Music Industry and the Billboard Charts

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Zach Aaronson
November 18, 2011
Professor Albert Auster
COMM 1011-L02 Introduction to Media Industries

The Popular Music Industry and the History of the Billboard Charts

Once upon a time it used to be easy to calculate the success and popularity of a recording artist, song, or album. For most of the 20th century people bought records, then tapes, and then CDs and these sales represented how many people were listening and loving any given musician. Combined with radio requests and radio airplay, it was mathematically simple to determine how many people liked a song. Since 1936, Billboard Magazine has been doing these calculations.

The magazine now known as Billboard had its start all the way back in 1894. Two men, William H. Donaldson and James H. Hennegan,
For the first four years of their publishing of these lists, they were called “Hit Parades” but in 1940 the “Music Popularity Chart” was born, and ever since, an album or song’s ranking on this all-important Billboard Chart has been the definitive source for success.

Along the way in the last 70 years, many different genres in music have been defined and given their own separate Billboard charts.
Concerts and tours are a primary way in which recording artist today can

Our world is changing at an exponential pace with new technology. The pop music industry of today has had to adjust to the shift from CDs to digital music files. Of all media, music is the most easily pirated and record companies have had to find ways to entice people to buy music legally again to support the artists and producers who make these songs.

With the advent and common usage of the Internet beginning in the late 1990’s, piracy became a major concern for music producers and artists. The website Napster was a pioneer in this illegal trade. Originally created by brothers John and Shawn Fanning and their friend Sean Parker, Napster posted MP3 files for free download of popular recording artists. Sean Parker, of...
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