The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 1, 2013

Jeremiah Tucker: New Billboard formula to credit YouTube views

JOPLIN, Mo. — If you've liked how come-from-nowhere singles such as "Call Me Maybe," "Gangnam Style" and "Thrift Shop" have topped the charts, then you'll be pleased that the trend is likely to continue.

Last week the venerable Billboard Hot 100, the magazine's singles chart followed by the music industry for 55 years, announced it would begin incorporating YouTube plays into its ranking formula.

The week after Billboard announced the change, Baauer's "Harlem Shake" -- a song that had almost zero traction until it became a viral phenomenon after thousands of people began sharing YouTube videos of themselves dancing to it -- went from being uncharted to the official No. 1 song in the country.

Billboard factored streaming services and digital downloads in its rankings for years, so including YouTube is the next logical step in making the chart relevant and reflective of how people consume music now. The only downside is a parade of sticky novelty songs with little value outside their accompanying online videos could top the chart.

Consider for a moment that if this rule had been in place in 2011, Rebecca Black's "Friday" would've likely been a No. 1 single.

Personally, I primarily use the Internet for consuming professionally created content and mostly avoid the trends where everyone posts their version of a popular meme.

For instance, I never watched any of the million cover versions of "Call Me Maybe" posted to YouTube, and I've similarly avoided all the "Harlem Shake" videos. Ideally, I would prefer if a song charts on its own merits, not because it's what all the kids are planking to these days.

But in this respect, I recognize that I am simply a grump. And, fundamentally, a song skyrocketing in popularity because people interact with it on YouTube is no different than songs about the mashed potato and the twist being churned out in the '60s to ride the latest dance craze.

FYI, my favorite viral video of 2012 was the non-music related "My Video for Briona" in which a suave, sophisticated teenager spits some tight game to his girl via webcam.

And on the plus side, factoring in YouTube plays should level the playing field, giving bands with little money but a lot of creativity and online marketing savvy a shot at the top of the charts.

Also, it will mean Justin Bieber will likely -- finally -- get his first No. 1 single. The Biebs had the most watched YouTube video of all time and has still never charted higher than second place. Everybody wins!

While it will be fun to watch how this change plays out, I suspect the Billboard Hot 100 will be filled with what it always has: a mix of dreck and gems.

 

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