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Twitter’s next music play: a new type of Billboard chart

twitter and billboard 256wWith the demise of the unique but little-used Twitter Music app, the micro-blogging service lost no time announcing its next foray into music. Twitter and Billboard announced a partnership to create the Billboard Twitter Real-Time Charts. This new product will “track the real-time U.S. music conversation, using Twitter data,” according to Twitter’s press release.

The alliance is a “big data” play that leverages Twitter’s fire-hose output of messages about music. On a normal day, Twitter processes over 500-million tweets. Some portion of those are U.S. updates about music, posted by fans talking about music and musicians sharing links to their tracks. It adds up to an immense, fragmented conversation about artists, bands, concerts, albums, and tracks. The Billboard Twitter Real-Time Charts aspire to organize that conversation.

“Music is one of the most talked about topics on Twitter. It’s where influencers, artists and fans discover and discuss new music in the moment.” –Twitter press release

The preliminary question about the venture is whether the free-flowing Twitter conversation about music differs meaningfully from Billboard’s existing charts, derived from sales and radio airplay. (Billboard also factors in social media data presently.) This morning, Billboard’s “The Hot 100” chart is topped by Pharrell Williams, John Legend, and Katy Perry. What if those artists are also dominating the Twittersphere?

Social media is not necessarily ahead of the game, but Twitter emphasizes new music in its announcement, so presumably the data-crunching will be slanted to emerging stars more than to established ones: “Every day, new songs and new artists get people tweeting in real-time, creating a social soundtrack of ongoing music conversation on Twitter.” Billboard’s announcement straddles the fence between reigning hits and new music: “The charts will reflect the top tracks being discussed at the moment and over an extended period of time on Twitter, as well as surface the most talked about and shared songs by new and upcoming acts.”

Observers won’t wait long to see the spawn of this data/charting marriage. The first charts are promised “in the coming weeks.” They will live on Billboard’s website, and will be embedded in Billboard’s tweets.

Brad Hill

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