Rules were meant to be broken, or in the case of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, twisted to catch up with the times.
Billboard and Nielsen announced on Thursday (February 21) that following the addition of YouTube streaming data into the rankings on the Hot 100 singles tally — which already factors in Nielsen’s digital download track sales and physical singles sales, terrestrial radio airplay, on-demand audio streaming and online radio streaming — Baauer’s viral dance sensation “Harlem Shake” shot to the #1 spot.
The updating of the five-decade-old Hot 100 and the various Hot 100 genre charts is a nod to the popularity of official YouTube videos, as well as Vevo on YouTube and user-generated clips that incorporate authorized audio.
“The very definition of what it means to have a hit is ever-changing these days,” said Billboard editorial director Bill Werde in a statement announcing the change. “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. 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.”
Thanks to the change, “Shake” becomes just the 21st song since 1958 to debut at #1 on the Hot 100, according to Billboard. What’s more, Baauer is essentially the first almost unknown act to debut at the top, with his rise spurred by the intense viral spread of “Shake” tribute videos on YouTube. The song also jumped 11 spots to #1 on the Dance/Electronic Songs chart thanks to its 103 million views, according to YouTube.
“Shake” also jumped up to #3 on the Hot Digital Songs chart after selling 262,000 downloads. The slow rise to the top is even more incredible given that “Shake” was commercially released last June, but didn’t really begin moving units until last week when the viral momentum helped goose download sales by nearly 1,400 percent.
Now, if only they’d made this change back when “Gangnam Style” started killing it on YouTube…