Chapter 2: Lets Talk About The Country Music Charts

Billboard Magazine has used several charts since May 15, 1948, when their first chart known as the “Best Selling Retail Folk Records Chart,” that held anywhere from ten to twenty positions on it, a number that varied every week, was begun to rank the popularity of Country Music.

On December 10, 1949 the “Country and Western Records Most Played By Folk Disk Jockeys Chart,” that held between eight to fifteen positions on it, was used by Billboard Magazine as a means of ranking Country Music songs.

By 1956 the name of this chart was changed to the “Most Played Country and Western In Juke Boxes Chart” that ended on June 17, 1957, while the other two charts ended on October 13, 1958.

With the October 20, 1958 issue Billboard Magazine started combining radio airplay and total sales of a song to compile the song’s popularity and rated them on its “Hot Country and Western Sides Chart” that contained thirty positions every week.  The name of this chart was eventually changed by Billboard Magazine to the “Hot Country Singles Chart” on November 3, 1962 and would expand from 50 positions to 75 positions, and finally 100 positions on January 11, 1954, October 15, 1966, and July 14, 1973 respectively.

The “Hot Country Singles Chart” was scaled back to 75 positions by Billboard Magazine on January 20, 1990 and the popularity of Country Music songs was provided by data collected from the Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems that electronically monitor the number of spins and detections of television, Internet, and radio airplay of songs.  And, because of its accuracy of detecting, monitoring, and tracking the Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems are the radio and music industry standards.  They have also helped many radio-only songs become the Number 1 Hit on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

On February 17, 1990 the “Hot Country Singles Chart” became the “Hot Country Singles and Tracks Chart” and was scaled back to 60 positions by Billboard Magazine on January 13, 1961, then this chart’s name was changed to the “Hot Country Songs Chart” on April 30, 2005.

In 1990 Billboard Magazine began ranking Country Music songs based on the listener data of radio audiences collected by the Arbitron System, that through a centralized statistical computer and leased lines to viewers homes, gave instant ratings data on the television programs people were watching.  The Arbitron System also used random samples of the populations of about 294 metropolitan areas around the United States, a paper diary service two to four times a year, that produce what the radio industry refers to as the Arbitron Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Books, and the Portable People Meter Electronic Audience Measurement Service daily, a wearable device that electronically collects inaudible codes identifying the source of a broadcast.  These estimates are used by radio stations, various agencies, and advertisers as the buy and sell gauge of music.

The Arbitron System also uses what are known as Arbitrends that contain information in three month blocks.  Then, after the Arbitron information is collected it is sent to radio networks, radio broadcasters, advertisers, advertising agencies, cable companies, the online radio industry, and out-of-home advertising companies.  These major rating products provide these outlets valuable information including the average number of people listening in any given 15 minute time period, the amount of time they spend listening, the cumulative number of unique listeners over a period of time, and the market breakdown of listeners by their gender, their race, their ethnicity, and their age.  Arbitron is currently owned by the Nielsen Holdings N.V. Global Information and Measurement Company in New York City, New York, and is now known as Nielsen Audio.  In January 1995 Billboard Magazine stopped using Arbitron to rank the popularity of Country Music songs and once again used the audience listening format it had used before.

On October 20, 2012 the “Hot Country Singles and Tracks Chart” was changed by Billboard to match the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and used streaming data, as well as digital downloads with airplay from all genres of radio, to determine a song’s chart position.

And the “Country Airplay Chart” was also created at that time by Billboard Magazine that uses airplay only from Country Music radio stations to determine where any given song is ranked.