The latest Billboard chart is populated by Twitter. Image: Billboard
Music is the most discussed topic on Twitter, which helps explain why the company’s been trying so hard to get into the music business. The latest attempt is the “Trending 140,” a new Billboard chart that'll attempt to quantify the industry’s much-desired intangible metric of success: social buzz.
The chart will track songs and artists being shared on the Twitter in real time, up to the minute, and list them with green “up” arrows or red “down” arrows to show movement. The algorithm scans a few different indicators: tracks shared on Twitter via iTunes, Vevo, or Spotify links, giveaway hashtags and search terms like "listen" or "#nowplaying," or artists' handles and album names.
Another version of the Twitter chart is the Emerging Artists list, which will track the same activity but filter it by up-and-coming musicians, defined as artists with less than 50,000 Twitter followers that have never made the top 50 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 before.
The idea is that Twitter activity is an early sign that a song's on it's way to topping the charts. The company, according to today's press release, hopes to inspire a new way of interacting with music.
But Twitter’s been hoping for that for a while now, and for the most part failing. The Billboard deal comes just weeks after it officially killed its #Music app, just a year after the app launched to much hype and celebrity fanfare.
Later this afternoon, we will be removing Twitter #music from the App Store. If you have the app, it will continue to work until April 18.— Twitter Music (@TwitterMusic) March 21, 2014
We continue to experiment with new ways to bring you great content based on the music activity we see every day on Twitter.— Twitter Music (@TwitterMusic) March 21, 2014
#Music was also supposed to harness the site’s active music “conversation,” mainly by helping users discover new names. It bombed, partly because you can't actually stream music from Twitter, and partly because the recommendation algorithm just wasn't cutting it in a sea of similar music apps. (Twitter’s app plummeted to the 165th ranking of free music apps last fall.)
That app recommended songs and artists partly based on what was trending on Twitter, which maybe isn't a good sign for the success of the new Billboard chart. As for the streaming point, Twitter just killed a deal to buy Soundcloud, which would have let it actually play the tracks its users are Tweeting out and sharing around. Forbes speculated about why that deal was killed if you're curious—it's most likely due to licensing complications.
But it looks like Twitter's musical ambitions will live to see another day. The Billboard Hot 100 chart is currently calculated by a mix of sales, airplay, and streaming. Twitter adds social buzz to the mix, which is internet gold in the entertainment industry, and why Nielson's TV ratings now includes a category tracking who's tweeting about the show to measure its social reach.
For Twitter's part, as it faces falling stock prices half a year after going public, the Billboard and Nielson partnerships are an attempt to make the site's value apparent in the real world, beyond what's happening on the platform.