31st Post: Billboard Ratings


How are the artists ratings determined?

Data for Billboard‘s sales charts, which include all album charts are compiled by Nielsen Music/MRC Data from a universe of retailers that represents more than 90% of the U.S. music retail market.

The sample includes not only music stores and the music departments at electronics and department stores, but also direct-to-consumer transactions and Internet sales (both physical albums via Internet, and ones bought via digital downloads). A limited array of verifiable sales from concert venues is also tabulated. All sales charts use the entire Nielsen Music/MRC Data panel.

The Nielsen Music/MRC Data system utilizes that same point-of-sale that music merchants use to track their inventory, so an itemized receipt from one’s last visit to a music retailer essentially doubles as a ballot cast for our charts.


Billboard‘s radio charts are compiled using information tracked by Nielsen Music/MRC Data, which electronically monitors radio stations in more than 140 markets across the U.S. The Nielsen Music/MRC Data system looks for an audio fingerprint, i.e. a characteristic that differentiates a song from all of the other ones that it tracks.

Certain airplay charts are based on the number of plays that each song received in a given format that week, including Mainstream Top 40/Pop Songs, Adult Contemporary, Adult Top 40/Adult Pop Songs, Alternative Songs, Triple A/Adult Alternative Songs, Mainstream Rock Songs, Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop, Rhythmic Songs, Adult R&B Songs, Christian Airplay, Christian AC Songs, Gospel Songs, Dance/Mix Show Airplay and Smooth Jazz Songs. Others are based on audience impressions, including Radio Songs, Rock Airplay, Country Airplay, R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, Rap Airplay and Latin Airplay.

The audience charts cross-reference Nielsen Music/MRC Data information with listener information compiled by the Nielsen Audio ratings system to determine the approximate number of audience impressions made for each play. Thus, a song that plays at 4 a.m. does not count as much as one played at 4 p.m., and a station with a large audience will influence the chart more than either a station in a smaller market or one with a specialized format that attracts less audience.

With few exceptions, stations tracked for Billboard by Nielsen Music/MRC Data are commercial stations.


Billboard‘s Streaming Songs chart ranks the week’s top streamed radio songs and on-demand songs and videos on leading online music services. On-Demand Songs ranks the top on-demand play requests and plays from listener-controlled radio channels on leading music subscription services.


While many Billboard charts are either purely streaming-, radio- or sales-based, we mingle that data on a selection of charts: The Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot R&B Songs, Hot Rap Songs, Hot Country Songs, Hot Rock Songs, Hot Latin Songs, Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, Hot Christian Songs and Hot Gospel Songs (as well as the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under chart, which ranks the top 25 titles that have not yet reached the Hot 100).

We use these three pools of data because while the consumer’s decision to purchase or stream is a significant vote of popularity, singles have a job that extends beyond being a sales vehicle: to capture radio play and, hopefully, stimulate album sales.


Other Billboard charts are base on data from different sources.

The Social 50 is powered by data tracked by music analytics company Next Big Sound and ranks the most popular artists on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Wikipedia. The chart’s methodology blends weekly additions of friends/fans/followers with artist page views and engagement.

Dance Club Songs is compiled from reports from a nationwide panel of club DJs, detailing the tracks that elicit the most audience response.

Smooth Jazz Songs combines airplay data from stations monitored by Nielsen Music/MRC Data with those that submit playlist reports online.


Generally, charts reflect sales and airplay between Friday and Thursday of any given week. Mixed-data charts, such as the Billboard Hot 100, also use an airplay cycle of Monday through Saturday.

Charts are refreshed every Tuesday on Billboard.com and reflect the date of the Billboard issue in which they appear; online-only charts display the same corresponding date.

The printed magazine first reaches newsstands on Saturday. Each issue is dated based on the end of its publication week. Thus, the Billboard that reaches newsstands on Saturday, March 19, for example, is dated that day.

Maybe, back in the 50s and 60s, these types of sources of data were not as accurate as they are today? It is for this reason that one might question the ratings given to a specific song. While re-listening to hundreds of songs while working on this project, I will offer up eleven examples that you might have thought the songs deserved a higher rating:

Photo credit: facetofaceafrica.com
“In the Midnight Hour” – Rated No19
https://youtu.be/FGVGFfj7POA (RQ 10)
Photo credit: twitter.com
“Stand By Your Man” Rated No17
https://youtu.be/AM-b8P1yj9w (RQ 10+)
Photo credit: Pinterest – Time Out
“The Tracks of My Tears” Rated No16
(RQ 10+)
Photo credit: surfadelic2.wordpress.com
“Jenny Take a Ride” Rated No10
https://youtu.be/P6s60SForJM (RQ 9)
Photo credit: npg.org.uk
“Go Now” Rated No10
(https://youtu.be/V2L3UzM_FfE) (RQ 8)
Photo credit: discogs.com
“Sunday Will Never Be The Same” Rated No9
https://youtu.be/Wqw1MGEHKNE (RQ 10+)
Photo credit: youdiscovermusic.com
“It’s Not Unusual” Rated No8
https://youtu.be/k-HdGnzYdFQ (RQ 10+)
Photo credit: waybackattack.com
“Walk Don’t Run” Rated No8
https://youtu.be/owq7hgzna3E (RQ 5)
Photo credit: greatsong.net
“Release Me” Rated No7
https://youtu.be/gB-szamMr6s (RQ 10+)
Photo credit: bbc.com
“Brown-Eyed Girl” Rated No7
https://youtu.be/UfmkgQRmmeE (RQ 10+)
Photo credit: booklistreader.com
“I Say a Little Prayer” Rated No7
(https://youtu.be/7Ifw8JhDBvs) (RQ 10+)