Song chart US Billboard
The Billboard magazine has published various music charts starting (with sheet music) in 1894, the first "Music Hit Parade" was published in 1936, the first "Music Popularity Chart" was calculated in 1940. These charts became less irregular until the weekly "Hot 100" was started in 1958. The current chart combines sales, airplay and downloads.
A music collector that calls himself Bullfrog has been consolidating the complete chart from 1894 to the present day. he has published this information in a comprehenive spreadsheet (which can be obtained at bullfrogspond.com/).
The Bullfrog data assigns each song a unique identifier, something like "1968_076" (which just happens to be the Bee Gees song "I've Gotta Get A Message To You"). This "Whitburn Number" is provided to match with the books of Joel Whitburn and consists of the year and a ranking within the year. A song that first entered the charts in December and has a long run is listed the following year. This numbering scheme means that songs which are still in the charts cannot be assigned a final id, because their ranking might change. So the definitive listing for a year cannot be final until about April. In our listing we only use songs with finalised IDs, this means that every year we have to wait until last year's entries are finalised before using them.
The original spreadsheet has a number of attributes, we have limited our attention to just a few of them:
There are a wide range of ways to assign scores to artists in order to work out which artists are most significant. You can easily download the spreadsheet and try your own approach. We've included one listing, of the top five artists of each decade within the Billboard chart. This has been calculated using a score that combines the position and the number of weeks in the charts.
Another approach is to assign each song a score based on one divided by the year position (so number 1 is 1.0, 2 is a half and so on). If we then total each artist's songs we get a rough idea of how significant they are. Excluding all songs from before 1936 here are the top 20 artists in the Billboard charts:
Again you can easily download the spreadsheet and do your own analysis. Here we've listed the twenty titles that have spent the most weeks in the Billboard chart with a note of how many versions of each song were Billboard entries:
The peak position that songs reached in the charts should show an smooth curve from number one down to the lowest position. This chart has more songs in the lower peak positions than one would expect. Before 1991 the profile of peak positions was exactly as you would expect, that year Billboard introduced the concept of "Recurrent" tracks, that is they removed any track from the chart which had spent more than twenty weeks in the chart and had fallen to the lower positions.
The month in which a song first entered the Billboard chart.
The effect of the "Recurrent" process, by which tracks are removed if they have spent at least twenty weeks in the chart and have fallen to the lower reaches, can clearly be seen in the strange spike in this attribute. This "adjustment" was intended to promote newer songs and ensure the chart does not become "stale". In fact since it was introduced in 1991 the length of long chart runs has increased, this might reflect the more conscious efforts of record companies to "game" the charts by controlling release times and promotions, or it could be that the decline in chart turnover reflects a reduced public interest in the singles charts.
When we plot the average length of a song's run for songs over the period covered it is clear that the chart has changed in the last 100 years. Except for a short period in the late 1960s and early 1970s the average length of chart run increased steadily from the 1920s to the 1990s.
This contrasts with other charts, such as the UK one where the recent trend has been for runs to get shorter. We have no good idea why this is.
A formula is applied to each entry to assign it a ranking within the year it was released. This allows followers of the Billboard chart to use a combination of the year and position to uniquely identify every entry. This formula takes into account the total success of the song, so it cannot be finally calculated until every song released in a given year has completed it's chart run (which might be well into the following year of course). As a result the final IDs for a particular year cannot be assigned until the end of the following year. This is one of the reasons why this site does not hold much information for the current year.
Many of the songs in this chart have been timed. This plot shows how the length recorded spans the range from 1:54 (0.0792) to 5:42 (0.2375). The mean song duration is 2:24 (0.1) and the median is 2:54 (0.1160).
The bullfrog chart also provides an estimate of the Beats Per Minute (bpm) of many songs in the chart.