March is.... well to put it gently... difficult. Spring breaks and SXSW really mess up the general flow of college radio. That should all come roaring back over the next several weeks as April generally is one of the craziest months. Over the last few years weeks 13-17 have been some of the highest reported weeks at college radio that combined with the perception that college radio dies in the summer time means there are far more releases than perhaps any other time of the year. So there should be more reporters, more big records and hopefully more chaos at the top of the charts.
This week Father John Misty held on to #1 rather easily. There are a number of records though that still have a great chance at taking #1. This weeks #1 most added Modest Mouse was once the king of college radio, I am not sure if they have the same clout as they once had but I am sure are a challenger for #1. Dan Deacon stays at #1 in pretty much a 3 way tie with Jose Gonzalez and Purity Ring. All three of these are different indies so it makes it a lot of fun ( from the outside) to watch. Of Montreal and San Cisco are up there as well but I don't see either being legit challengers for the top spot.
It will be curious to watch if there are any bands that get a SXSW bump. Were there an IT band this year, I am not so sure. Wondering out loud here if concentrating on the top of the charts is enough or if there is interest for more of an overall rundown. Something I always look at is how many former number ones are on the chart and what record has been on the chart the longest.
Currently there are Sleater-Kinney, Panda Bear, Tv on the Radio, Parquet Courts and Alvvays on the charts as former number ones and usually it will be one of those that have been on the charts the longest. But the current longest running charter right now is Alt-J with an impressive 32 weeks( at #122) , with .04% of the stations reporting the record. ( for comparison sake FJM has 67% of stations charting him)
Speaking of charting. A lot of you out there continue to ask how it all works. I got a tweet from a reader last week asking if CMJ had a KEY of sorts so he/she would have a better idea of how we got the charts we get like the one here on Billboard. http://www.billboard.com/biz/billboard-charts-legend . I had never really thought of it before and asked CMJ about it. And the general thought was that the billboard charts take into account so many other factors, where as CMJ is focused on just what is reported to them in each stations top 30. I do agree that there are major differences between the 2 magazines and that Billboard needs to have a large key like this where it is simply not needed for CMJ. CMJ is on a smaller level than billboard as well and can be contacted easily ( just email firstname.lastname@example.org ) and I am sure they will be more than happy to help you.
With all that said, I think it would be helpful for a lot of you that might not know how the charts are made, are new to college radio, are curious, to know how, in general they are made. So hopefully this helps.
How the Charts are Made. Version 1.
It is pretty straightforward actually. A station that reports to CMJ submits a weekly chart during the reporting time period of Friday Morning until charts close at Tuesday at 2pm EST.
First question you might have right off the bat is who can report to CMJ. It is pretty much open to any radio station, be it internet, carrier current, AM/ FM that pays the yearly subscription fee. When you are a member of CMJ you are given a weight/ ranking. Any station that wants to know their ranking I believe can email the above email and ask. These change from time to time based upon many different factors such as market size and wattage.
So every station reports a weekly top 30 to CMJ. Now one of the joys of college radio is that every station can have their own criteria as to what gets placed on this top 30. Some stations report exactly what is being placed, and end up with records that happen to be 2 years old on the charts. Some have cut offs and say a record can only have the potential of charting for 4-6 weeks for example. There is no real wrong way to do it, there are preferred ways to do it but not wrong.
When a station reports this top 30 chart the data gets combined with all the other stations data but think of it as each slot on the chart having a points value. So the #1 record is worth X number of points if you are a large station and is worth Y if you are a small station. Each space on the chart has a value and in the end all the numbers are added up and the record with the most "points" is your #1 record.
Of course when I am looking at the charts come in I only know an approximate number as the algorithm they use is secret to them but we have a general idea based upon the rankings of each station and where our records are charting on that station. Typically when you have the most #1's at college radio and the most stations charting you will be the #1 record. It does not always work like that but those are our guides to getting to #1.
On a side note there are other places you can go for college radio charts.
https://collegeradiocharts.wordpress.com/ is one but they give you no information as to how many people reported or their methodology as well.
http://spinitron.com/charts/ also has a chart that is smaller on scale but also gives you spin counts.
I like to compare sometimes but for the most part I use the CMJ numbers and the spins from Spinitron when talking to clients.
I think that covers as much as I can reasonably tell you about charting, again I would direct any questions to CMJ and I am sure they can help with any more.
If you want to continue the conversation feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on twitter.
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