Accurate charting, cheaply

Back to our charting discussion: David Bruce Murray has a fairly innovative idea for ways to track chart data inexpensively and more or less reliably using iTunes. Check it out here and here. I’ll leave it up to people who actually do this sort of thing for a living to say whether or not it’s a workable idea, but it seems at least as good as the “trust me” approach that currently prevails.

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  1. Musicscribe Blog » Compiling Accurate Chart Data With iTunes on 18 Nov 2007 at 1:25 pm

    […] (Sunday, November 18): In a comment at Averyfineline, Charles Brady makes the point that big market stations must be more heavily […]


  1. Charles Brady wrote:

    From a recent Editorial….

    Why measuring spins is not an accurate way to measure a songs success.

    As a very interested student of the charting systems and the way radio stations reported their charts and the way charts are compiled I have a couple thoughts on the discussion of the so called “chart reformation” period we are entering.

    I spent the better part of 2004 & 2005 doing some covert investigation of the charting system and I talked with over a hundred people collecting notes & compiling information gleamed from some very interesting discussions. My purpose was to create a charting system that was accurate as well as believable for our online publications.

    I spoke with folks from record labels & DJs and program directors and station owners and artists. During those discussions I tried to identify several key elements. Things like:

    What is the real purpose of the chart?
    What are the major flaws in the current charting system?
    What is being measured?
    What systems are being used to report?
    How accurate is the reporting from the source
    How accurate are the measuring systems being used
    How current is the information when made public
    Who is doing the measuring?
    Who is doing the reporting?
    Who is doing the compiling of the reports?
    Who are the users of chart?

    What I learned was that we had a very outdated charting system that allowed easy manipulation and lacked any real credible weighting system for real accuracy. The biggest problem I uncovered in the whole charting process was that market size was never factored into the process in any real and meaningful way. And that is why counting spins alone for the sake of charting will not yield accurate results. On the surface it sounds like a simple solution but it doesn’t even come close to meeting the real needs of the end users of the charting systems like bookstores who rely on the information for ordering music that they hope to sell and not have to return to the distributors.

    I honestly think that part of the reason Southern Gospel has failed to maintain shelf space in many bookstores is that we do not have a currently reliable system for this measuring that gives an accurate picture of the popularity of a particular song. (One of the major needs of an accurate chart that I identified in my personal investigation.)

    Counting spins alone is in reality no different than the old Top 20 reporting method where the station PD submits a list of their Top 20 songs and those songs are given a point system that then determines the chart for that period. The number 1 songs are given a certain number of points and then the remaining 19 songs on a descending scale are given points.

    Here is the fatal flaw in that system or the counting spins system of reporting. Let’s take 2 stations. One a large market FM radio station with say 20,000 listeners and one small market AM station with 500 listeners.

    Station 1 - Reports “Amazing Grace” with 50 spins
    Station 2 – Reports “I’ve Been a Good Boy” with 100 spins

    In a spin counting system “I’ve Been a Good Boy” was played 100 times and “Amazing Grace” was played 50 times. So based on spins the clear Number 1 song is “I’ve Been a Good Boy.”

    Yet in reality (the world we need to be operating in) that is not an accurate measurement at all. 100 spins x 500 listeners at Station #2 gives the song a total exposure of 50,000. Only 3 spins at Station 1 would have exceeded the total exposure of the 100 spins at Station 2.

    Station 1 at 50 spins yields a total exposure of 1,000,000 (one million)
    Station 2 at 100 spins yields a total exposure of just 50,000

    So as an end user of charting information do we order 20 copies of Amazing Grace (charted at number 10 under the spin counting system) and then 100 copies of I’ve Been a Good Boy” the current Number 1 Smash Hit according to the XYZ Chart?

    Developing an accurate & timely chart is possible. But you must build it based on a fair weighting system that takes the size of the listening audience into account as well as the number of spins each song receives. It is the development and maintaining of that weighting system that is the real challenge for our industry.

    Charles Brady
    Caraway Media Group

  2. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    I agree fully with Charles that the data must be weighted depending on the size of the station’s market. Joy-FM of Winston-Salem, NC’s numbers mean a whole lot more to the chart than a tiny AM station with 500 devoted listeners. Any chart that expects to be credible should reflect that reality of scale.

    For a chart to mean anything, though, you have to start with each station reporting real spins. My whole point was that even at the “poor radio station” (poor as in “no money”) level, this CAN be accomplished. There is no excuse for not turning in actual spin data in the 21st century. We have the technology, and it’s free.


    You obviously aren’t practicing what you preach when compiling your own chart.

    Both the number one song AND the number two song on your monthly Radioactive chart at this very moment is by a group called “The Rarely Herd.”

    Considering your article above, that’s ironic on more levels than I have time to explore right now.

    How could anyone possibly take your chart seriously when you would have us believe that more stations are playing not one, but two songs by The Rarely Herd more than any other group in Southern Gospel…and not just for one isolated week, but an entire month?????

  3. Charles Brady wrote:


    We stopped having an airplay measuring chart at the Southern Gospel.Com almost a year ago because after 16 months it became too much work with no real advantage to continue it. The Radioactive Chart only measures the initial interest of DJs in new releases. It takes nothing else into consideration and we have never promoted it as anything other than an early indicator of a songs potential future success.

    We are not measuring airplay or popularity among anyone other than the response to the song from the DJs and PDs.

    The Radioactive Chart is no more an accurate measurement of the current success of a song than any other chart in southern gospel is : ) But it sure does let us know what the DJs seem to like and it’s always been my thought that DJs will often play what they like.

    As to The Rarely Herd? Great refreshing music that is catching on and it will be several months before we know the other charting results of their music. (One must consider the very long time before airplay results show up in the current charting systems)

    A good example would be the Hoppers song “He Erased It.” It debuted at Number 1 on the Radioactive Chart on December 5th (2006) but it didn’t peak on the SN Chart until June 2007 at Number 2.

    It’s an apples and oranges comparison.

    Charles Brady
    Caraway Media Group

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