Originally covering carnival scheduling and acts, the Billboard Magazine format recognized today was begun in 1950.  The carnival coverage, as well as other topics, were relegated to a different publication.  Founded in 1894, the magazine published its first "Hit Parade" displaying the most popular songs of the day, in January of 1936.  By July of 1940 the first music popularity chart ("pop chart") was tabulated.

Today, Billboard is published weekly and is an essential "read" for music industry professionals in all genres.  Though Billboard tracks predominately U.S. music activity, there is limited coverage of top hits in Canada and Mexico.  However, Billboard's influence is international and the magazine is distributed world-wide.  The magazine is intended for music-industry professionals and is mostly sold by subscription, although copies are occasionally available at newsstands.  The famous "Billboard Hot 100" ranks the top 100 songs of all genres and is the U.S. standard measure of popular (single) songs.  The "Billboard 200" charts sales of complete albums.

Genres and Media Covered

Billboard Hot 100
Hot 100 Airplay
Hot 100 Singles Sales
Hot 100 Singles Recurrents
Hot 100 Recurrent Airplay
Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks1
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Recurrents
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Recurrent Airplay
Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles
Hot Rap Tracks
Adult R&B Airplay
Pop 100
Pop 100 Airplay
Hot Digital Songs
Hot Digital Tracks
Top 40 Mainstream
Rhythmic Top 40
Adult Top 40
Top 40 Adult Recurrents
Adult Contemporary
Adult Contemporary Recurrents
Modern Rock Tracks
Mainstream Rock Tracks
Hot Country Singles & Tracks
Hot Country Singles Sales
Hot Country Recurrents
Hot Dance Music/Club Play
Dance Radio Airplay
Hot Dance Singles Sales
Hot Latin Tracks
Latin Pop Airplay
Latin Regional Mexican Airplay
Latin Tropical Airplay
Latin Rhythm Airplay
Hot Christian Singles & Tracks
Hot Christian Adult Contemporary
Hot Gospel Tracks
Hot Videoclips
Hot Ringtones
Canadian Singles Chart

The Billboard 200
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Catalog Albums
Top Country Albums
Top Country Catalog Albums
Top Bluegrass Albums
Top Electronic Albums
Top Independent Albums
Top Pop Catalog Albums
Top Internet Albums
Top Latin Albums
Top Latin Pop Albums
Top Regional Mexican Albums
Top Tropical Albums
Top Latin Rhythmic Albums
Top Rap Albums
Top Compilation Albums
Top Comedy Albums
Top Classical Albums
Top Classical Crossover Albums
Top Classical Budget Albums
Top Classical Midline Albums
Top Holiday Albums
Top Canadian Albums
Top Blues Albums
Top Christian Albums
Top Contemporary Jazz
Top Gospel Albums
Top Jazz Albums
Top Kid Audio
Top New Age Albums
Top Reggae Albums
Top World Music Albums
European Top 100 Albums
Top Soundtracks
Billboard Comprehensive Albums
Top Heatseekers2
Heatseekers/East North Central
Heatseekers/South Atlantic
Heatseekers/South Central
Heatseekers/West North Central

Home Videos
Top VHS Sales
Top Video Rentals
Top DVD Sales
Top Video Game Rentals
Top Kid Video
Top Music Video
Billboard Comprehensive Music Videos
Top Video Sales - Health & Fitness
Top Video Sales - Recreational Sports DVD

Measurement Techniques

The first "Top 40" charts were compiled by surveying record stores to see which albums and singles were selling most briskly.  Later, the surveys extended to radio disc jockeys, measuring the frequency with which songs were broadcast.  Today, a combination of airplay3 and sales factor into the chart standing of any single, album, or video.

Airplay is measured by Broadcast Data Systems ("BDS").  Radio stations are contracted by BDS to install the equipment required to collect airplay data.  Each song has its own unique BDS code; every time the song is played, the BDS system detects it and adds to the song's total plays.  Total airplay is the total of all plays submitted by all BDS stations.  Record sales are tracked via Nielsen Soundscan; registering when a single or an album is purchased at stores that are Soundscan equipped.

Songs are separated into genre and charts by Billboard management.  BDS and Soundscan results for different radio stations and different stores are utilized to chart various genres of music.  For example, the Soundscan results for a hip hop record store in Detroit would not be utilized in the creation of the Country charts; similarly, a Good Old Boy radio station in the deep south would not have its BDS (airplay) submitted to the hip-hop charts.

Billboard's charts and charting methodologies have changed over the years to keep in step with the changes in the way music is marketed.  The magazine's latest nod to technological evolution was allowing paid digital downloads from on-line digital music "stores" to chart as singles with or without the help of airplay.

Billboard is owned by the Dutch media conglomerate VNU.  (Nielsen Media Measurement and BDS happen to be other VNU subsidiaries).


  1. "Single" or "Track:"  A single song.  A "single" once was the term for a 45-rpm record but now consists of either a small-format CD or an Internet download.  A "track" is a single song from an album of songs.
  2. "Heatseekers:" popular albums which are ascending the charts rapidly.
  3. Airplay:  a measurement of the popularity of a recording, dependent upon how many times the recording's been played at a particular radio station.


  • http://www.mondotimes.com/2/topics/5/business/65/4126
  • http://www.vnu.com/about/facts.html
  • http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/index.jsp
  • http://top40.about.com/"
  • Billboard Magazine (various issues)
  • Interview:  C.D. "Chuck" Gregory, Compass Distributing, Inc.; Grudge Records (1984)

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