The US Billboard song chart

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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.

(Source bullfrogspond.com/, the version used here was 20090808 with the 2008 data from 20091219, the 2009 data from 20110305 and the 2010 and 2011 data from 20120929)

Attributes

The original spreadsheet has a number of attributes, we have limited our attention to just a few of them:

  • artist: The artist
  • name: The name of the track
  • position: The peak position that the song reached
  • month: The month when it first entered the chart
  • weeks: The total number of weeks that the song was in the chart
  • yearpos: All the songs are given a unique ordering within the year
  • bfid: A combination of the year and position give a unique identifier to each song
  • length: The duration of some of the songs has been noted
  • bpm: Some songs have a note of the beats per minute

artist

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.

Decade Number 1 Artist Number 2 Artist Number 3 Artist Number 4 Artist Number 5 Artist
2000s Beyonce Usher Kenny Chesney Rihanna Kelly Clarkson
1990s Mariah Carey Madonna Janet Jackson Boyz II Men Whitney Houston
1980s Madonna Hall & Oates Prince Michael Jackson Whitney Houston
1970s Bee Gees Elton John Wings The Carpenters Eagles
1960s The Beatles Elvis Presley The Supremes Ray Charles The Beach Boys
1950s Elvis Presley Perry Como Patti Page Eddie Fisher Pat Boone
1940s Bing Crosby Glenn Miller Jimmy Dorsey Kay Kyser Sammy Kaye
1930s Bing Crosby Guy Lombardo Tommy Dorsey Eddy Duchin Benny Goodman
1920s Paul Whiteman Al Jolson Ben Selvin Gene Austin Isham Jones
1910s American Quartet Peerless Quartet Henry Burr Arthur Collins & Byron G Harlan John McCormack
1900s Billy Murray Harry MacDonough Haydn Quartet Byron G Harlan Arthur Collins

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:

# Artist Entries Biggest Hit Year Year Position
1 Bing Crosby 293 Swinging On A Star 1944 1
2 Elvis Presley 138 All Shook Up 1957 1
3 Glenn Miller 129 Moonlight Cocktail 1942 2
4 The Beatles 70 Hey Jude 1968 1
5 Mariah Carey 36 We Belong Together 2005 1
6 Janet Jackson 31 All For You 2001 1
7 Jimmy Dorsey 103 Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy) 1941 1
8 Madonna 53 Like A Virgin 1984 1
9 Perry Como 131 Until the End of Time 1945 2
10 Tommy Dorsey 147 Once In A While 1937 2
11 Elton John 60 Candle in the Wind '97 1997 1
12 Usher 18 Yeah! 2004 1
13 The Andrews Sisters 80 Rum & Coca-Cola 1945 1
14 Vaughn Monroe 71 Riders in the Sky 1949 1
15 Guy Lombardo 218 Charmaine 1927 3
16 Patti Page 79 Tennessee Waltz 1950 1
17 Whitney Houston 34 I Will Always Love You 1992 1
18 Bee Gees 43 Night Fever 1978 1
19 Dinah Shore 77 Buttons & Bows 1948 1
20 Rod Stewart 48 Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright) 1976 1

name

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:

# Song Title Total Weeks Num Versions
1 Because of You 205 14
2 Angel 194 12
3 Crazy 193 13
4 I Love You 191 17
5 Hold On 187 15
6 Again 185 10
7 You 183 17
8 Always 168 16
9 Forever 165 13
10 Heaven 165 8
11 Thinking of You 159 15
12 Someday 150 8
13 Love Song 149 8
14 Harbour Lights 148 10
15 Call Me 145 10
16 Missing You 140 9
17 I am Yours 137 8
18 I Want You 137 10
19 The Power Of Love 136 9
20 Stay 134 9

The songs with the most entries on the chart were White Christmas (with 33 versions and a total of 110 weeks) and Stardust (with 19 and a total of 106 weeks).

position

Bullfrog position

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.

month

The month in which a song first entered the Billboard chart.

weeks

Bullfrog weeks

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.

Billboard Weeks

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.

yearpos & bfid

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.

length

Bullfrog length

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).

bpm

Bullfrog bpm

The bullfrog chart also provides an estimate of the Beats Per Minute (bpm) of many songs in the chart.


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Previous Comments (newest first)

20 Dec 2012

billboard magazines 1964

would you know which issue contained the Bullet Pick top 100 for "The Reactions" songs "That Girl" and "Our Wonderful Love" on The Mutual Record Label? If so, where can I get a copy? Thank You.

The group "The Reactions" did not have any hits in the Billboard Hot 100 (or anywhere else)


2 May 2012

Book of Billboard Music Charts (1900 - 2009)

Is there a book available that documents the Billboard music charts from 1900, on? Billboard itself only sells books charting music from 1955, on. +BUT they used to sell a hard bound volume documenting music from the turn of the last century, up to 1955. +I would very much like to purchase a book that references the first half of the 20th century in its music charts.

Thanks for any direction you can give me. +Jeff Weinstein

Do a search for Joel Whitburn's books


16 Mar 2012

No. 1 song on December 24 1936

Looking for the No. 1 song on the day I was born--December 24, 1936.

Thanks.

The charts didn't really exist in the 1930s, that's why our listing of number one records starts in 1940


25 Sep 2011

Billboard info for songs listed from 1901 - 1929

Hi, again, this is my fifth time sending message to this site...What a spectacular site. Love it!! First, the comprehensive info, then, the nitty-gritty details on every songs. Thirdly (and most importantly) the forever responsive reply. Irregardless its a meaningful questions, corrections or downright simple questions.

Some sites don't reply at all..its annoying.

Anyway, my questions is during the period from 1901 to 1929, has billboard exist yet? Do they have charts and radios doing the counting of the song rotation? I thought billboard only start in the late 50's, wasn't it? I'm a music aficionado, songs and info from the 30's is hard to find, and yet you have the effort to go beyond the 20's.. May i know where in other sites i can search for 20's music info (other than wiki)?

Arnaz

We're glad to see that you enjoy the site. Your comments encourage us to keep putting in the effort.

To answer your question:

Billboard magazine started publishing in 1894. They published their first music "hit parade" in 1936 and their first "Hot 100" in 1958. We understand that from 1936 to 1958 the charts were irregular and didn't have a consistent form. In addition the focus was on "sheet music" sales so while the chart will say, for example, that the song "Sentimental Journey" was a hit in 1945 it won't tell you if the version by the Merry Macs, Hal McIntyre or Les Brown & Doris Day was the most popular.

A US music historian called Joel Whitburn has used the information from the irregular charts, the Billboard magazine contents and other sources to retrospectively calculate the charts from 1890 to 1958. This is published as a spreadsheet by a guy calling himself "Bullfrog" (the source is listed in the chart entry).

That is the listing we base our information on.