Chapter 1: A Little History Of Billboard Magazine

Headquartered in New York City, New York, and currently owned by the Goggenheim Partners LLC Global Financial Services Firm, Billboard Magazine was originally started in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 1 1884 by William H. Donalson and James Hennegan.

Established as Billboard Advertising, and intended for the bill posting industry, Billboard Magazine has become highly regarded as one of the oldest trade magazines in the world.  Billboard Advertising specialized in providing news pertaining to circuses, amusement parks, fairs, carnivals, whale shows, minstrels, vaudeville, motion pictures, and the radio industry.  Billboard Magazine’s first music charting connections began with its sheet music best sellers and top songs in vaudeville theaters charts that were originally published in 1913 but not on a regular basis.

It was during the 1930s, when the jukebox industry began, that Billboard Magazine started publishing their music charts, one for Pop Music, one for Rhythm and Blues Music, and one for Country and Western Music.  Billboard Magazine would also carry rating charts for television programs, as well as news about fairs, theme parks, carnivals, and other forms of outdoor entertainment until moving them into their Amusement Business Magazine in 1961.  A publication that ceased after its May 2006 issue.

That same year Billboard Advertising would change its name to Billboard Music Week, an issue that was almost entirely dedicated to the music industry, with minimal coverage of entertainment machines and coin-operated vending machines found on its jukebox pages.  In 1963 the magazine’s name was changed again to Billboard, and in 2005 Billboard and its websites started coverage of digital and mobile entertainment as well.

Created by Michael Fine and Michael Shalett Billboard Magazine provides more than 100 internationally-recognized record charts of many musical categories, and the magazine’s two primary charts, known as the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard 200, rank top songs and albums no matter what musical genre they are in based on radio airplay, digital downloads, and internet streaming, with the Neilsen SoundScan Tracking System supplying most of the data the magazine bases its song ranking charts on.

Known as the official means of tracking sales of music and music video products throughout the United States and Canada the Neilsen SoundScan Tracking System collects data every week and makes it available on Wednesdays to subscribers of the system that include television companies, film makers, music retailers, publishing companies, record companies, Artist Managers, all major and many Independent Record labels, music distribution companies, Booking Agents, concert promoters, online retailers, digital delivery companies, music venue owners, and disk jockeys.  The Neilsen SoundScan Tracking System was first used in this capacity on March 1, 1991 with the May 25, 1991 Billboard Country Albums Chart, and the Billboard 200, being the first ones published under this method.  On November 30, 1991 the Billboard Hot 100 joined the fun as well.

In order to track the sales of music the Neilsen SoundScan Tracking System tracks data from approximately 14,000 cash register outlets in mass merchant, retail, online stores, digital music services, and various venues in the United States, England, Japan, and Canada.  These stores must have a point of sale (POS) inventory system and Internet access.  Sales data submitted from these stores to the Neilsen SoundScan Tracking System must be in a text file form with all the Universal Product Codes sold and the quantities per UPC every week.  To be included in the Wednesday release from the Neilsen SoundScan Tracking System these sales figures must be either in a Monday to Sunday or a Sunday to Saturday weekly format.

Billboard published its first Hit Parade on January 4, 1936, and its first record chart on July 20, 1940.  The Billboard Hot 100, the standard Singles popularity chart of the music industry in America, that ranks songs based on radio airplay, sales, and online streaming was first issued on August 4, 1958 with “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson its first Number 1 song.  The Billboard Hot 100 has also had more than 1,000 different Number 1 songs in its history.

Many different charts are compiled into the calculation of the Billboard Hot 100 with the Hot Singles Sales Chart that provides top selling songs from a National sampling of mass merchants, retail stores, and Internet sales submitted by the Neilsen SoundScan Tracking System, the Hot 100 Airplay of more than 1,000 Rhythm and Blues, Adult Contemporary, Rock, Gospel, Hip-Hop, Latin, Christian, and Country radio stations, along with audience impressions and Arbitron listener data, Hot Digital Songs as tracked by Neilsen, streaming songs of the top on-demand videos, and streamed radio songs as collaborated between the Neilsen SoundScan Tracking System, Billboard, and the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, providing a large quantity of input into the Billboard Hot 100.

Premeiring on August 17, 1963 the Billboard 200 ranks the highest selling Extended Plays and record albums in the United States based only on retail and digital sales of these medias.  Billboard Magazine’s first Best Selling Popular Albums Chart debuted on March 24, 1956 with the onset of Rock and Roll Music, and Harry Belafonte’s album “Belafonte” became the first Number 1 album on the chart.  Some of the highlights of he Billboard 200, that was created on March 14, 1992, include Pink Floyd’s album known as Dark Side of the Moon spent 835 weeks on the chart which is by far more weeks on the Billboard albums charts than any other album has, Michael Bolton’s Time, Love & Tenderness was the first Number 1 album of the Nielsen SoundScan Era on the chart, Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was the first album to debut at Number 1 on the chart, Whitney Houston’s album Whitney made her the first female Performer to debut at Number 1 on the chart, the Extended Play “Jar Of Flies,” by Alice In Chains, was the first Number 1 Extended Play on the chart, at 54 weeks the Soundtrack from West Side Story has spent the most weeks in the Number 1 position on the chart, The Beatles have spent 132 weeks at Number 1, more time than any other Artist has achieved on the chart, they also have the most consecutive number of albums on the chart, and the most Number 1 albums on the Billboard 200 as well.

Billboard presents annual music awards based on year-end chart performances as determined by the Nielsen SoundScan Tracking System for number of sales, total airplay, and online downloads, with the Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and New Artist of the Year its most important categories.  Billboard also presents awards in different genres of music and has the Icon Award as its highest honor for creative achievement.