Billboard YouTube Overhaul: Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” Tops New Hot 100

"The very definition of what it means to have a hit is ever-changing these days.”
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Baauer (Courtesy Mixed Management)

Baauer (Courtesy Mixed Management)

In a surprising move, it was announced this week that Billboard and Nielsen have changed the methodology which determines the Hot 100 singles chart by including authorized YouTube views in the equation.

The long-standing music chart institution will now count the streaming YouTube data (calculated by Nielsen) alongside sales, on-demand audio streaming services such as Spotify and radio play, both digital and terrestrial. The changes will be reflected on a slew of charts ‑ Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, R&B Songs, Rap Songs, Hot Latin Songs, Hot Rock Songs and Dance/Electronic Songs.

“The very definition of what it means to have a hit is ever-changing these days,” said Billboard’s editorial director Bill Werde. “The Billboard charts are the ultimate measure of success in music, and they constantly evolve to reflect these new music experiences.

“When the charts launched over 70 years ago, a hit was defined as selling copies of a single or generating airplay,” Werde continued. “While those avenues are still viable, one needn’t look any further than Cee Lo, Gotye, PSY or now Baauer to know that a song can be a massive hit on YouTube alone.”

The aforementioned Baauer is reaping the benefits of the changes, as his meme-generating single “Harlem Shake” has shot to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, replacing fellow independent artist Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” which had been in the top spot four weeks running.

Many of the countless viral “Harlem Shake” videos are counted as well as the original video, as the new ranking system also utilizes YouTube’s Content ID system (via a company called INDmusic), which allows Baauer’s record label (Diplo’s Mad Decent imprint) to monetize any video using the song that they see fit. According to Billboard, Mad Decent was generating revenue from no less than 4000 different “Harlem Shake” clips on YouTube, totaling over 30 million views as of February 14.

The new methodology has resulted in huge sales jumps for other singles as well. Rihanna’s “Stay” moved from #57 to #3, while Drake’s latest release, “Started from the Bottom” jumped from #63 to #10, thanks to new videos for both being released in the past week.

While Baauer has been keeping a relatively low profile since the “Harlem Shake” meme explosion, he recently took questions from fans during a Reddit AMA session.

“I’m going to continue to make music the one way I know how,” he said when asked if the song’s viral ubiquity would affect his songwriting process. “I’m gonna have lots of new haters and lots of new fans, and I think that’s kinda just the game.”

Baauer is among the many artists scheduled to perform at this year’s Coachella music festival in Indio, CA, in April. While the two-weekend event sold out in record time, a limited number of tickets for the second weekend (April 19-21) are on sale here.

-Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local

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