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Smackdown: Pop Charts

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Last week, the Billboard charts met their first real challenger. The Ultimate Chart is a list that ranks artists and singles not just by sales and airplay, but also by their status on streaming services and social networks. Eric Garland, chief executive of the Ultimate Chart’s parent company BigChampagne, joins us to explain the chart’s genesis. Then: in a Soundcheck Smackdown, critics debate whether any pop chart can quantify success in the digital age. Guests include Maura Johnston, music writer and blogger, and Bill Wyman, editor of the blog Hitsville and former arts editor of NPR and

Today's Playlist:

1. Justin Bieber - Baby

2. Shakira - Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)

3. Eminem ft. Rihanna - Love the Way You Lie

4. Elton John - Candle in the Wind (1997 version)

5. Jonathan Coulton - Code Monkey

6. Christina Aguilera - Not Myself Tonight


Eric Garland, Maura Johnston and Bill Wyman

Comments [9]

Ted in Atl. from Casey Kasem Fanclub

AC/Queens - yeah that is a good point. I read years ago a fanzine young contributor laughing about how The Eagles or Santana or something was still at the top of the charts. She said that's such a joke, because only old people pay money to buy music any more, therefore the aged-appealing acts “led” the chart when they only made up a miniscule portion of what was really being consumed.

Now that even the very old and very young and people of any socio-economic level likely have access to illegal mp3 files, it would be kind of nice if in fact the supportive fans could buoy the position of acts they find compelling and authentic, simply by paying for them.

Finally, I am surprised that it took Sondre to mention the importance of the charts to a kid. I was thinking about the great wait each week for Sunday afternoon and the American Top 40 countdown, with Kasem. It was every bit as competitive as a Braves game to see if your favorite song would make the chart or even get into the top 10… high drama and anticipation each week waiting for the all-important countdown to see who would win.

Jul. 27 2010 03:08 PM
Marc from Denver

Hey there,

Great show, but your discussion is very much a situation of the blind leading the blind to a typewriter.

I will be frank - "You are clearly not aware of the environment or technology involved".

Software like Ableton, Mashine, Serato, Traktor, Max, Melodyne DNA, and so on are allowing us as DJs, digital performers, and traditional "bands" to integrate music form the pop charts (or where ever) into out music in real time. We enjoy exacting control and the performance is very much on a new level.

An example : when I listen to music or go to a club over the course of 5 minutes I may hear elements of 30 songs.

A beat form here, a bass line from there, original music composed on the fly or cued, another chorus, some classic rock, etc.

The pop charts can not track this type of play.

Indeed, this is a product of our short attention span and digital nature.

Many people have rethought the album, song, record label and charts. We now use larger ideas such as "Set" where I perform an evenings worth of material from hundreds of sources including the aforementioned charts, original material, etc.

I work, teach, and advocate for this new level of music expression (electronic in nature).

The technology is astounding, my demonstrations and installations as well as performance are no less than futuristic in nature. At the same time I am emulating ideas from the past 70 years.

Again, good show. I look forward ANYONE willing to dive into what is really happening.
The technology listed above is in every studio, club, and musicians computer. Why is it that no one is addressing what is happening on the streets? Instead you dedicate 30 minutes to old technology (charts) with commentary more at home on Fox news.

Ready to open it up here / at your disposal.

Jul. 27 2010 02:53 PM
Cam from SoHo

As a lover of every sort of genre, I find that sales charts dont help introduce me to new or inspiring music. For instance, when I peruse iTunes, their banner advertises 'Countdown to M.I.A' or 'Nickelback Pre-Sale' and when their albums are released they top the iTune charts (essentially, who pays the most for publicity wins the iTunes charts) whereas a site such as Pitchfork wont even touch these albums or will give them a dead honest rating that couldnt even hold a match to what they deem 'chart worthy'. To each his own I suppose, but charts seem to play the money game with who is more marketable, not what sounds best.

Jul. 27 2010 02:31 PM
bob from bayridge

what is wrong with

Jul. 27 2010 02:30 PM
Liz from New Jersey

I disagree that there was no rival to Billboard until now. For 30 years, The Gavin Report provided the most representative data on what radio stations were playing and had a much larger sample than Billboard. But it was a trade publication for program directors, not a news stand publication.

Jul. 27 2010 02:27 PM
AC from Queens

Great observation about the critically acclaimed charting very well. Personally that indicates that the true music fan who buys still exists and wants to support their act will do so by buying it. Furthermore most of the old garbage topping the charts before were apart of a chrowd mentality where people would buy to hear it not be left out of the conversation. Thouse people can do it now-all for free via the internet!

Jul. 27 2010 02:27 PM
Ted in Atlanta from hell, apparently

I always wondered what the "alternative" to the miserable pop radio hit list would be, when you take into account all the active listeners everywhere in all genres. Now I am sorry I asked!

Jul. 27 2010 02:17 PM
Mike C. from Tribeca

Without sales charts how would the Grammys know who to award as the "best"?

Jul. 27 2010 01:58 PM
John from Manhattan

Charts schmarts. Regardless of how you assess it, what you’ll get is the least common denominator and nothing that relates to quality. Just look at any yearly Billboard chart from say, 40 years ago and you’ll see the hideous disconnect between what topped the charts and those songs with real staying power.

Jul. 27 2010 01:50 PM

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