Billboard has added a Social 50 list to its iconic ratings system, providing a ranking for downloads from Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Bill Werde, Billboard’s editorial director, told NPR his company wants to recognize the myriad of ways people enjoy music.
But no indie music internet surge is apparent. The top of the Social 50 list looks a lot like Billboard’s Hot 100. Rihanna‘s No. 1 social rank compared with her No. 3 Hot 100 standing reflects more of a marketing campaign than any grand public preference.
“You look at artist like Rihanna and Justin Bieber and Eminem and Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, you’ll find that these are the artists that are generally at the top of most of our charts. Because as much as people like to think there’s this niche interest or people online must like indie music or whatever it might be, at the end of the day, the big hits and the biggest stars, they kind of set the tone of the conversation no matter what platform you’re looking at.”
Not surprisingly, the vast array of social mediums are not primarily new avenues for fresh sounds and instead are most often a way to maintain market share. Indie songs then become more akin to the proverbial tree falling in the forest than a great egalitarian experiment.
But maybe that is not the point. Small-time bands, such as Artesian Wells, can practice and dream on YouTube. Their songs just might be heard by more than those inside their college coffeehouse. Social media provides the opportunity for access, not the promise of an audience. Hope may be the internet’s greatest gift.