itunes, Billboard, and the marginalization of black music and black audiences in America

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So today Billboard changed their policy to allow digital music sales to count on previously airplay-driven genre charts. The problem with this is that there is no way of separating by demographics like there is for radio. The radio listener chooses the station that best fits their tastes, whereas anyone might buy from Itunes. Further compounding the problem is that that isn't even true -- economically privileged listeners, who are more likely to be white, are much more likely to purchase digital music.

The introduction of Itunes data to the Billboard Hot 100 in 2005 has had the effect of slowly but surely pushing music favored by black audiences off the pop charts and top 40 (and even rhythmic) radio, to the point where there are now very few songs that cross over from urban radio to other formats. Over the past year or so, there have been only a few songs popular on the r&b charts that cross over into the top 40 at any given time, usually below the top 10 (even this year's huge rap hits "The Motto" and "Mercy" got stuck in the teens on the big chart), while most of urban radio's big songs get stuck in the 30-100 range of the Hot 100. This has also led to the trend of black music stars like Nicki Minaj and Usher creating entirely different singles for different radio formats, with pop songs for white radio and r&b or rap songs for black radio.

Billboard's new changes potentially strike an even bigger blow to black audiences being able to determine their own hits. On this week's r&b chart, with the changes enacted, Rihanna's decidedly pop (and, it should be noted, terrible) "Diamonds" jumps from #61 to #1, pushing Miguel's decidedly r&b (and brilliant) "Adorn" out of the top spot. Urban radio stations may have lost one of their last impetuses left not to play pop music with white-leaning audiences.

There's even more to this but I don't have time to explain every last factor at work right this second. Here's what's been said on the rolling r&b thread:

um... some dude... wtf is going on with the R&B chart? why is Rihanna's "Diamonds" suddenly #1?

― (whose paintings looked like (pink) vaginas) (The Brainwasher), Thursday, October 11, 2012 9:14 AM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

ha i was just about to come to this thread to gripe about that

basically the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart has tradtionally been mostly airplay + physical single sales, so if a nominal R&B song (by, say, Rihanna) did well on iTunes and pop radio but not actual R&B stations, it wouldn't make much of an impact on the R&B chart. but as of this week, iTunes is a factor on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop like it has been on the Hot 100 for years, so now suddenly "Diamonds" is #1, and there's now a R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart which is basically what the main chart used to be, and on that "Adorn" is #1 and "Diamonds is #61.

this is massively fuck up whatever confidence R&B stations and labels had left to not cater to pop crossover imo. horrible move by Billboard.

― some dude, Thursday, October 11, 2012 9:57 AM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

And now Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs is 50 deep instead of 100.

25-deep R&B Songs chart now, too.

― Andy K, Thursday, October 11, 2012 10:20 AM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

R&B Songs and Rap Songs will serve as 25-position distillations of the overall Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, highlighting the differences between pure R&B and rap titles in the overall, wide-ranging R&B/hip-hop field.

Eleven of the 25 songs on R&B Songs feature rappers, so "pure R&B" must mean songs with an R&B artist as only or lead voice.

― Andy K, Thursday, October 11, 2012 10:34 AM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Make that 10, not 11.

― Andy K, Thursday, October 11, 2012 10:34 AM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

― Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:21 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

excuse me while I find a corner to curl up into the fetal position and cry in

― Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:22 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

rev's "Itunes destroyed Black American pop music" rant on twitter a few months ago was so righteous that i saved it in a doc, tempted to just post it right now

― some dude, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:34 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

post it! i missed it!

― lex pretend, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:36 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i'd have to clean it up and re-order it for it to make sense, but here's the short version he put on tumblr: http://reverenddollars.tumblr.com/post/24446685357/positing-not-claiming

― some dude, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:38 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

ha i saw that, think i favourited it somewhere

― lex pretend, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:42 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I've gone on at least a couple such extended twitter rants. Been meaning to start a thread on the subject here and I think I will now. Please post whatever you saved.

― Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:43 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

oh wow, part of my gripe about this was going to be that the Country charts didn't get the same treatment but they did -- Taylor Swift leaps from #21 to #1 on the revamped download-heavy Country chart. fucking Billboard, putting nails in the coffin of terrestrial radio formats' ability to make hits.

― some dude, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:45 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

would quite like to hear about the role itunes is playing in this - that's not in the tumblr & i don't really know

― lex pretend, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:46 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Wonder if (the very good, all-R&B) Two Eleven has a shot at the Top Ten of the Billboard 200. "Put It Down": 70-76-72 last three weeks on Hot 100 and 16-5-3 last three weeks on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop. Doesn't really bode well.

― Andy K, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:48 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

2 columns that chris molanphy and i wrote about r&b's hot 100 decline that get into how itunes changed things:

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2011/05/chris_brown_look_at_me_now_hot_100.php

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2012/07/sales_slump_usher_chris_brown.php

― some dude, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:51 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i read both of those at the time - they were great and i think i may have linked one in my independent r&b piece - but what is it about itunes that means it's an inefficient driver of r&b? it's so geared towards casual/spontaneous consumption that it inherently privileges pop?

― lex pretend, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:54 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

whereas radio-driven r&b is dependent on gatekeepers to an extent?

― lex pretend, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:54 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

those might be factors but the more simple truth is just that demographically speaking the songs and artists that get chart boosts from iTunes sales, particularly single sales, strongly skew pop and not urban

― some dude, Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:57 PM Bookmark

Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:18 (1 year ago) Permalink

so iTunes ID3 genre tags DO matter lol

stop swearing and start windmilling (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:19 (1 year ago) Permalink

i'm quite shocked by this. i didn't know people still cared about billboard charts

frogbs, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:19 (1 year ago) Permalink

It's not the charts themselves that I care about so much as how they reflect and drive cultural changes.

Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:21 (1 year ago) Permalink

yeah the charts are bullshit but they have real ramifications in terms of what gets bankrolled

stop swearing and start windmilling (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:22 (1 year ago) Permalink

Oh and Psy has been placed on top of the rap charts, because obv "Gangnam Style" is what's hot in the streets right now.

Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:31 (1 year ago) Permalink

If you have any interest in this phenomenon, please read the Molanphy articles.

Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:33 (1 year ago) Permalink

another good reason to hate apple

We demand justice: who murdered Chanel? (Matt P), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:34 (1 year ago) Permalink

Are there charts for most genres? And did they change too?

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:40 (1 year ago) Permalink

yeah the charts are bullshit but they have real ramifications in terms of what gets bankrolled

so does a list of 'what music is actually being bought'

iatee, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:41 (1 year ago) Permalink

This is really interesting, Rev. We've never really had high-stakes multiple charts and the US system has always seemed incredibly complicated to me, but then we're a million times smaller so it's a different proposition, I guess.

emil.y, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:43 (1 year ago) Permalink

well, they used to be lists of what music is actually being played and requested on the radio, too. but however they combine these different statistics always seems to heavily favor sales over overplay. (xpost)

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:44 (1 year ago) Permalink

I for one never liked the idea of airplay contributing to the charts here in the UK and I'm glad it remains sales based.

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:44 (1 year ago) Permalink

but I can see why it works better in the USA. You only ever got top 40 or oldies radio here and that was it until digital radio and 1extra.

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:45 (1 year ago) Permalink

Chris Mol@nphy wrote this column in ship's column last year:

All I'll add to the exhaustive data you offer is a hobby-horse I've been riding for a couple of years now: the need for Billboard to finally add digital-sales data to the R&B/Hip-Hop chart.

They've been resisting for years, on the (implied, not overtly stated) premise that it would ruin the character of a chart that has a long history with black-owned and oriented retailers. But with that segment (along with all brick-and-mortar music retail) at death's door anyway, the sales portion of Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs has been near-nonexistent for years, making it essentially a radio chart a la the deadly, predigital Hot 100 of 2000–05.

That's led to a problem where there's no longer a radio programmer-to-consumer-back-to-programmer feedback loop that makes for great charts. I'm sure there's a one-way influence from radio to the teen urban-music buyer who then downloads a Trey Songz MP3. But with that sale not reflected on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, the loop ends there; programmers aren't given clear enough signals of how to reflect their most avid audience members' tastes (especially young audience).

In my ideal fantasy world, you'd be able to segment iTunes/AmazonMP3 song sales to pockets of the country that have large black populations or high urban-radio listenership, but that's probably impossible, or at least fraught. But at the very least, I think it'd be trivial for Billboard to set up a rule whereby a song eligible for R&B/Hip-Hop Songs would have to hit some kind of urban-radio threshold before their iTunes sales would count toward the chart.

the ones that I'm near most: fellow outcasts and ilxors (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:46 (1 year ago) Permalink

here's an explanation of the changes, which affect all genre charts:

http://www.billboard.com/news#/news/taylor-swift-rihanna-psy-buoyed-by-billboard-1007978552.story

the rock charts are much less affected by this than R&B or country -- for instance this week fun.'s "Some Nights" went back to #1 after falling to #8, because it had started to run its course on radio but is still selling strong on iTunes.

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:47 (1 year ago) Permalink

ok lol i spoke to soon -- Philip Philips and Train are now big on the rock charts

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:48 (1 year ago) Permalink

wtf is philip philips?

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:49 (1 year ago) Permalink

Train are now big on the rock charts

chilling words in any context

the ones that I'm near most: fellow outcasts and ilxors (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:49 (1 year ago) Permalink

also holy shit SIX Mumford & Sons songs in a row on the rock songs chart, because that was the last big album release so every song is getting bought individually on itunes

Phillip Phillips won American Idol last year

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:50 (1 year ago) Permalink

see that is bullshit with buying albums and the tracks being on a singles track

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:52 (1 year ago) Permalink

*chart

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:52 (1 year ago) Permalink

what i'm saying!

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:55 (1 year ago) Permalink

it's one thing that rihanna has the #1 R&B song now, but when her album is released she'll probably take up the whole top 5

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:55 (1 year ago) Permalink

you mentioned itunes sales in the other thread shipz - i'm guessing those are discounted albums rather than individual tracks?

apart from that and

economically privileged listeners, who are more likely to be white, are much more likely to purchase digital music

i'd be interested to know why r&b/rap/country etc might not be as digitally-driven...?

lex pretend, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:59 (1 year ago) Permalink

it's funny, you might've thought before this all happened that iTunes impacting singles charts might mean that new artists and grassroots successes that have been shut out by the radio industry might get a better shot at breaking through. instead, it feels like any song by the biggest stars is stomping out songs people love by less famous artists via the power of name recognition and fanatical fanclub followings.

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:04 (1 year ago) Permalink

you mentioned itunes sales in the other thread shipz - i'm guessing those are discounted albums rather than individual tracks?

Not discounted albums, people buy lots of album tracks individually from popular albums all the time. A hit album is almost guaranteed to have several album tracks enter the Hot 100 on its week of release because of this.

i'd be interested to know why r&b/rap/country etc might not be as digitally-driven...?

That isn't quite true of country, but white demographics are a lot more likely to have internet in their homes than black/latinos. And even if they do, the white listener is a lot more likely to have spare $$$ to spend on digital music.

Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:04 (1 year ago) Permalink

i mean if you want to go by the stereotype that country fans are rural/poorer than the same would apply to them too

congratulations (n/a), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:07 (1 year ago) Permalink

seems pretty obv

congratulations (n/a), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:07 (1 year ago) Permalink

ok...how does that square with the boom in free rap mixtapes?

also, i don't think i realised til now how airplay-driven charts would help songs specifically popular in demographics with no spare $$$ to actually buy them in whatever format.

lex pretend, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:07 (1 year ago) Permalink

Note that of the top 20-selling songs in the US during the first half of 2012, only two, #16 "Rack City" and #18 "The Motto" reached the top 50 of the r&b chart.

Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:07 (1 year ago) Permalink

what genre of music dominates the US singles charts now?

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:09 (1 year ago) Permalink

i mean if you want to go by the stereotype that country fans are rural/poorer than the same would apply to them too

― congratulations (n/a), Thursday, October 11, 2012 2:07 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I don't think this is as true as one might assume? A lot of well-off suburban country listeners. Or at least country seems to do fairly well on Itunes.

Cap'n Hug-a-Thug (The Reverend), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:09 (1 year ago) Permalink

capital-p Pop -- Katy Perry, Rihanna, Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, One Direction, etc. although this year stuff like Gotye and fun. has mixed things up a bit. (xpost)

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:10 (1 year ago) Permalink

there's also the argument that buying your favorite song on iTunes (as opposed to just listening to it on the radio, streaming it on YouTube now and again, or buying the album) is a generational habit, and so things that skew younger benefit from this -- Taylor, Rihanna etc.

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:10 (1 year ago) Permalink

i mean it sucks because a lot of these formats had been fostering new stars and putting interesting songs at #1 lately, but you're never gonna see Miguel top the R&B chart or Eric Church top the country chart again after this

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:11 (1 year ago) Permalink

don't forget Maroon 5

the ones that I'm near most: fellow outcasts and ilxors (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:12 (1 year ago) Permalink

interesting stuff. i don't have my head entirely around the numbers & methodologies here, but there's something about a "return to monoculture" either in real terms or as a measurement phenomenon.

there is no dana, only (goole), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:12 (1 year ago) Permalink

is the pop domination due to itunes or changing of radio playlists/genre stations changing to top 40 or just one of those things that happens?

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:12 (1 year ago) Permalink

interesting stuff. i don't have my head entirely around the numbers & methodologies here, but there's something about a "return to monoculture" either in real terms or as a measurement phenomenon.

It's been happening on radio for a while. It's impossible to break the Rihanna-Goyte-Katy-Perry-Maroon-5 stranglehold on Clear Channel Radio. I mean, I hear "One More Night" every 45 minutes.

the ones that I'm near most: fellow outcasts and ilxors (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:15 (1 year ago) Permalink

but you're never gonna see Miguel top the R&B chart or Eric Church top the country chart again after this

to be blunt about this, it's because, even though Rihanna makes club trance, she "is R&B" (because, you know), and Taylor Swift makes pop dubstep, she "is country" (again, because, you know). right?

in a way it seems like this is a identity/identification/musicalogical problem. almost.

there is no dana, only (goole), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:16 (1 year ago) Permalink

Taylor Swift... makes pop dubstep?

The Owls of Ja Rule (DJP), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:18 (1 year ago) Permalink

p much

there is no dana, only (goole), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:18 (1 year ago) Permalink

well, it's because when five Rihanna tracks become available her fans will download them at once from iTunes.

the ones that I'm near most: fellow outcasts and ilxors (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:18 (1 year ago) Permalink

SWIFTSTEP

lex pretend, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:19 (1 year ago) Permalink

What would an ideal modern chart system look like?

wk, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:19 (1 year ago) Permalink

Taylor Swift... makes pop dubstep?

I'll assume you don't want to hear her latest track.

the ones that I'm near most: fellow outcasts and ilxors (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:19 (1 year ago) Permalink

What would an ideal modern chart system look like?

"Adorn" and "Springsteen" topping every chart.

the ones that I'm near most: fellow outcasts and ilxors (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:19 (1 year ago) Permalink

so with "all of me" looking like a legitimate contender for #1 in the coming weeks (to follow "happy" which is still going strong, tho declining), it would seem that the safest way to score a crossover smash these days if you are a black (male) artist is to release something that adult contemporary radio could get on board with

dyl, Thursday, 27 March 2014 17:33 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

the middle of the road in 2014 is the worst middle of the road

coops all on coops tbh (crüt), Thursday, 27 March 2014 17:37 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

I don't think it's that simple, dyl, both those songs are kind of unique cases. I do think it's notable, though, that black artists only have to skew mild and adult contempo if they're not already pop radio mainstays, Jason Derulo can be as clubby and risque as he wants.

some dude, Thursday, 27 March 2014 18:33 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

the safest way to score a crossover smash these days if you are a black (male) artist is to release something that adult contemporary radio could get on board with - same as it ever was

balls, Thursday, 27 March 2014 19:03 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

there's a reason the first singles from thriller and bad were what they were

balls, Thursday, 27 March 2014 19:04 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

I was rather astonished by two things I noticed in Rihanna's discography:
1.) Rihanna has had a release every year since 2005 (in 2008, she released Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded, which itself had new singles)
2.) Rihanna's relevancy has -increased- since her debut.

She has evolved from a one hit-wonder to a rising star to proving she could maintain her shine to now kicking back as she joins the ranks of Madonna and Michael Jackson as a pop legend. For when you listen to Rihanna (and great pop music), you are listening to her persona. This is the appeal. The songwriting takes a backdrop to the personality, just as it did for Madonna and Michael Jackson. Just as these legends reflected the times, Rihanna does for ours.

Who is Rihanna?

What is considered the zeigeist of the current digital age?

Multicultural, multiracial, multilingual, un-aware vagueness.

Her lyrics seemingly draw material from several lifetimes (think to how many different songwriters have had their stories told through Rihanna's persona); these lyrics reflect upon multiple relationships which are evaluated in a sublime light. We don't know her, just like we don't really know Robert De Niro or Marilyn Monroe. Like an actress, Rihanna evokes powerful emotions requiring substance beyond typical human-capacity. How does she respond to this demand for infinite substance?

She stays silent. Sure, the minute she talks, the appeal is gone; but if she finds a way to leave the public wanting more (through mystery), she becomes the center of the conversation. It's simple logic -- you create the illusion that there's something -more- and it results in hype about what that something is. Rihanna is the latest to come along with her spin on this; except, as a direct product of a music system which has been at practice for over half a century, she is heavily-coached by people who have "Hype 101" mapped out in precise formula.

Rihanna is the end of pop music from the major label industry. At this point, all known major sounds have been recycled time-after-time; Rihanna is the dying roar of a Tyrannosaurus Rex -- powerful, but powerless against an asteroid. The industry's long-adapted to the pitfalls which came from presenting a flawed human upon a pedestal, claiming them to be flawless, and Rihanna is their magnum opus. In this metaphor, the internet is the asteroid and the prehistoric recording industry stands no chance -- regardless how many teeth.

Anyone who doesn't believe this need simply look at how many #1 singles Rihanna has had in such a short-period of time. It might be said that the industry has just been one gigantic attempt to artificially recreate Beatlemania, but without all that lyrical "rebellion" and musical "abstraction". Keeping the hype and removing any trace of challenge, Rihanna's music captures a sublime in-between space that has millions fascinated.

So in the age when everyone has their OWN pedestal, it is almost impossible to not be somewhat vein. Furthermore, when you look around and see that everyone else ALSO has their own pedestal, this vanity becomes even easier to believe in. So if everyone's already high off their own self-made hype, how does a industry of veteran hype-makers respond?

They give it their all, building a pedestal so high we're too busy admiring its scale to notice Robyn Rihanna Fenty didn't actually build this thing -- "Rihanna" did. It is coming from an unnaturally perfect plane of perspective, high in the clouds. She's standing miles above us and from way down here, none of us can make out who it is EXACTLY at the top of that pedestal, but plastered on the front is a massive projection of her fabled image.

This is what it is like listening to Rihanna. You can critique it by calling out the manufactured origin of the project, but if you suspend your disbelief and look at the project in another manner -- her success is a collective effort. Yes, her branding is calculated more meticulously than tomorrow's stock market and yes, this creates a "robotic"-like atmosphere, but her success requires the suspension of disbelief. This wondrous pedestal of stone which Rihanna sings upon is not really stone at all -- instead a bizarre, transparent hologram. When we forget this fact and let ourselves go, what's left isn't a hologram at all, but something very tangible and personal. -Personal- because we are humans and this is a perfect human image magnified to the level of a God from myth -- it reminds us of our inner-beauty, our inner-perfections and our higher potential.

Shine bright like a diamond!

Andrew JD, Thursday, 27 March 2014 19:42 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

xp that's very interesting some dude, i had never considered that re: derulo. but yes i think you are right that i am probably trying to make things simpler than they are

dyl, Thursday, 27 March 2014 19:43 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

lmaooo i c/p'd part of that to see where it came from and OF COURSE it's rateyourmusic

dyl, Thursday, 27 March 2014 19:47 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

It isn't Lefsetz?

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 27 March 2014 19:49 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

i've been waiting for an opportunity to defend diamonds for a long time and i finally had my chance

Andrew JD, Thursday, 27 March 2014 20:02 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

let's 51 this motherfucker, people

sleeve, Thursday, 27 March 2014 20:03 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

stfu sleeve

Mordy , Thursday, 27 March 2014 20:05 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

I'm gonna end every post now with "Shine bright like a diamond!"

Shine bright like a diamond!

some dude, Thursday, 27 March 2014 20:14 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

I'm still waiting for her to release a collaboration with Electric Six who have also consistently released an album each year since 2005, though 2012's was a live album.

MarkoP, Thursday, 27 March 2014 20:23 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

oh man

sleeve, Thursday, 27 March 2014 21:08 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

MJ and Madonna had career-defining images but I don't agree about the songwriting taking a back seat, I'd say at the height of their powers the songs and the image were in perfect harmony w each other in their own idiosyncratic ways this is why they are legends.

▴▲ ▴TH3CR()$BY$H()W▴▲ ▴ (Adam Bruneau), Thursday, 27 March 2014 21:11 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

is it april 1st already?

Scooby Doom (۩), Thursday, 27 March 2014 21:17 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

No, that's Tuesday of next week

Shine bright like a diamond!

some dude, Thursday, 27 March 2014 21:29 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

social 50 is for ranking artists' social media presence while this new thing appears to be about tracking how much online chatter songs, not artists, are generating. plus this will be updated real-time as opposed to the social 50 which is updated weekly.

dyl, Thursday, 27 March 2014 22:01 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

hmmm, well, I dunno. When Twitter tried to do that, what ended up happening was it looked just like that Social 50 chart. The reason being there are more people talking about Top 40 than say, DJ Rashad.

Andrew JD, Thursday, 27 March 2014 22:04 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

They should just collaborate with the NSA and get a definitive list of what everyone listens to on their phone. Give it a nice patriotic name like "The Freedom 50".

▴▲ ▴TH3CR()$BY$H()W▴▲ ▴ (Adam Bruneau), Thursday, 27 March 2014 22:11 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

Total Entertainment Awareness

I got the glares, the mutterings, the snarls (President Keyes), Thursday, 27 March 2014 22:24 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

and this man to run it:

Bryan Fairy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 27 March 2014 22:26 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

2 weeks pass...

Chris Molanphy goes IN. Major, must read piece.

http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/9378-i-know-you-got-soul-the-trouble-with-billboards-rbhip-hop-chart/

Ned Raggett, Monday, 14 April 2014 17:36 (4 days ago) Permalink

Chris on FB about it:

"Papa's Got a Brand-New Bag." "Rescue Me." "Mr. Big Stuff." "I'm Every Woman." "Sexual Healing." "I Feel for You." "I Need Love." "Me, Myself & I." "All Around the World." "Real Love." "On & On." "Work It." "What You Know." "A Milli." Classic songs—and all of them only went to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart—a list that was once truly distinct from the Hot 100 pop chart and was the authoritative ranking of the music of black America.
This piece—on the long, tangled history of that chart—is my first major feature for Pitchfork since last fall's Modern Rock/Alternative megafeature and, incidentally, is the longest article I've ever written. I needed the space to explain how the chart developed, how this chart was saved from irrelevance in 1965 and became the authority in black music for decades, and how the era of digital music has made it a challenge to track what true fans of R&B and hip-hop are consuming, week in, week out.
The piece is also—a year and a half after Billboard changed the way the chart is formulated—a polemic, from a diehard chart fan who feels the R&B/Hip-Hop chart needs to be fixed. A purported R&B/Hip-Hop chart topped by white people 44 out 52 weeks last year has issues—and even now, when topped by Pharrell, the chart is nothing more than the Hot 100's truncated stepchild

Ned Raggett, Monday, 14 April 2014 17:40 (4 days ago) Permalink

It's a really outstanding if depressing summary.

da croupier, Monday, 14 April 2014 19:14 (4 days ago) Permalink

The worst counter-argument I've heard – I've heard it on campus whenever I bring it up to students at the radio station - is that it's a good thing "boundaries are falling." It's a weaker iteration of the reverse racism line.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 14 April 2014 19:20 (4 days ago) Permalink

On one hand we're asking billboard to provide information the labels clearly have little interest in, or else they would. On the other, as long as they do have these worthless, editorial-based sub-hot 100 charts, they acting under the vanity that they ARE providing that information.

da croupier, Monday, 14 April 2014 19:25 (4 days ago) Permalink

it's not really that Billboard is hiding any info they used to publish, they've just pushed it off to the "R&B/Hip-Hop (or insert whatever genre here) Airplay" charts while altering the nature of the main genre charts people generally look at. i've pretty much only regularly looked up the airplay-only charts for the last year because i still have that option and i learn something about what hit songs are trending beyond 'yes people are still buying that one Eminem song.'

some dude, Monday, 14 April 2014 19:33 (4 days ago) Permalink

Yeah I don't think anyone said they're hiding anything

da croupier, Monday, 14 April 2014 19:41 (4 days ago) Permalink

I'm referring to the info Chris suggests would be worthwhile at the end of his piece re demographics and the net, not airplay data

da croupier, Monday, 14 April 2014 19:43 (4 days ago) Permalink

ah ok misread your post

some dude, Monday, 14 April 2014 19:46 (4 days ago) Permalink

The tragedy is an industry's acceptance of itself as a mere subset of an ad-driven Internet economy. Psy at #1 of the rap chart is mostly just a farcical aftermath.

da croupier, Monday, 14 April 2014 19:49 (4 days ago) Permalink

obviously a fantastic piece but the idea that there is no "black youtube" is insane in a world where someone as entrenched in major label pop as nicki minaj is dropping a video exclusively to world star

le goon (J0rdan S.), Monday, 14 April 2014 20:28 (4 days ago) Permalink

that said there have been enough rumors about worldstar view counts being fishy and/or purchasable that i'm not sure billboard could reliably count them. but it's a really weird thing to ignore if you're in the business of attempting to accurately tabulate the music that americans consume online.

le goon (J0rdan S.), Monday, 14 April 2014 20:31 (4 days ago) Permalink

Well the exact line from Chris is:

Sites like WorldStarHiphop let you stream both mainstream and underground videos, but they don’t sell enough stuff to be helpful to Billboard.

So, you got me?

Ned Raggett, Monday, 14 April 2014 20:37 (4 days ago) Permalink

well youtube doesn't sell anything either so i'm not sure what that means

le goon (J0rdan S.), Monday, 14 April 2014 20:41 (4 days ago) Permalink

What does he mean by sell in a world where a singer debuts in the top 10 one week and is out of the hot 100 the next, based on practically no sales but from scoring a viral ad? Unless its the conceit that the song must be purchasable, even if sales are infinitesimal compared to streams (and not even streams of the song per se).

Referring to Soko, in case you haven't heard.

da croupier, Monday, 14 April 2014 20:43 (4 days ago) Permalink

So like, people click on a commercially unavailable freestyle for the freestyle and that doesn't count, but people click on an ad that just happens to be scored by some nonsense and congrats on your top ten single!

da croupier, Monday, 14 April 2014 20:44 (4 days ago) Permalink

even if he means that worldstar's streams are dwarfed by youtube, i would argue that he's wrong.

nicki's "lookin ass" video debuted on worldstar and currently has 15m+ views http://www.worldstarhiphop.com/videos/video.php?v=wshhCBBlBm0S8jCdjaY9

considering the overall point of his piece that seems like a weird thing to just sweep aside w/ a parenthetical

le goon (J0rdan S.), Monday, 14 April 2014 20:44 (4 days ago) Permalink

that's double the amount of views it has on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mwNbTL3pOs

le goon (J0rdan S.), Monday, 14 April 2014 20:45 (4 days ago) Permalink

amazing article. learned a lot from it about things that i sorta knew but didn't really understand re: how changes in the industry in the 80s and 90s affected the charts.

dyl, Monday, 14 April 2014 21:30 (4 days ago) Permalink

the problem is that Billboard relies on data reported by retailers and radio stations and they had an incentive to give up that data because they got something useful out of the charts. you could theoretically make some amazing new charts out of data collected from spotify, iTunes, and youtube, but what incentive do those companies have to give out that information? they don't have to make decisions about what records to stock or which songs to add to their playlists, so they might as well just keep the data to themselves and sell it to advertisers or whatever. basically the very idea of charts seems to be useless to the new digital music industry.

wk, Monday, 14 April 2014 22:35 (4 days ago) Permalink

If there's any one image that best sums up the ridiculous consequences of Billboard's R&B/rap chart changes it's def this:

Frontier Psychiatrist, Tuesday, 15 April 2014 23:16 (3 days ago) Permalink

the problem is that Billboard relies on data reported by retailers and radio stations and they had an incentive to give up that data because they got something useful out of the charts. you could theoretically make some amazing new charts out of data collected from spotify, iTunes, and youtube, but what incentive do those companies have to give out that information? they don't have to make decisions about what records to stock or which songs to add to their playlists, so they might as well just keep the data to themselves and sell it to advertisers or whatever. basically the very idea of charts seems to be useless to the new digital music industry.

― wk, Monday, April 14, 2014 6:35 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

dude...ALL of those organizations give data to Billboard. and generally retailers and radio stations haven't really had to be incentivized to manually give Billboard data since the advent of SoundScan, BDS, etc. 20 years ago.

posi riot (some dude), Tuesday, 15 April 2014 23:41 (3 days ago) Permalink

how much of that data do they really give? like are they providing billboard w/ nearly as detailed a demographic breakdown as they are their clients or are they just 'well here's what got played and how much'?

balls, Tuesday, 15 April 2014 23:43 (3 days ago) Permalink

yeah, I doubt they give much more than what's already publicly visible. play counts basically.

wk, Wednesday, 16 April 2014 01:28 (2 days ago) Permalink

I guess it depends on what billboard's main purpose is supposed to be. If the point is to collect data and sell it to the music industry, that doesn't work with the digital music industry who already has better data of their own (and obviously isn't concerned with where to allocate shelf space or airtime). But if billboard's main purpose now is entertainment journalism for the fans and critics to enjoy the inside baseball of the industry, then I don't see how these tech companies are going to give up the useful data that would give us interesting automatically generated charts like the top power electronics albums in the midwest or whatever.

wk, Wednesday, 16 April 2014 01:39 (2 days ago) Permalink


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