With only 18,000 downloads, "Harlem Shake" did not make the last Hot 100 chart. But last week it caught fire online, and across the tens of thousands of dance videos the song had 103 million views in the United States, according to YouTube, and sold 262,000 downloads, making it the third-most downloaded track of the week. Even without the YouTube data, “Harlem Shake” would have charted in the Top 15 this week, with the YouTube virality certainly driving downloads.
Bill Werde, the magazine’s editorial director, the rise of “Harlem Shake” led Billboard to move forward on the update they'd already been in discussions with YouTube about for nearly two years. Billboard’s charts use data collected by Nielsen SoundScan, which has also been modernizing its data. The service launched in 1991 to provide reliable, third-party sales data to record labels, retailers and others in the music business. They now gather data from all popular streams. “We want to measure how much consumption is going on, in whatever form a consumer chooses to consume something,” said David Bakula, a senior analyst at Nielsen.
In modernizing the top 100, Billboard is also incorporating data from streaming sources like Spotify. But YouTube is the big addition, since the site is often responsible for bringing songs to the popular consciousness long before traditional outlets.
“The notion that a song has to sell in order to be a hit feels a little two or three years ago to me,” Mr. Werde said. “The music business today — much to its credit — has started to learn that there are lots of different ways a song can be a hit, and lots of different ways that the business can benefit from it being a hit.”
But not every popular music video on YouTube is popular because it's good. In September 2011, Rebecca Black released a video for her song "Friday," and the internet went wild — over how bad it was. It went viral, yes, but as of today it has over 48million views on YouTube, with a thumbs-down to thumbs-up ratio of 4 to 1. Will the next love-to-hate-it viral video top the Billboard chart?