Billboard magazine is frequently considered to be the music industry's Bible. Billboard has been the recognized authority in charting the popularity of music for over half a century. Charts have been created for nearly every type of music commonly listened to in the U.S. This article gives instructions of how to read and understand the primary pop music charts produced by Billboard. The orgin of the chart, data used in putting the chart together, and potential biases of the chart are all discussed.
The Hot 100
The predecessors to the Hot 100 began in the 1940's. A number of charts including "Best Sellers In Stores" and "Most Played In Jukeboxes" were combined to form the Hot 100 on August 4, 1958. For decades this chart was considered the music industry authority for the most popular pop singles. It was the chart used by American Top 40 to create its weekly radio show from 1970 to 1995.
The Hot 100 for much of its existence has used data from sales of singles and radio airplay to put the chart together. Traditionally, the Hot 100 only charted singles released commercially as a 45 or later a cassette or CD single. On December 5, 1998, with pressure from much of the industry, Billboard allowed songs to reach the chart based only on radio airplay. With this change, the Hot 100 became a chart of songs, not singles. More recently, sales of digitally downloaded songs have been added to the formula for generating the Hot 100.
By the beginning of the new century, many fans and members of the music industry became concerned that the Hot 100 had become biased in favor of r&b and hip hop music. It was becoming more and more difficult for rock and mainstream pop songs to do well on the Hot 100 due to changes in radio airplay formulations that favored r&b and hip hop music. For example, in 2004 all of the #1 songs on the Hot 100 were performed by r&b or hip hop artists. Many in the music industry argued that pop is a specific genre of music (See What Is Pop Music?), not just shorthand for what is most popular. To address the concern, in February 2005 Billboard created the Pop 100. Some in the music industry believed that the chart had been created in an effort to re-segregate popular music based on race. In June 2009 Billboard ended the Pop 100 leaving the Hot 100 once again to be the authoritative chart on the overall popularity of singles. For those interested specifically in mainstream pop music, Billboard suggested they follow the Mainstream Top 40 radio chart.