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 (ten years ago) link

so iTunes ID3 genre tags DO matter lol

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

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

frogbs, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:19 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

another good reason to hate apple

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

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

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:40 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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.

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

wtf is philip philips?

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:49 (ten years ago) link

Train are now big on the rock charts

chilling words in any context

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 (ten years ago) link

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

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:52 (ten years ago) link

*chart

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:52 (ten years ago) link

what i'm saying!

some dude, Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:55 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

seems pretty obv

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

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

what genre of music dominates the US singles charts now?

Algerian Goalkeeper, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:09 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

don't forget Maroon 5

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 (ten years ago) link

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 (ten years ago) link

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.

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 (ten years ago) link

Taylor Swift... makes pop dubstep?

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

p much

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

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

SWIFTSTEP

lex pretend, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:19 (ten years ago) link

What would an ideal modern chart system look like?

wk, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:19 (ten years ago) link

Taylor Swift... makes pop dubstep?

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

What would an ideal modern chart system look like?

"Adorn" and "Springsteen" topping every chart.

http://soundcloud.com/taylorswiftofficial/i-knew-you-were-trouble

lex pretend, Thursday, 11 October 2012 21:19 (ten years ago) link

Such an audience I'd say is as pop as an Aimee Mann one

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 12 December 2017 22:35 (four years ago) link

sure and i’m sorry i didn’t hear it earlier in the year

i’d recommend eric weisbard’s TOP 40 DEMOCRACY if you haven’t read it yet

maura, Tuesday, 12 December 2017 23:37 (four years ago) link

Have heard of it, but haven't read it yet. Thanks.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 13 December 2017 14:21 (four years ago) link

the Aimee Mann record is actually quite lovely if anyone wants to actually engage with it rather than using it as a prop in an argument

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 13 December 2017 14:36 (four years ago) link

it is very good!!

maura, Wednesday, 13 December 2017 14:49 (four years ago) link

I want to read more about the Antonoff-ization of pop music.

Mr. Snrub, Thursday, 14 December 2017 17:40 (four years ago) link

jack antonoff produced three albums, only one of which (Taylor Swift) came close to getting play on mainstream pop and particularly pop radio -- and even it isn't doing so phenomenally -- and a handful of songs in 2017. that's it. that's all. compare to someone like my nemesis Benny Blanco, who genuinely is unescapble: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benny_Blanco_production_discography

sick, fucking funny, and well tasty (katherine), Thursday, 14 December 2017 17:50 (four years ago) link

other people with far more influence on pop music in 2017 than everything Antonoff has done in the past decade combined: Ali Payami, Julia Michaels, Sia, as much as I hate to say it the Chainsmokers

sick, fucking funny, and well tasty (katherine), Thursday, 14 December 2017 17:53 (four years ago) link

yeah benny blanco's persistence has been pretty amazing to me. i guess he's super-chameleonic, which helps

so katherine would you say that antonoff is like pop's equivalent of a prestige tv auteur

maura, Thursday, 14 December 2017 18:08 (four years ago) link

Man, does that make Benny Blanco Chuck Lorre?

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 14 December 2017 18:16 (four years ago) link

sure, why not

sick, fucking funny, and well tasty (katherine), Thursday, 14 December 2017 18:32 (four years ago) link

one month passes...

Beginning in 2018, plays occurring on paid subscription-based services (such as Amazon Music and Apple Music) or on the paid subscription tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported platforms (such as SoundCloud and Spotify) will be given more weight in chart calculations than those plays on pure ad-supported services (such as YouTube) or on the non-paid tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported services.

https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8006673/billboard-charts-adjust-streaming-weighting-2018

Seems like this change will not be helpful to most black musicians

curmudgeon, Monday, 29 January 2018 19:34 (four years ago) link

NY Times Popcast discussed this back in October 2017 I see.

On this week’s Popcast, Mr. Caramanica discusses the text and subtext of the Billboard Hot 100, and how the rule changes might punish certain audiences and genres, with Joe Coscarelli, pop music reporter for The New York Times, and David Turner, senior staff writer at Track Record.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/27/arts/music/billboard-chart-streaming-rule-change.html

curmudgeon, Monday, 29 January 2018 21:01 (four years ago) link

Beginning in 2018, plays occurring on paid subscription-based services (such as Amazon Music and Apple Music) or on the paid subscription tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported platforms (such as SoundCloud and Spotify) will be given more weight in chart calculations than those plays on pure ad-supported services (such as YouTube) or on the non-paid tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported services.

They should just publish separate charts. "Here are the most-streamed songs. Here are the most-streamed songs from people with paid memberships to streaming services. Here are the physical CDs and downloads that sold the most copies this week - and by the way, we're including catalog titles alongside new releases now, so yeah, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Metallica's Black Album are the most popular records in America, again."

grawlix (unperson), Monday, 29 January 2018 21:06 (four years ago) link

"this change will not helpful to most black musicians" has been the common intuitive interpretation, and that was certainly my own gut feeling, but in light of a few findings published here-n-there i actually don't think it's likely to be correct.

exhibit a:

Mind you, there’s not even evidence that overindexing paid streaming would hurt hip-hop: A source at Spotify told me rap dominates the paid side of the service, too, even more strongly than the ad-supported side. I will wait to comment in full for when the new rules take effect, but in the meantime we might want to decide if we are rooting for or against our new robot overlords.

exhibit b:

... on-demand subscription (paid) audio streams took an 80% share [by volume], while ad-supported streams claimed 20% of the market.

so paid-tier streaming users are even more likely to be consumers of 'urban' music + their combined streaming activity far outweighs that of those who only do 'free'/ad-supported streaming... if anything it seems such a rule change would give a boost to rap music (with the exception of the sort that gets most of its streams on youtube, i.e. dancing memes and such).

it's odd that billboard announced that impending rule change so far in advance. i figured they would implement it early in the year, but so far nothing else has been said about it.

dyl, Tuesday, 30 January 2018 02:12 (four years ago) link

oh and chris molanphy's comment was specifically about spotify, but it's safe to say it's fairly generalizable: the charts for apple music, which is subscription-only, are even more heavily skewed toward the urban side of things than spotify's charts are.

dyl, Tuesday, 30 January 2018 02:19 (four years ago) link

yeah apple is alllll hip hop

maura, Tuesday, 30 January 2018 03:28 (four years ago) link

Interesting. Thanks.

On a different subject-- the Grammys and rap --seems like its a catch 22 situation right now-- The voting membership and the academy head seem little interested in rap (and r'n'b). Even though many in the rap and r'n'b worlds (engineers, producers, artists ) could qualify to join the academy and could then vote, they probably don't consider it or want to, due to the way the genres get treated.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 30 January 2018 03:29 (four years ago) link

The gender issues too, of course.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 30 January 2018 03:30 (four years ago) link

ten months pass...

So taking a look at top 10 singles this year brought this whole thread and its assorted arguments to mind. Whatever the impacts of the various changes have been, it doesn't seem like marginalization of either hip-hop or black artists has been the effect in 2018: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Billboard_Hot_100_top-ten_singles_in_2018.

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Saturday, 15 December 2018 16:55 (three years ago) link

marginalization of the distortion pedal more like it.

nicky lo-fi, Saturday, 15 December 2018 19:23 (three years ago) link

not that I'm crying for it.

nicky lo-fi, Saturday, 15 December 2018 19:24 (three years ago) link

it's an interesting and unusual situation this year, and in the past couple of years in general. in one sense, black music is doing wonderful numbers, making lots of money for the industry, and placing prominently on the record charts, due in large part to its superlative performance on streaming services. but on the other hand, despite this fortune, the vast majority of black musicians, regardless of their level of success, are being kept at arm's length by top 40 radio -- white artists, meanwhile, continue to enjoy privileged access to airplay, not only if they record what reads as traditional-sounding 'pop' (max martin productions etc.) but also if they record music within the black idiom (post malone).

some figures to help illustrate: of the 39 singles to reach the top 10 of billboard's pop songs airplay chart this year, just 3 (7.7%) originated at black radio. in 2008, this figure was 16%, and in 1998 15%. (source: my own number-crunching, so unfortunately for now you'll have to take my word for it.)

to be clear, it's terrific that black artists don't need pop radio's support to do great business. at the same time, though, it must be beyond frustrating that when they do try to make those inroads, they often go nowhere:

Promotion is not the only challenge faced by non-white rappers. Anthony Saleh, who manages Future, said his team tried pushing “Mask Off” to pop radio but hit an immediate wall. “We spent real money (on promotion), and it didn’t work,” he says. “Pop radio doesn’t support us.”

("mask off" went quintuple-platinum and reached #5 on the hot 100 in 2017 but, despite this concerted push from his management, did not even crack the bottom of billboard's 40-position pop radio airplay chart.)

a concerning trend, for me, is not only that the gulf between the black and pop radio formats has widened, but also that pop radio (and, really, every format other than 'urban' and rhythmic) is delivering an image astonishingly racialized as non-black in recent years. in the past, one could be a black artist on pop radio without having to cross over from black radio! among 1998's pop top 10s, in addition to the 15% crossing from black radio, you also had janet jackson, will smith (multiple hits), and eagle-eye cherry delivering hits without strong (or any) r&b radio support. in 2008, in addition to the 16% from black radio, you had rihanna (multiple), ne-yo, estelle, sean kingston, wyclef jean, jordin sparks (multiple), chris brown (multiple), leona lewis (multiple), kardinal offishall, beyoncé, and akon delivering such hits.

in 2018, in addition to the 7.7% from black radio (two by drake, one by cardi b), the black artists pulling the same trick are halsey (lol) (multiple hits), the weeknd/kendrick (same hit), khalid/normani (khalid scored a second hit in collaboration w/ benny blanco and halsey), and juice wrld. but unlike in 2008 and 1998 when these artists were either breaking directly at pop radio or crossing from dance and rock formats, all of the 2018 batch crossed from rhythmic radio. this rhythmic-to-pop pathway in 2018 also served as the means by which numerous non-black artists scored their hits, including nf, g-eazy, bazzi, post malone, and dj khaled. this pathway was not so frequently exploited by non-black artists in the past: in 2008 colby o'donis and m.i.a. were the only non-black artists to do so, and in 1998 zero non-black artists did so.

what does all this mean? in addition to accepting much fewer hits from black radio, pop radio now accepts just as many hits from non-black artists from the one pathway available to black artists for crossover as it does black artists (and has ZERO pop-native hits by black artists unless you count fucking halsey). instead black artists are primarily valuable to the pop format in a subservient role as featured artists to help juice white pop artists' paltry streaming stats (and often enable the more racist of these stations to edit the guest verses out -- i know i've picked on maroon 5 a million times for this, but they are easily the most shameless offenders).

on some level, both top 40 radio and the wider industry know that consumption patterns are changing and would prefer if hits on the radio were also hits at the streaming services. there's only so many non-selling, non-streaming duds like max's "lights down low", lauv's "i like me better", nf's "lie" and bebe rexha's "i'm a mess" that they can keep taking a chance on if they want to hold onto their (declining) ratings, and i'm sure the labels aren't especially fond of having to work songs like this to radio for ages that can't even stream halfway decently in the end, even with all the exposure on the airwaves.

so, are black artists doing really well for themselves? absolutely. but is black music still being kept in its margin? without a doubt.

"sicko mode" just reached #1 on the hot 100 the other week. it's been a streaming monster ever since its debut months ago, and on the back of excellent rhythmic and black radio play, it even managed to reach the all-format radio songs top 10. but many pop stations, especially those with extra-tight playlists like the one in my midwestern city (which, for much of its history, was 'rhythmic-leaning'!), still are electing not to play the song AT ALL.

when it comes to closing the gap between what gets good radio audience feedback and what actually streams, the industry knows radio's sound is going to have to inch closer to the black idiom. but so far it seems they would much prefer that its olive-skinned, racially ambiguous white stars be doing that work. black artists? thank u, next!

dyl, Sunday, 16 December 2018 18:54 (three years ago) link

damn son - thnk you

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Sunday, 16 December 2018 21:46 (three years ago) link

Great analysis and explains the difference between what I hear on the local “pop” and “urban” stations. (And why my middle-school son will only listen to the urban station — it plays the stuff his peer group actually listens to.)

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Sunday, 16 December 2018 23:07 (three years ago) link

that’s a great post dyl and definitely something i’ve been thinking about since jingle ball, which included g-eazy (talk about white rappers having lower bars) and khalid — the latter of whom had the second best crowd reception after shawn mendes

maura, Sunday, 16 December 2018 23:49 (three years ago) link

terrific post dyl, thank you.

|Restore| |Restart| |Quit| (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 December 2018 03:43 (three years ago) link

x-post-- the DC Jingle Ball didn't even include Khalid. NY & LA got Cardi B on their Jingle ball shows.

curmudgeon, Monday, 17 December 2018 04:12 (three years ago) link

looks like Camila Cabello was also only on NY & LA jingle ball lineups. Virtually all white in many places

https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8479094/iheart-radio-jingle-ball-full-lineup-cardi-b-shawn-mendes-calvin-harris

curmudgeon, Monday, 17 December 2018 04:15 (three years ago) link

What percentage of the Billboard formula is assigned to streaming vs. radio, iTunes sales, CD sales and so on?

skip, Monday, 17 December 2018 06:10 (three years ago) link

camila was in boston

maura, Monday, 17 December 2018 11:30 (three years ago) link

xp it's been a while since billboard stated the specific target ratios they aim for but i would say that streaming accounts for maybe half of the hot 100's points lately. airplay accounts for less than streaming, but not by a whole lot. the influence of download sales trails far behind the other two metrics since their volume has declined so dramatically in recent years, though they are probably overrepresented compared to how (un)important they are as revenue-generators in today's industry. i believe physical sales still count technically but have a nearly negligible effect, as the physical singles market is essentially dead outside of record store day. for the albums chart things are different but, like, a cd sale counts the same as buying the album over itunes.

ty for the kind words y'all :)

dyl, Monday, 17 December 2018 14:29 (three years ago) link

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-rhythm-and-beats-state-of-rnb-20181214-htmlstory.html

The LA Times article cites this Billboard one-

https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8054003/hip-hop-rb-pop-radio-songs-crossover

Which also deals with these angles:

It may seem counterintuitive to radio outsiders, but Ken Johnson, vp of urban programming for Cumulus Media, believes that the downturn in crossover actually helps mainstream R&B/hip-hop stations. "On the urban side of the ball, I don't look for records to cross over, per se," he explains. "If they don't cross over, it benefits urban radio more. Listeners who are consumers of that music, if they're not getting that on top 40 radio, there's a few places they can still get it, and one of those is urban radio."

As to the reason behind fewer female acts at R&B/hip-hop radio and fewer crossover female acts, radio programmers suggest women are battling both a sexist music industry and the dominance of hip-hop, which rules urban radio but has rarely made room for multiple female artists. "Women have always had a more challenging time in this industry,"

curmudgeon, Monday, 17 December 2018 21:04 (three years ago) link

That LA Times article is fascinating (I’d been meaning to read it since it went up).

“I remember when R&B singers sang the song and the rappers did a hook. Now singers are just doing the hooks. And, actually, some rappers are doing the songs and the hooks,” R&B star Tamia says with a laugh.

underqualified backing vocalist (morrisp), Monday, 17 December 2018 21:43 (three years ago) link

Still have to read the whole series of articles

That one has the point Dyl made but with less specifics:

In fact, according to a survey Billboard released earlier this year, the volume of R&B and hip-hop songs crossing over to pop radio shrank dramatically between 1993 and 2016.

curmudgeon, Monday, 17 December 2018 22:20 (three years ago) link

Yeah I was actually waiting for the workweek to begin (today) to use this one as a listening guide: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-rhythm-and-beats-risk-taking-women-in-rnb-20181214-htmlstory.html

underqualified backing vocalist (morrisp), Monday, 17 December 2018 22:31 (three years ago) link

billboard does have a strict mathematical formula that applies to album equivalent units (https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8427967/billboard-changes-streaming-weighting-hot-100-billboard-200) that is meant to mimic the way there was diff monetary values attached to music back when people actually paid for music a la carte. my description there is lacking but it was explained to me by billboard's chart guy to me once & i still don't really get it exactly... but the way they divide streams now by paid vs ad supported is bcuz they see it as a way of having the current charts maintain some sort of historical integrity

i think the "formula" for the hot 100 as it were is fluid based on market consumption, but i think streams to airplay is like roughly a 60/40 ratio right now? you can see in gary trust's weekly stories about the hot 100 that the raw #s between spins and streams for major tracks are pretty similar, but the record breaking streaming weeks i.e. for "thank u next" or 'in my feelings") still hit #s that even huge airplay weeks can't touch. the big difference really is just that streams hit way faster..... songs w/ huge streaming numbers but no airplay regularly debut in the top 10 (the big songs off pretty much any major rap album nowadays), and if radio ever catches on then you end up w/ a giant smash--"lucid world" or "sicko mode" for instance. conversely a song w/ big airplay but relatively little streaming i.e. panic at the disco "high hopes" can also make it into the top 10 it's just an ascent that happens over much a more protracted period of time

J0rdan S., Monday, 17 December 2018 23:29 (three years ago) link

"lucid dreams" i mean obv

J0rdan S., Monday, 17 December 2018 23:31 (three years ago) link

record breaking streaming weeks i.e. for "thank u next" or 'in my feelings") still hit #s that even huge airplay weeks can't touch

this is a really good point! and it also reminds me: peak airplay audience numbers today don't even come close to what was being attained by the biggest airplay hits several years back. like, just to pick out huge airplay smashes from the past few years, along with what they were racking up at/near their peak (don't have exhaustive data saved)...

(2018) maroon 5 feat. cardi b "girls like you": 128 million audience impressions
(2017) ed sheeran "shape of you": 185 million
(2016) adele "hello": 170 million
(2015) mark ronson "uptown funk": 190 million
(2014) pharrell williams "happy": 226 million
(2013) robin thicke "blurred lines": 229 million

"girls like you" was the most-heard song in the country for 16 straight weeks -- no other song was even close to that this year (or, actually, most years in general). and yet its airplay peak still pales, by far, in comparison to what huge airplay smashes were pulling not too long ago. it's actually a pretty shocking decline over such a short period that i highly doubt is matched by decline in radio listenership overall.

it's worth noting that many of those radio mega-smashes did so well partly because they also got strong rhythmic and black radio play, whether they were crossing from urban to pop ("happy") or in the other direction ("hello", "uptown funk"). given the extent to which rhythmic and black radio hits are being isolated to those two formats, it stands to reason that big airplay hits will continue to have a fairly modest reach compared to where they were a few years ago. and since streaming services are still growing i can't help but wonder if we will reach a point when the top streaming hits each week are consistently, rather than sporadically as it is now, being heard more than the top radio hits.

dyl, Tuesday, 18 December 2018 01:12 (three years ago) link

isn't the reduction in peak airplay impressions also a result of time spent with the radio each week being down - even though weekly reach is still essentially flat?

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 18 December 2018 08:39 (three years ago) link

yeah that would certainly contribute

dyl, Wednesday, 19 December 2018 02:34 (three years ago) link

So what are the demographics on all of this? I have a totally anecdotal sense that the top 40 station in my town is mostly targeted at 25-45 year old white women, which would definitely explain a lack of hip-hop crossover. Their morning DJs are in their 40s and spend a lot of time talking about their kids.

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 19 December 2018 02:55 (three years ago) link

Whereas the urban station has no morning show at all and just plays Drake-Migos-Drake-Cardi-Drake-Malone etc.

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 19 December 2018 02:56 (three years ago) link

Part of the problem may be in thinking of pop stations as mainstream and urban stations as something lesser, when they're actually both just niches. (Even if one niche is say 40 percent larger in its reach than the other.)

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 19 December 2018 02:58 (three years ago) link

So what are the demographics on all of this? I have a totally anecdotal sense that the top 40 station in my town is mostly targeted at 25-45 year old white women, which would definitely explain a lack of hip-hop crossover. Their morning DJs are in their 40s and spend a lot of time talking about their kids.

― a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Tuesday, December 18, 2018 9:55 PM (yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

music played in public spaces and offices

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Wednesday, 19 December 2018 20:06 (three years ago) link

I think some suburban white kids listen to top 40 stations in the car

curmudgeon, Thursday, 20 December 2018 15:38 (three years ago) link

damn kids

Is there any campaign to, at least, stop radio stations editing out black musicians' verses? It's such a shit petty thing to do.

(Or maybe a campaign to ban Maroon 5 like China did)

sbahnhof, Sunday, 23 December 2018 19:52 (three years ago) link

i'm not aware of any organized campaigns to improve radio programming decisions (obv i'm not counting label promotions promo campaigns or online stans' requesting campaigns)

lol i actually wrote an email to one of the two top 40 stations in my city when it aired an edit of fifth harmony's "work from home" with ty dolla $ign edited out. (the edit just replaced his section with eight bars of the girls going "work. work. work. work. ...") basically i said that there was no logically consistent rationale that could explain the conscious erasure of his voice from their programming other than his proximity to (black) hip-hop culture + said that was very shitty and says a lot about what they think of their audience (in more eloquent words lol).

they forwarded it to one of the music directors (who i think is now assistant pd) who actually wrote back. basically she gave a canned response of 'thank you for the thoughtful criticism, we make all of our programming decisions on a case-by-case basis and respond to listener feedback' but also said things specifically about hip-hop that made it clear that she actually read/sorta-understood where my argument was coming from lol

dyl, Sunday, 23 December 2018 21:05 (three years ago) link

that was two years ago when "work from home" was big

dyl, Sunday, 23 December 2018 21:05 (three years ago) link

basically top 40 is doing all the things today that used to be expected from hot ac stations: editing out rap (or just black) guest vocals, playing more songs that make labels little money thru direct consumer behavior (downloads + streaming) but still 'test well' in passive audience research while accepting less black crossover, formulating a mix that mom and daughter can both listen to in the car or that can be put on in a waiting room, etc.

of course hot ac still does all these things as well which means that lately sometimes the only way to tell the difference between stations of each format is the taglines, lol

dyl, Sunday, 23 December 2018 21:16 (three years ago) link


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