Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Maybe you’ve wondered why some new songs zoom to the top of the charts and others languish in “bubbling under” categories and then disappear. Of course, the appeal of a song and reputation of the artist are major reasons why one song succeeds and another tanks. But, inside the world of music radio, including noncom Triple A, the number of “spins” as listed on airplay charts also makes a big difference.

Paul Marszalek
You might recall our post DO PUBLIC RADIO MUSIC STATIONS HAVE A PAYOLA PROBLEM? published in May 2016 [link].  In the article we discussed efforts by Paul Marszalek, a well-known and respected Triple A consultant and blogger who publishes TheTop22 [link].  His blog post exposed pay-for-play antics and ways to distort the charts.

According to Marszalek, some unnamed music companies are practicing a form of payola to give their songs extra clout on music charts. He alleges that certain companies are paying radio stations to play their songs. Marszalek says these songs are frequently played during “lunar” hours.  The goal is to increase the number of “spins” the songs have on various airplay charts. This makes the song appear more popular than it may really be.

Marszalek wrote on The Top 22 site [link]:

“Whether it’s money funneled through indie promoters or the more legal demanding of time buys, a few radio stations are engaging in the selling of spins…Multiple reports to TheTop22 tell of a few radio stations engaging in, and there’s no real other way to put it, pay-for-play arrangements.”

Ironically, it is sort of legal.  Payola is permissible if the station acknowledges that a song is being played for “consideration, with on-air messages This practice is particularly dangerous for listener-supported noncom stations because they violate the perceived trust and integrity stations must have for continued support.


Before we discuss Marszalek’s proposed solutions, I thought it might be helpful to look at the relationships between broadcast and online radio with music companies and airplay charts.

Each week, most stations that air contemporary music provide the number of “spins” (the number of times a certain song airs during the week) to companies who tabulate and publish the charts. For instance, I receive a weekly email from Brad Savage at WAPS, Akron/Cleveland.  At right is a sample of his weekly airplay report. The top current release on WAPS, The Head and the Heart’s All We Ever Knew, had 25 spins last week on Brad’s station.

Many music companies want to have a comparison from an outside source.  These companies subscribe to monitoring firms such as Mediabase for airplay information. 

Mediabase is owned by iHeartMedia (and iHeart’s bankers!). Mediabase then provides the information to music companies and chart publishers. The item below shows FMQB'S use of use of the data.  The spins are on the right side of the image.

Other chart publishes get more creative. The image on the right is a Triple A chart published by Billboard, a competitor with Mediabase.

Note that the “spins” are cross-tabbed with Nielsen Audio ratings data to provide an estimated weekly audience for each of the songs.


Marszalek is changing the way chart entries are tabulated for his charts. He wrote:

We have long felt that ranking songs by the number of plays it achieves each week (spins) is a poor metric pf actual performance.

Beginning with this week’s chart (on the left), The Top 22 is scoring songs not only by the number spins but the estimated audience reach of the station. 

Marszalek says the weighting eliminates the overstated influence of lunar rotation – no matter where they are happening or whether they are paid for.

And, to what affect? I decided to compare The Top 22 chart with two other Triple A charts (results below). Other than one tune, a new one from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, all three charts are remarkable similar.

No comments:

Post a Comment