Google Unveils The YouTube 100, Ranks Rebecca Black Right Up There With Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga and Rebecca BlackToday, what's hot in music isn't necessarily what's on Billboard's Hot 100—often considered the industry's benchmark ranking index. For one, most indie acts won't ever sell enough CDs to rank among the world's Justin Biebers or Lady Gagas. But also, we're purchasing fewer and fewer physical albums, even if we're consuming more music. A Nielsen study out Wednesday showed that music sales unexpectedly rose by 1.6% in 2011—an increase driven largely by a healthy surge in digital sales. And sales only scratch the surface of determining what's popular in the digital age.

Take a new chart released by Google today called the YouTube 100. The chart tracks songs across "official music videos, user-uploaded videos and viral debuts, and uses this data to provide a holistic view of song popularity." Indeed, in the current top 10, users will find not only superstars like Katy Perry but meme-worthy acts such as Rebecca Black of "Friday" fame.

The YouTube 100 joins the ranks of many other services trying to improve the way we chart popularity in the music industry using non-traditional metrics. Media measurement firm Big Champagne, for example, recently released the Ultimate Chart, which culls data from a slew of digital sources: Amazon downloads, Vevo views, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and more. In December, MTV launched its own Music Meter, a ranking that tracks social media buzz and streaming data to deliver a real-time portrait of an artist's popularity. And other services like We Are Hunted base their rankings on everything from social networks and blogs to message boards and P2P networks.

The trend is clear: CD sales are an outmoded indicator of success.

"The notion of tracking sales and correlating that to success is a bit antiquated," Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff told Fast Company recently. "There's no single indicator you can look at now—you must look at everything."

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  • Scott Byorum

    I used to collect LPs.  Obviously for the music, but in tandem for the art work of the album, as well.  I eventually replaced my collection with CDs and was a little disappointed how the artwork was smaller, but was pleased with the way many albums presented a fold out with lyrics and additional images.  I don't own an Ipod or other digital music storage device.  I don't like my music piece-meal.  I like listening to well constructed whole albums of music and parusing the images and words that go with it.  Like much in our lives, music has become compartmentalized and generic to a brand.  I remember growing up and listening to all styles of music on the same radio station: rock, pop, country, etc.  I guess I'm getting old, but it feels like something has been lost or cheapened.

  • Bob Watkins

    With music downloads replacing physical media, there is the opportunity to vastly improve this. We could have not just static art, but elaborate liner note web sites with lots of photos and links to other content such as music videos or critic commentary.  Whether record companies will actually do this, or will be content to just post a thumbnail that's even smaller than a CD  remains to be seen.