I've been a student of music charts since 2000. My band the Brobdingnagian Bards topped the Celtic music charts on MP3.com. Eventually, we were one of the most-popular bands on the entire website. I noticed a track I've been listening to a lot top the search charts on Apple Music. When it comes to charting, I realized things haven't changed.
First, I want to share a few simple concepts.
1. The more popular the charting service, the more difficult it is to top the charts.
By 2003, the Brobdingnagian Bards were getting more downloads than ever. Our song, “Tolkien (The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings)”, was one of the top 20 songs on MP3.com. It climbed as high as #11.
While the song was popular, there was a also a mass exodus before the website closed. I was still promoting our music there. So it was easier to top the charts.
A recent search listed these streaming music sites in order of popularity.
2. Apple Music
3. Amazon Music Unlimited
4. Google Play Music
Thus, the easiest chart to top on this list would be Tidal.
On ReverbNation, I'm the #1 Celtic artist in the world. I'm also #79 of all artists on the website. But yes, it is a smaller pool of mostly indie musicians. A ranking of #79 is pretty awesome on that website. However, I would barely be recognized at all on Spotify, Apple Music, or probably even Tidal.
It's a smaller pool and easier to dominate with creative marketing.
2. The top song on any chart is exponentially bigger than the next song on the chart.
I've been listening to a lot of kids music thanks to my 2-year old daughter. She's been binging on “Five Little Monkeys” for a couple weeks now.
When she first asked for the song, I searched Apple Music. We listened to each of the songs by the different artists. Most of these pop kids songs with fake instruments nauseate me. So I listened until I came across Julie Frost. She had a song on the album Songs for Wiggleworms that was upbeat, folky and fun.
We started listening. In great kids fashion, we listened to it over and over and over again. I think the song was around #8 on the search charts for that song title when we started listening. Today, it is at #3.
Was that pretty much just us listening? Probably. With a few other incidental listenings by others. I'd bet money that our 50-100 listens in the last couple weeks sent that song to #3.
Every song has it's own chart.
What this means is that every song has its own chart. By listening to something over and over and over again, you can affect its popularity on streaming music services. Some might suggest it's silly to waste your time trying to “game the system” by increasing charting positions. And to some degree, I agree.
However, there are many ways to promote ones music. I like to consider all of the options. And charting is one such. I don't recommend focusing too much of your energy on this method, but if you can get a dedicated group of 10, 20, or 50 people listening to one song, because they love it or you as an artist, over and over and over again, you can increase your charting. That increases your visibility and the possibility that more people will find your music and become a fan.
That is the ultimate goal of every musician.