People that use Twitter mostly to argue about music (everybody): here is some news for you!
Last week Twitter and Billboard announced that they will be partnering up to create the Billboard Twitter Real-Time Chart, which will trace the most talked about and shared tracks in real-time as well as over more extended periods. The hope is that it’ll help organise the noise around music into something accessible, acting as a barometer for cultural conversation. Kind of like what happened during the Arab Spring, except instead of fighting for civil rights and political transparency, people will be fighting over which Taylor Swift chorus is the best (spoiler alert: it’s ALL OF THEM).
Joining the 200 (yes, a mega TWO HUNDY) other kinds of official charts that Billboard has, the Real-Time Chart will “reshape for consumers and the industry the way music success is measured.” Basically, it’s a more on-point replacement for TwitterMusic – an app that let users discover music through Twitter activity and then re-directed to Spotify and other services. It was killed off in March, presumably because nobody knew it existed (it launched this time last year and dropped to No. 165 in the free music apps by October).
It’s difficult to tell how popular the Real-Time Chart will be, given that the fate of free music services is pretty much hanging in the balance at the moment. Angela Watercutter writes in Wired, “Eventually, music services themselves could wind up as just something you buy when you get new headphones or pick a data plan for your car.” So, it could end up being just another kind of experience with an expiry date, but I think it’s Billboard’s involvement that’ll keep it locked down. Charts are always relevant, and if there’s one thing social networking has taught us about human activity it’s that people bloody love a good list. So it could go either way.
In its initial stages, the Real-Time Chart will only track U.S. music conversations (presumably meaning conversations about U.S. bands, rather than U.S. based twitter users?), but it’ll be interesting to see how these charts will be assembled. The service will be tracking dialogue around songs/artists, but will it take tone or context into account? I’m sure Robin Thicke would have stayed at number one for much longer than 12 weeks if tabs were kept on every comment about how much of a horrible human being he is. I imagine it would be pretty difficult to channel the activity through a filter of positivity, so would that mean that the most controversial (read: arguably sexist, racist or downright awful) artists would end up dominating the charts? Will it be impossible to get a look-in if you haven’t been made into a meme? Will Pharrell run the world because of his hat? Will Lorde rule forever because of the blog that compares her appearance to those of old black people?
Only time will tell. One thing that it does cement, though, is that maintaining an online presence will be absolutely essential for anybody with even a hope of achieving chart-topping musical goals. Sorry, anybody who likes the real world.
The Billboard Twitter Real-Time Chart will launch in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can find more information on the Billboard website.
Originally published on The 405 here.
Photography by Tim Boddy