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POPAGOGO: How The Top 40 Radio Hits Are Tracked

Written by on 23/04/2018

How The Top 40 Radio Hits Are Tracked

In the music recording industry, a song track’s popularity is determined by the interest in the song as expressed by listener radio requests and song sales. The Top 40 is a well known method of measuring the popularity of music tracks over a specified time period, which can be anywhere from a week to a year.

early daysTop 40 play back became a dominant radio format during the 1960′s and persisted until the 1980′s. You can always find your favorite Top 40 music on internet radio.

You may be wondering how Top 40 works. What is the process and how does a song make it to the Top 40? We will attempt to explain it to you.

Each week, the 100 most popular songs are put into a chart by Billboard. Billboard chart placement is determined by sampling songs for airplay time and sales. The Top 40 songs are subsequently taken from the chart compiled by Billboard.

Airplay is the first process in determining the songs to be included in the Top 40. Broadcast Data Systems (BDS), run by Neilsen, keeps track of the airplay. BDS makes use of digital pattern recognition technology to determine the airplay time of each song on music channels and radio stations throughout North America. This recognition process is run 24/7 and captures over 100 million songs annually; the data gathered is then used by Billboard in compiling weekly charts.

The second process used in determining the Top 40 songs is monitoring the sales of albums in music stores. To track sales, Billboard then uses Sound Scan, another technology developed by Neilsen that keeps track of record sales all over the US and Canada. When an album has been purchase , sales  barcode reader data is checked by “Sound Scan System” the archived data will be processed and weekly shown on the charts.

The way the various data are weighted in Top 40 determination has changed over the years. In the past, they were using 90% airplay and 10% sales to determine the top songs. Now, they use 80% airplay and 20% sales because of shifting trends in how many people listen to radio versus how many people actually purchase singles. You can search for the Top 40 via online radio.

The goal of most recording artists is to sell music, and for the music to sell it must get a lot of air time. Once a song hits the Top 40 list, a massive rise in album sales is generally guaranteed. Top 40 has been a measuring stick for album sales and the trend will likely continue.

Not making the Top 40 does not say that your success rate as an artist will be low. Not all musicians are after big sales after all. Some are happy making a living and enjoying the artistic aspect of their craft.

The Top 40 concept in radio is a clear cut way of knowing whether a musician’s career as a popular recording artist is succeeding, receding or stagnant.


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