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.


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.