How strong is the connection between the radio, sales and streaming charts?
As part of an exclusive 2017 feature, Headline Planet worked to answer that question. The feature assessed how the Top 10 songs at pop radio were performing on the US iTunes sales and US Spotify streaming charts.
It is time to revisit the inquiry.
There will obviously be some connection between the three factors. Songs performing well at pop radio receive ample audience exposure, and that exposure should produce strong sales and streaming numbers. Radio programmers, moreover, may look to sales and streaming numbers to determine which songs deserve airplay.
That theoretical link does not, however, guarantee an overlap between the top songs on radio, iTunes and Spotify.
For starters, songs from certain artists and genres tend to perform disproportionately well on iTunes and Spotify. If those artists and genres do not align with what pop radio programmers believe their audiences want to hear, there will be a disconnect between the charts.
Additionally, factors like television syncs, prominent playlist positioning, discounts may provide boosts on the sales and streaming fronts. It is unclear how radio programmers will account for these boosts when assessing a song’s impact. Will they simply look at the raw chart positions? Or will they “discount” the boosts and speculate where the song would rank without the beneficial circumstance?
When determining airplay, radio programmers will also consider audience research like callout (survey) scores and switching data. This data does not always align with sales and streaming numbers. There have been cases in which poor iTunes and Spotify performers have tested well with radio listeners (and vice versa).
It is important to consider all these factors when evaluating the overlap (or lack thereof) between the Mediabase pop radio, US iTunes and US Spotify charts.
The rankings below are based on the building Mediabase pop chart for the November 18-24 tracking period, the real-time US iTunes chart, and the daily US Spotify chart for November 23.
The breakdown makes specific note of songs that are declining at pop radio. These songs have “peaked” and should thus be held to a lower standard for sales and streaming.
Top 10 at pop radio:
1) Marshmello & Bastille – Happier
#4 iTunes, #15 Spotify
2) Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes
#2 iTunes, #67 Spotify
3) Ariana Grande – breathin
#31 iTunes, #55 Spotify
4) 5 Seconds Of Summer – Youngblood (declining)
#14 iTunes, #73 Spotify
5) Khalid x Normani – Love Lies (declining)
#77 iTunes, #122 Spotify
6) NF – Lie
#95 iTunes, Not in Spotify’s Top 200
7) Maroon 5 – Girls Like You ft. Cardi B (declining)
#25 iTunes, #82 Spotify
8) Post Malone – Better Now (declining)
#26 iTunes, #24 Spotify
9) Benny Blanco, Halsey & Khalid – Eastside
#17 iTunes, #44 Spotify
10) Halsey – Without Me
#1 iTunes, #7 Spotify
Top 10 iTunes performers that are not in the Top 10 at radio:
3) Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – Shallow (#23 at pop radio; #51 on Spotify; bigger hit at Hot AC radio)
5) Ariana Grande – thank u, next (#17 at pop radio; #1 on Spotify; newer song that is rising quickly)
6) Imagine Dragons – Natural (#20 and falling at pop radio; #94 on Spotify; bigger hit at alternative and Hot AC radio)
7) Lauren Daigle – You Say (not charting at pop radio or Spotify; Christian radio smash that is quickly rising at Hot AC and has been a hot seller for months)
8) Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (not charting at pop radio; #41 on Spotify; classic song that resurfaced due to movie of the same name)
9) Dan + Shay – Speechless (not charting at pop radio; #146 on Spotify; country radio hit)
10) Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You (not charting at pop radio; #12 on Spotify; holiday staple that posts big sales and streaming numbers every year)
Top 10 Spotify performers that are not in the Top 10 at radio:
1) Ariana Grande – thank u, next (see above)
2) Sheck Wes – Mo Bamba (not charting at pop radio; #11 on iTunes; viral hit that is also performing well at rhythmic and urban radio)
3) Travi$ Scott – SICKO MODE (#21 at pop radio; #12 on iTunes; rising at pop after hitting #1 at rhythmic and urban radio)
4) Kodak Black – ZEZE ft. Travi$ Scott & Offset (not charting at pop radio; #21 on iTunes; viral hit that is also performing well at rhythmic and urban radio)
5) Lil Baby & Gunna – Drip Too Hard (not charting at pop radio; #66 on iTunes; streaming hit that is also performing well at rhythmic and urban radio)
6) XXXTentacion – BAD! (not charting at pop radio; #89 on iTunes; new release from the late artist, whose music has typically performed well on streaming services)
8) Post Malone & Swae Lee – Sunflower (#15 at pop radio, #13 on iTunes; newer song that is rising quickly)
9) Juice WRLD – Lucid Dreams (#11 at pop radio; #20 on iTunes; multi-format hit that is declining at radio but still resonating with consumers)
10) Gucci Mane, Bruno Mars & Kodak Black – Wake Up In The Sky (not charting at pop radio; #35 on iTunes; big hit at rhythmic and urban radio)