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 (3 years ago) Permalink

so iTunes ID3 genre tags DO matter lol

stop swearing and start windmilling (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:19 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years ago) Permalink

another good reason to hate apple

We demand justice: who murdered Chanel? (Matt P), Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:34 (3 years ago) Permalink

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

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:40 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years ago) Permalink

wtf is philip philips?

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:49 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years ago) Permalink

*chart

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:52 (3 years ago) Permalink

what i'm saying!

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:55 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years ago) Permalink

seems pretty obv

congratulations (n/a), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:07 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years ago) Permalink

what genre of music dominates the US singles charts now?

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:09 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years ago) Permalink

Taylor Swift... makes pop dubstep?

The Owls of Ja Rule (DJP), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:18 (3 years ago) Permalink

p much

there is no dana, only (goole), Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:18 (3 years 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 (3 years ago) Permalink

SWIFTSTEP

lex pretend, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:19 (3 years ago) Permalink

What would an ideal modern chart system look like?

wk, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:19 (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (3 years ago) Permalink

Billboard's take:

Desiigner's debut hit "Panda" pounces to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (dated May 7). The Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York rapper halts the nine-week reign of Rihanna's "Work," featuring Drake, and brings an American act to No. 1 on the Hot 100 after a record 41-week streak of leaders by foreign artists.

Rihanna and Drake are just foreigners... USA USA

curmudgeon, Monday, 9 May 2016 13:17 (2 months ago) Permalink

But Billboard also noted this:

Rap rules again: Desiigner also ends a 41-week streak between rap songs atop the Hot 100, between "See You Again" and "Panda." That's the longest run between No. 1 rap songs (defined as tracks that charted on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs ranking) in more than 14 years: no rap hits led the Hot 100 for 46 straight weeks between Shaggy's "Angel" (March 31, 2001) and Ja Rule's "Always on Time," featuring Ashanti (Feb. 23, 2002).

A rap rookie rules again: Desiigner is the first rapper to crown the Hot 100 with a debut chart entry since Iggy Azalea arrived with "Fancy" (featuring Charli XCX), which ruled for seven weeks beginning June 7, 2014. Before Azalea, duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis bowed with their six-week No. 1 "Thrift Shop" (featuring Wanz), which reached No. 1 on Feb. 2, 2013.

The last male rapper (as a lead artist) to control the Hot 100 on his first try before Desiigner? Wiz Khalifa, with "Black and Yellow" (Feb. 19, 2011). (And, the very first? Vanilla Ice, whose "Ice Ice Baby" topped the Nov. 3, 1990, Hot 100.)

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/7341870/desiigner-panda-billboard-hot-100-number-1

curmudgeon, Monday, 9 May 2016 13:19 (2 months ago) Permalink

Yeah I guess Black & Yellow would be the real precursor - rap song by black artist with no hook assist. Wiz had (near-)peak Stargate going for him though. Thinking Mims would probably be the closer sibling.

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Monday, 9 May 2016 13:35 (2 months ago) Permalink

i actually just wrote a thing for Billboard about hip hop acts whose first Hot 100 entry went to #1. unsurprisingly, a lot of white rappers!

http://www.billboard.com/photos/7357866/no-1-debut-rap-hits-on-the-hot-100

a goon shaped tool (some dude), Monday, 9 May 2016 13:57 (2 months ago) Permalink

Also.... Crack A Bottle was Eminem, right?

sisterhood of the baggering vance (Doctor Casino), Monday, 9 May 2016 14:08 (2 months ago) Permalink

and 50 Cent and Dr. Dre. But yeah, Eminem - but without Rihanna.

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Monday, 9 May 2016 14:20 (2 months ago) Permalink

ha ha, good to see you were already on the job, Al!

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Monday, 9 May 2016 14:22 (2 months ago) Permalink

Sure, sure, I was just momentarily thrown off by the "by a black artist" descriptor.

sisterhood of the baggering vance (Doctor Casino), Monday, 9 May 2016 17:13 (2 months ago) Permalink

Great piece Al, but yikes that layout. Who came up with the "If you'd like to read the final half sentence of each paragraph, you're gonna have to click a button" model? Hate seeing good content butchered like that.

Evan R, Monday, 9 May 2016 17:37 (2 months ago) Permalink

lol @ the BoB entry

goole, Monday, 9 May 2016 21:30 (2 months ago) Permalink

(this is a tweaked version of some posts i made on FB in a thread about Madonna's performance last night)

More than anything, the Madonna tribute and its relative paucity reflected just how limited pop is right now. R&B leaning songs that aren't by white interlopers (hi Meghan Trainor) get zero Hot 100 traction from airplay - look at how rarely Beyoncé's recent material gets time on top 40 stations, or the relatively cool reception Rihanna (Rihanna!) is getting. Last night's performance lineup had more former Jonas Brothers than R&B singers or rappers who weren't relegated to cameo roles. It's a really bad situation all around.

It's the exact opposite pop scenario from the one that Prince helped make great 30-odd years ago. But it also brings up the role of the show's producers. Should they reflect what's happening (which is the purpose of this ultra fake awards show) or try to push it forward in a way that isn't informed by back door shenanigans involving manager wheedling? I'd love for the latter to be the case but as media companies get more anxious about their shrinking sliver of the pie they're going to get more conservative. (See also: The new CBS sitcom lineup, the retreads of game shows that were advertised during commercial breaks.)

maura, Monday, 23 May 2016 17:07 (2 months ago) Permalink

can we talk for a second about how incredibly pathetic that Bieber performance was

DJP, Monday, 23 May 2016 17:09 (2 months ago) Permalink

- dude sang UNDER his backing track for most of the time he was on stage, when he decided to sing and not just dance while his track played in the background
- one of the few times he did try to sing, he completely biffed the note he was trying to hit in the chorus of "Sorry" and never went near it again
- dude on record has the dulcet tones of a severe allergy sufferer and sounds a lot worse live, when he tries to sing
- dude seemed entirely uninterested in his dancing, his stage, the other people on stage with him, and life in general

THIS is what we as a society have turned our wallets and ears towards when it comes to musical entertainment; this isn't even an emperor's new clothes situation, more like "wait, there's not even an emperor"

DJP, Monday, 23 May 2016 17:14 (2 months ago) Permalink

otm

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Monday, 23 May 2016 17:16 (2 months ago) Permalink

THANKS A LOT, USHER

DJP, Monday, 23 May 2016 17:18 (2 months ago) Permalink

I'm torn between agreeing 100% with maura's post, and continuing to scoff (as I did with this year's Oscar controversy) at the idea of awards show as cultural barometer. These are trade shows first, and then anything else second.

rhymes with "blondie blast" (cryptosicko), Monday, 23 May 2016 17:45 (2 months ago) Permalink

These are trade shows for industries that drive our mainstream cultural content; it seems silly to disconnect them.

DJP, Monday, 23 May 2016 17:53 (2 months ago) Permalink

Perhaps, but I think that pointing out what these shows are failing to address in terms of what people are consuming, what issues are informing that consumption, etc tends to highlight just how out of touch these things are. Maura's point about there being more former Jonas bros. on this year's show than there are contemporary R&B singers or rappers (in non-"featuring" roles) proves that; I doubt Joe Jonas will be experiencing much in the way of increased airplay today just because he was part of last night's spectacle. But more to the point, at a time in which music journalists and the artists themselves are so enthusiastic about drawing parallels between the art and the larger culture (whether it is as blatant as the connection between Beyonce's latest and #blacklivesmatter, or some of the more creative analogies that critics like Ann Powers or Carl Wilson regularly draw), the awards shows seem to be making a conscious choice not to be part of these conversations. The current pattern with these shows seems to be that the press spends the next day talking about how awful they were (whether its a dickish host or a terrible musical performance) and then we all go back to talking about the real issues.

rhymes with "blondie blast" (cryptosicko), Monday, 23 May 2016 18:12 (2 months ago) Permalink

how limited pop is right now.

Most US pop radio stations are run by Clear channel/I Heart Radio, right, and they do the song selection (that limits even Beyoncé's and Rihanna's pop airplay) ? Am assuming they are stubbornly insisting they are doing it right, the same way that country music programmer insisted that women country singers could only be the occasional tomato in the male singer country radio salad.

I agree with Maura and wish the show's producers would have done more ...

curmudgeon, Monday, 23 May 2016 18:21 (2 months ago) Permalink

this is a case, I think, where the media idea of what people are consuming is a bit different than reality. it isn't as if Rihanna and Beyonce's singles were overwhelmingly embraced by pop radio listeners until Clear Channel pulled the plug.

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Monday, 23 May 2016 20:22 (2 months ago) Permalink

also, the Billboard Music Awards are based on pre-existing chart placements, I'm not sure why the ceremony wouldn't also reflect that

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Monday, 23 May 2016 20:22 (2 months ago) Permalink

Their "pre-existing chart placement" is in part based on whether or not they initially got airplay. Are you stating that Beyoncé's recent singles got initial pop airplay on Clear Channel stations, but then were determined not to be successful and dropped downward on the charts?

curmudgeon, Monday, 23 May 2016 21:13 (2 months ago) Permalink

Also, why can't the Billboard tv award show provide at least some attention to its non-pop charts?

curmudgeon, Monday, 23 May 2016 21:19 (2 months ago) Permalink

Well the country award was televised, as was the R&B award in which three of the nominees were songs by The Weeknd.

Katherine I'm saying that these songs aren't even given a shot. I listen to probably more pop radio than a lot of people on this board, and current songs by black women barely have a presence. (This is in part because the hip-hop/R&B-leaning stations I listen to, which are more closely mirroring their pop brethren, are either heading further into recurrent land or using hip-hop specifically (and not R&B) as accent material instead of the main course. It's country radio's "tomato" issue all over again.)

Also how would you not engage with these shows? Yes, they might be "trade shows," but I haven't seen highlights from the Boston Ski Show aired on one of the major broadcast networks. Big splashy events like these remain the biggest way for music to get out to the mass population, because TV's audience bowls over that of every other medium—I guarantee you Shawn Mendes and Troye Sivan will get huge boosts from their appearances last night.

But more to the point, at a time in which music journalists and the artists themselves are so enthusiastic about drawing parallels between the art and the larger culture (whether it is as blatant as the connection between Beyonce's latest and #blacklivesmatter, or some of the more creative analogies that critics like Ann Powers or Carl Wilson regularly draw), the awards shows seem to be making a conscious choice not to be part of these conversations.

The Billboard Music Awards' trophy-giving half directly engages with the culture — awards are based on chart placement, i.e., how many people are buying and hearing music. (There is one fan-bestowed award; Rihanna won it last night.)

Don't forget CBS Radio and Cumulus when you're talking about radio conglomerates, either. iHeart is the big Kahuna but those two are important, especially in the smaller markets that help boost your more adult-contemporary-leaning tracks to success. (The No. 1 song on the Radio Songs chart right now is "7 Years." Lukas Graham performed last night, the only current "rock" act to do so.)

maura, Monday, 23 May 2016 21:30 (2 months ago) Permalink

"Kiss It Better" definitely got continual top 40 radio adds but very much underperformed -- she's already moved on to the next single even at rhythmic. "Sorry" also was up but more for rhythmic (a few top 40 stations have added it, but about 1/10 of what "Can't Stop the Feeling" got even before you even start thinking about airplay.)

my point was more that part of what these shows are reflecting is what pop music audiences as an aggregate actually want to hear. given how much of a factor audience analytics are in radio airplay -- and the rise of streaming services is only intensifying and drilling those down (see: the recent Guardian article) -- and the nature of large commercial enterprises, I highly doubt it's that radio just isn't giving Rihanna, Beyonce, etc. a chance *despite audience demand*. as terrible as Shawn Mendes and Troye Sivan are, they also have a fuckton of a lot of young fans, which speaks louder than the general music/cultural/lifestyle media au jus

(I think we're mostly agreeing, possibly, but I also was unclear in my original post)

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Tuesday, 24 May 2016 03:07 (2 months ago) Permalink

There's a history of pop radio and mtv,etc not giving r'n'b and rap artists a fair chance at various points over the years, and while I recognize its a business and the supposed accuracy of audience analytics, I worry that the "pre-existing chart placement" you are comfortable with is not constructed that fairly

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 13:52 (2 months ago) Permalink

Audience demand on pop radio and on streaming sites often comes from songs being given a shot at pop radio. Maybe those songs you mentioned were given a fair shot, but there seems to be ample reason to be suspicious

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 14:10 (2 months ago) Permalink

agree w/curmudgeon. top 40 is definitely giving certain songs wider berth to catch on

maura, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 14:24 (2 months ago) Permalink

Audience demand on pop radio and on streaming sites often comes from songs being given a shot at pop radio.

In the UK (and I imagine the US) this is starting to become reversed. Networks that were already conservative are now simply looking at Shazam and Spotify streaming charts to decide what to playlist. This is honestly how 95% of the decisions get made. You could look at that and say 'they're simply reflecting audience appetite' or you could look at pop radio's abandonment of the role of hit-maker and say there's something more complex going on.

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 24 May 2016 15:02 (2 months ago) Permalink

pop radio frequently takes songs from certain 'core artists' (who are almost invariably white and usually female) all the way to the top 10 (in pop radio spins) despite the songs lagging in basically every metric of audience response. if you are one of these artists, your song not firing on all cylinders (or much at all) will apparently go relatively unnoticed by pop radio programmers until it's entered the lower rungs of the pop-spins top 10, at which point it'll finally start dropping. if you are not one of these artists and have a similarly unresponsive song, good luck even getting close to that far.

dyl, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 15:27 (2 months ago) Permalink

nowhere did I say that the "pre-existing chart placement" was constructed fairly, but nor is it entirely on radio programmers. it's easy to forget, due to being in the aforementioned adults-in-the-media-or-adjacent cohort, that there are a ton of people out there who really, really hate beyonce, or are indifferent to her.

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Tuesday, 24 May 2016 15:42 (2 months ago) Permalink

(nowhere did I say that I'm endorsing any of this, either. of course radio can and does have a prescriptive component. a lot of this *is* the prescriptive component. [you can see pop radio's gradually crumbling reluctance to deal with hits like "Trap Queen" and right now "Panda"])

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Tuesday, 24 May 2016 15:46 (2 months ago) Permalink

yeah that's another angle. R1 refused to playlist whip/nae-nae but i wonder if they would again.

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 24 May 2016 17:17 (2 months ago) Permalink

I would have thought that iHeartMedia would love Beyoncé

ejemplo (crüt), Tuesday, 24 May 2016 17:20 (2 months ago) Permalink

Nah, too politically radical now (or so I heard another customer in the grocery store saying to someone)

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 17:40 (2 months ago) Permalink

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/23/how-meek-mill-hilariously-won-rap-album-of-the-year-at-the-bbmas.html

“Billboard Music Awards finalists are based on key fan interactions with music, including album and digital songs sales, radio airplay, streaming, touring and social interactions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify and other popular online destinations for music. These measurements are tracked year-round by Billboard and its data partners, including Nielsen Music and Next Big Sound. The awards are based on the reporting period of tracking dates March 23, 2015 through March 17, 2016 and Billboard chart dates April 11, 2015 through April 2, 2016. Since 1940, the Billboard charts have been the go-to guide for ranking the popularity of songs and albums, and are the ultimate measure of a musician’s success.”

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 17:41 (2 months ago) Permalink

Another related issue here in this Chris Molanphy article

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/05/23/why_justin_timberlake_and_max_martin_s_can_t_stop_the_feeling_is_no_1_on.html

20 of the 22 Martin-authored No. 1s have come since mid-2008, the moment when dance-pop began its digital-fueled takeover of the U.S. charts. In other words, Martin has not consistently been a top hit-maker for all of the last two decades—he had a notably fallow hit-making period in America in the early-to-mid 2000s, when R&B and hip-hop were commanding the U.S. Top 40.

...

a hard truth about Max Martin is that for all his purported U.S. R&B influence, he doesn’t write songs black radio in America wants to play. Out of Martin’s 22 Hot 100 chart-toppers, all but one has missed the top of the R&B chart; generally, they don’t even touch that chart at all. (The one exception, last year’s smash by the Weeknd “Can’t Feel My Face,” topped the R&B/Hip-Hop list thanks only to Billboard’s current methodology for that chart, which over-weights digital sales and pop crossover. On R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, an all-radio chart that’s a better measure of core black music fans, the Martin-produced “Face” never made it past No. 46.) Martin’s genius is in crafting essentially genreless mass-appeal records that synthesize American and European popular music forms, one part Aaliyah to two parts ABBA. His songs lack clear racial signifiers—by design—and read as inherently pop. So when he does work with an artist of color like Usher, generally it’s a pop crossover move that doesn’t do all that well at the artist’s home format (e.g., 2010’s “DJ Got Us Falling in Love”—No. 4 pop, No. 51 R&B).

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 17:53 (2 months ago) Permalink

x-post -- according to that daily beast piece--

Still, while the Billboard Music Awards, Nielsen Music, and Next Big Sound were tallying mentions of Meek Mill, they weren’t taking into account whether these mentions were actually positive or negative.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 17:56 (2 months ago) Permalink

i still listen to the radio a lot. (much like i continue to follow a certain sports team that i grew up with, even though it is increasingly terrible and impossible to defend.) but most people i know either don't listen to the radio at all or listen to formats other than pop.

there are so many different places now to seek out music, if it's something you care about. so i guess pop radio now exists primarily for people who don't care about it? and most of those people are inclined to tolerate lukas graham?

dc, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 17:57 (2 months ago) Permalink

His songs lack clear racial signifiers—by design—and read as inherently pop.

I would argue otherwise. His songs very clearly racially signify, it's just that white gets accepted as default. The fact that Black audiences have never embraced him is directly linked to how his music signifies.

Hey (Extended Mix), Tuesday, 24 May 2016 18:28 (2 months ago) Permalink

the same way that country music programmer insisted that women country singers could only be the occasional tomato in the male singer country radio salad.

I feel like this is the case with urban radio right now. Radio at this point just has a Black women problem in general.

Hey (Extended Mix), Tuesday, 24 May 2016 18:36 (2 months ago) Permalink

absolutely.

the typical urban-to-pop pathway that prospective crossovers must follow represents an odd multidimensional spectrum, that, no matter which direction you choose to slice it in, tends to exclude black women as performers and listeners. on one side, the center of the pop radio target audience is (young adult) white women; on the other, that of urban radio is black men. turn the dial from the urban station to the rhythmic one and you'll hear songs that are less male, but also less black. in other words, there are more women on rhythmic radio that urban, but even fewer black women. when you consider how pitifully low the number of women scraping urban airplay top 10s today is (even counting the established shoo-ins like bey and nicki), you get the sense of how dire the situation is for black women at radio in general.

dyl, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 18:47 (2 months ago) Permalink

agreed with H(EM) - to say that Martin's music is "genreless" with "mass-appeal," in the same breath as saying that they seem not to be very popular on black radio stations, is weird. and, i think, problematic in that "white people don't have a race" kind of way.

bucyrus ohio, vus cun nus en l’aria (Doctor Casino), Tuesday, 24 May 2016 18:50 (2 months ago) Permalink

Good Lord, Max Martin has written twenty-two U.S. number one singles?!

Mr. Snrub, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 21:41 (2 months ago) Permalink

in the early-to-mid 2000s, when R&B and hip-hop were commanding the U.S. Top 40.

Questions not addressed in that article--
How has or has not the pop radio audience changed since then, how have the corporate chains who own the stations changed since then, and how has the rap and r'n'b changed since then?

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 24 May 2016 23:50 (2 months ago) Permalink

the meek mill album is at least better than compton, it's a pretty good album

rockpalast '82 (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 27 May 2016 19:10 (2 months ago) Permalink

xp love that she shouted out "trailer for rent" and the judds. her voice would be a fuckin revelation on country radio.

dc, Friday, 27 May 2016 19:12 (2 months ago) Permalink


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