Ultimate Chart is a new type of music chart for the Internet age. It doesn't just measure music sales and radio play, as Billboard has traditionally done, but popularity over a variety of online services - YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, MySpace, MTV.com, and many more. But does Ultimate Chart live up to the hype its received since launching in July? A scan of the top 10 of each chart shows that 8 songs feature on both Ultimate Chart and Billboard. The number 1 on each differs only slightly. On Ultimate Chart the #1 is "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz, displacing Eminem's "Love The Way You Lie" (still #1 on Billboard).
Either Billboard is keeping up with the times more than Ultimate Chart likes to admit, or Ultimate Chart isn't actually changing much in the music industry after all. Which is it?
Ultimate Chart top 5 on the left, Billboard's on the right
On Huffington Post, music industry businessman Jeff Pollack claimed that Ultimate Chart is a "game changer." There is "an increasing disparity between what the industry charts define as a hit and what is really popular," he wrote. He pointed to the fact that U2's song "Beautiful Day" peaked at #21 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, which meant that it wasn't considered a "hit." However, it's probably likely that it wouldn't have hit the top 10 on Ultimate Chart either - since it is, like Billboard, dominated by hip-hop or pop singers.
Pollack notes one example of a song that made it big on Ultimate Chart, but not on Billboard: Shakira's "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)," which went to #2 on Ultimate Chart but peaked at #38 on Billboard's "conventional" chart. However, that sounds like an anomaly to me - since the song's online popularity was due to it being a theme song for the recent football World Cup, which was a huge online success.
Ultimate Chart, created by a company called BigChampagne, is certainly a step in the right direction. Analyzing the online activity around a song is a crucial element in measuring its success nowadays, probably more important than sales and radio play.
However, Ultimate Chart seems to fall short of the breathless hype laid on by the likes of Huffington Post, HypeBot and music industry insiders. HypeBot (which is one of my favorite blogs, I should note) had the exclusive on Ultimate Chart's launch. It wrote that "for the first time, the Ultimate Chart will take a record industry known to be constrained to short-term thinking and a "hits mentality" towards a more long-term, sustainable mindset."
If that's the case, then why do we see the same old "hits" on the Ultimate Chart top 10 as we see on Billboard?
What do you think, is Ultimate Chart ultimately over-hyped? Or is it simply reflecting what mainstream audiences are fed and no amount of online analysis will change that?