This is not the day the music died—I think we missed that one—but it’s hard to believe today is a really, really good day for musicians. YouTube, Billboard and Nielsen announced that starting now, Billboard will add in YouTube views to its methodology of picking its Hot 100 list, which means all those viral sensations now mean something to more than those excitable hostesses at E! .
Immediately, Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” a viral hit (oh, so regrettably) has taken the top position on the Billboard list. If you’ve seen that video, or the endless versions of it done by fans doing the “dance” (generally, just flailing around), you know it’s not much to tweet home about. It makes “Gangnam Style” seem, um, deep.
“This announcement marks a big step in accurately reflecting how music lovers are finding their new favorite songs,” wrote YouTube’s biz development exec A.J. Frank, on the YouTube blog “And it builds upon our efforts to share this kind of data with key industry analytical tools like Next Big Sound and Big Champagne, which also help artists succeed both on and offline. Most importantly, we hope this news will excite our users, who have helped us discover some of the biggest stars and songs of the past seven years."
The Billboard announcement said it is “now incorporating all official videos on YouTube captured by Nielsen's streaming measurement, including Vevo on YouTube, and user-generated clips that utilize authorized audio into the Hot 100 and the Hot 100 formula-based genre charts — Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, R&B Songs, Rap Songs, Hot Latin Songs, Hot Rock Songs and Dance/Electronic Songs — to further reflect the divergent platforms for music consumption in today's world.”
I suppose you can argue YouTube is the just the MTV of the moment, but in MTV’s prime, you still pretty much had to go out to buy the song. It made the music biz work.
ABC News reported that when singer Josh Groban heard the news, he tweeted a dismissive “smh,” which is short for “shakes my head” which is long for ‘damn.’” Despite his momentary good fortune on the list, Baauer retweeted that, and then they tweeted each other. It’s a kind of sweet story. Or a tweet story, at least.
I watch/listen to YouTube all the time, but I know full well it can’t be doing much for the pocketbooks of musicians who also aren’t making much from Pandora or Spotify or other online services. On the plus side, music fans do have the opportunity to see more from artists they like than they would from the rigidly formatted radio. And popular musicians must be used to having their stuff stolen by now.
But the very fact that YouTube is visual and invites homage versions of popular songs makes the odds that danceable novelty songs like “Harlem Shake,” “Gangnam Style” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” will get even more popular even more quickly, and if that’s true, there could be an even dumber race to find the next dumb thing. Good news there!