The Mediabase Chart is making leaps forward by adding important stations; We make the Triple A Chart even better…
By Paul Marszalek
The sunsetting of the BDS radio airplay monitoring service in favor of the service provided by Mediabase has caused immense stress for some labels, stations, and, um, independent promoters.
At issue is the vast difference in the number of stations monitored between the two, with Mediabase monitoring a modest four dozen or so Triple A stations. While the smaller set of monitored stations is concerning to some, the move from BDS to Mediabase is also a fantastic opportunity to significantly raise the integrity of the Triple A Chart — if the goal is to reflect the biggest Triple A artists and songs at the format.
If this is the goal, we’re making progress in the right direction.
Starting with the November 19 monitoring period, Mediabase is adding another 13 stations to the Triple A panel, with welcome additions that include public stations KUTX/Austin, WERS/Boston, and WYMS/Milwaukee, among others.
However, to make a quantum leap toward a more legitimate Triple A Chart, we’ll need to go beyond the current focus of increasing the size of the panel; A more legitimate chart will require the music industry to re-consider the key metric — the “spin.”
Spins, now very dated slang for how many times a song gets played on the radio, has always been a suspect metric. One could argue that a collective of radio programmers spinning some songs more than others should result in something of a democratic popular vote, or wisdom of the crowd.
This egalitarian view is now kind of quaint, considering labels and promoters developed ways to stuff the ballot box as soon as the concept of a “chart” came into existence. Payola and spins occurring in a “lunar rotation” combined to create a reality distortion field that continues to this day.
So, what can we do now with the data that we have?
Despite its smaller panel size, Mediabase has always had an advantage over its BDS counterpart in that it provided audience reach for each song based on Nielsen ratings within its data set. This number is incredibly useful because, bluntly, a spin in Denver and a spin in Paducah are not equivalent. Moreso, a midday spin in Denver is not definitely not equivalent to a bunch of overnight, lunar rotation spins in Paducah.
By using both the spin metric and audience metric, we can develop a Triple A Chart that more realistically reflects which artists and songs are having the most national impact.
This is exactly what we do at TheTop22.com.
Here’s how we create our Triple A and Alternative Charts:
1) We combine both the Mediabase panel stations with non-panel reporters, and sort current (but no re-current) songs by spin count. The intent is to attempt to create the “wisdom of the crowd” piece of the puzzle by including all programming decisions despite radio station market size.
2) We then take The Top 22 and Next 22 songs (based on spins) and re-sort them by audience reach. The intent here is to directly blunt the impact of pay-for-play schemes that labels, indie promoters, and generally small mom and pop stations use to artificially inflate chart positions of songs.
In short, adding the audience reach metric exposes what those pay-for-play overnight spins are really worth, which is very, very little.
This method is not without flaws. For example, there are stations on the panel, such as SiriusXM’s Spectrum, that do not report audience reach. Spectrum impacts the chart through its spins, but not on the audience reach side of the equation.
Further, to be successful, this approach requires radio station and music industry executives to use it and reference it in their conversations and decision-making. Until then, Triple A Radio will continue to promote itself as an artist-friendly format while hypocritically hurting artists by allowing corrupt practices to continue.