The Billboard Charts used to mean something. Today, they still carry a measure of cachet, but they're not really a good reflection of what's popular and interesting in music these days. We can obviously do better.
For the most part, the billboard charts are still all about what's getting bought, which doesn't really mean much these days because, uh, people don't really buy music like they used to. That's why last year, Billboard attempted to make itself relevant again by including streaming plays in its charts.
Slacker Radio's new Engagement Quotient—EQ, for short—makes Slacker the first online streaming service to use huge amounts of user data to define how "into" the music people are when they're listening to it. This goes beyond your basic play counts that Billboard started countin last year to data about what people are "liking" and sharing. Here's a run down of the data points Slacker will be considering:
Starts – the number of times a song was started on the Slacker service
Completes – the number of times a song was listened to in its entirety
Hearts – the number of times a user “hearts” a track, requesting to hear it more frequently
Shares – the number of times a user shares a track via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest or email
Skips – the number of times a song is skipped before reaching completion
Changes – the number of times a user changes the station when a song plays
Bans – the number of times a song or artist is banned from playing again
So what does a Slacker Top 40 look like? Well, here's this week's chart, which looks different than Billboard's Top 40.
Why does this matter, isn't this just industry crap? First of all, charts for music—much like ratings for television—play a big role in deciding what artists record labels are going to invest in the future. Furthermore, "engagement" is a key metric for advertisers these days. If advertising is going to fund the music industry in the future, this kind of metric will be very important.
Of course, charts are only as important as how much people pay attention to them. Slacker's Engagement Quotient and the Slacker 40 are a long way from being popular measures of what people are listening to. And there are limitations to Slacker's measurements: It can only measure music in its catalog. Still, it's nice to see someone trying to refine ancient metric past the status quo.