Three weeks ago, the editors at Billboard, who for decades have defined what makes an American hit, shook up the song charts for various genres.
The magazine started counting digital sales and online streams along with radio airplay in its tallies for most major formats. It also created two new charts using the same criteria, breaking out rap songs in one and R&B songs in a second.
The results have given stars with a pop-oriented sound and broad crossover appeal an advantage over other artists, upsetting and puzzling some music fans.
On the Hot Country Songs chart, Taylor Swift’s pop single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” has held the No. 1 position for three weeks, even as many country stations have rejected it, and Rihanna’s pop hit “Diamonds“ has remained atop the Hot R&B-Hip Hop Songs chart, causing dismay among R&B purists.
Bill Werde, Billboard’s editorial director, said the shake-up was necessary to reflect changes in the way people consume music these days. There was a time when radio programmers — and the record labels who lobbied them — largely defined the charts, using surveys of their listeners and their gut instincts to select hits. Now the Internet gives fans a greater say, as people buy music from online stores, stream it through services like Spotify or listen to it on video sites like YouTube and Vevo.