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Country Fans Angry With Billboard’s New Chart

Country fans angry with Billboard’s new chart computing methodology have begun an online petition to convince the publication to change its mind. A post at Change.org argues that the changes announced this week favor artists with crossover success (Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum), while making it even more difficult to break a new artist.

Billboard announced that starting Thursday (Oct. 11), its country airplay charts would no longer be based solely on country radio airplay (R&B/Hip-hop and Latin music charts were also affected). Instead, the chart would include airplay on other formats, as well as streaming sites like Spotify, plus digital sales data in determining the rankings.

For those who don’t quite understand how the country singles charts work (or used to work, in the case of Billboard), this article explains it fairly well. The effects of the changes were immediate. Swift, who has been releasing new songs leading up to the release of her new album, now has the No. 1 and No. 2 song in country music with ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and ‘Red’ respectively. The latter has not been released to radio.

Jason Scott’s online petition quotes an opinion piece written by Kevin John Coyne at Country Universe. His argument against the changes reflects what many country fans who oppose the move believe:

“Despite all the new methods of delivery, country music’s primary method of distribution remains the radio. It may be the only thing left that is identifiably “country” in mainstream music. The vast majority of country artists do not pursue the pop market in lieu of the country market. At most, they pursue pop as well as country, but usually wait until the song’s a hit at their home format first.”

Bill Werde, the Editorial Director at Billboard, addressed some of the criticism on Thursday, saying the new methodology reflects the modern music model more accurately:

“Basing the primary chart on radio play only feels out of touch with what’s actually happening with music. The fans have no direct voice with radio. It’s a push format — someone else decides what you’re going to listen to, and with what frequency. Are those of you upset about this rule change suggesting that what fans are streaming on Spotify or buying at iTunes shouldn’t count? Fans have the power today — more than they have ever had in the history of the recorded music business — and these chart changes honor that reality, above all else.”

The petition had 62 supporters as of 4:30PM ET on Friday (Oct. 12). It says it needs 38 more, although it’s not clear what will happen when it gets 100 supporters. There is no indication from Billboard that another change is being considered or will be considered despite the protest.

View the full Billboard country chart here and the Mediabase chart (the other major chart service, one which relies solely on country radio airplay) here.

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