The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Aug. 25)

On my previous blog Country Perspective I developed many popular features. I’ve developed a few more on this one. But in terms of popularity, none of them touched The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio. To this day I still have people talk to me about it and write about it. For the most part I really enjoyed doing it until eventually I got completely bored with it (along with the entire idea of Country Perspective). I also found it was not the best indicator of the “pulse” of country music in any way, as I find using terrestrial radio as the sole indicator of the popularity of something in this day and age to be highly laughable.

So while I missed the heydays of doing that feature, I knew I would never do it again based on these two reasons. But I did want to continue breaking down charts and numbers on one of my favorite genres of music because I’m a huge data nerd and this marries two of my passions together. I always wanted to develop what I would call the ultimate chart. A chart that fused data from multiple charts to create the ultimate indicator of popularity and relevance in country music. It was just a thought and vague idea. Until now…

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from four Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales, Airplay and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 25 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board, whether the artist is strong at radio (Chris Lane, Dustin Lynch) or album sales (Chris Stapleton). It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as three of the four categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not effecting the genre. Onto the chart!

  1. Florida Georgia Line (#1 Streaming) -1
  2. Kane Brown (#1 Digital Songs) -1
  3. Thomas Rhett -1
  4. Luke Combs +1
  5. Jason Aldean (#1 Airplay) +1
  6. Brett Young -1
  7. Dan + Shay +1
  8. Kenny Chesney +1
  9. Luke Bryan 0
  10. Miranda Lambert (#1 Airplay) 0
  11. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  12. Bebe Rexha -1
  13. Old Dominion 0
  14. Sam Hunt 0
  15. Cole Swindell +1
  16. Cody Johnson +1
  17. Keith Urban -1
  18. Morgan Evans -1
  19. Eric Church +1
  20. Lauren Alaina 0
  21. Dylan Scott -1
  22. Carrie Underwood 0
  23. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  24. Morgan Wallen -1
  25. Chris Lane -1
  26. Tori Kelly -1

The Ultimate Pulse: -4


Notes & Observations

  • Florida Georgia Line tops the inaugural Ultimate Pulse Chart, just edging out Kane Brown. I should note that they had a much larger lead on my test run chart I did on the previous week’s data. Their biggest strengths come in digital song sales and streaming, as they put up monster numbers in these categories. They also put up solid numbers in the other two categories. So much for them waning in relevancy and popularity, eh?
  • Brown’s strengths and numbers are similar to Florida Georgia Line, although he’s quite low in airplay at the moment. He’s right there with Florida Georgia Line in streaming too, which is no surprise. These two artists both have a big lead on the rest, as they’re nearly 30 points ahead in pop rating on #3.
  • Thomas Rhett has consistent numbers across the board, although at the moment has a particularly strong number in streaming.
  • Luke Combs is doing great streaming numbers, which is what propelled him into the top five this week. He only trails Florida Georgia Line and Kane Brown in this category and not by much.
  • Rounding out the top five is Jason Aldean, who is putting up a strong streaming number himself. This surprised me, as I remember he struggled in streaming a couple of years ago. The other surprise is he’s currently weak in digital song sales. Airplay gives him a boost as he tops the Billboard chart this week.
  • Brett Young, Dan + Shay and Kenny Chesney are all pretty consistent across each category, although Chesney is a bit down in streaming.
  • Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert ultimately tied for #9 on the chart, but Bryan gets ranked ahead based on my tiebreaker rules. So I might as well explain this rule right here: I look at number of categories contributing strength in. Both though in this scenario contribute strength in three categories (Bryan shockingly brings 0 in streaming, while Lambert brings 0 in album sales). So I go to the next tiebreaker: Solo vs feature contributions. In this case all of Bryan’s contributions are solo, while all of Lambert’s numbers come from being featured on Jason Aldean’s “Drowns the Whiskey.”
  • And while I’m at it I’ll explain the impact of features on the charts. At first I wanted to give half of the points to a featured artist I gave to a solo artist/act. But I realized this would be messy and ultimately hard to judge. Lambert no doubt drove more sales to “Drowns the Whiskey” with her appearance, as her fan base is quite supportive. At the same time Aldean’s fan base is quite big too. You can’t measure the impact of each. Then you have a song like “Meant to Be” where Florida Georgia Line’s feature is the sole reason it’s categorized as country and the only reason Bebe Rexha makes an appearance on this chart. There are other features that aren’t as significant like Lauren Alaina further down the chart. See how it’s complicated? This approach could be adjusted at a later date, but for now it’s the approach I will use.
  • Chris Stapleton unsurprisingly is really strong in album sales and will probably hold the #1 spot in this category a lot. “Tennessee Whiskey” gives him a great streaming number too. It’s a shame I couldn’t incorporate concert sales into this chart (trust me this data is hard and the best source for it is behind a massive pay wall), as Stapleton would be a great beneficiary of it.
  • Sam Hunt’s Montevallo and his massive hit “Body Like a Backroad” are what put him on the chart, despite his most recent single unfortunately flopping.
  • Cole Swindell only sits at #15 this week, but should take a big step-up in next week’s chart with his new album dropping this past Friday. I expect strong gains across all categories.
  • Cody Johnson making an appearance on this chart proved to me that my methodology works. Here’s an independent artist who’s done really solid album sales and has a strong fan base, whose debut single for Warner did massive sales and impact would not be shown if you just looked at airplay. Johnson actually sat #1 on all of iTunes for a day or so, which is incredible. He will probably drop off next week, as his sales have dropped off a ton. It shows though my chart not only shows long-term impact, but short-term impact too.
  • Keith Urban had a big fall off this week from my test chart. He’s almost solely on the chart based on album points.
  • Morgan Evans and Dylan Scott are only on the chart because of country radio. Act surprised. You probably can’t.
  • Eric Church should continue to rise on the lead-up to his new album. Let’s hope!
  • You would expect Carrie Underwood to be higher, but “Cry Pretty” isn’t streaming or selling well. Like Church she should rise with the lead-up to her new album.
  • Alright now I can get to why the top 25 chart has 26 rankings. That’s because there was a four-way tie for the #23 spot on the rankings between Morgan Wallen, Chris Lane, Tori Kelly and Mitchell Tenpenny. Based on the aforementioned tiebreaker, Tenpenny gets first ranking over them based on having strength from three categories. Last week he only had one category, so unfortunately he isn’t going away and only going to rise. He’s then followed by Wallen, who has strength in album sales and streaming. Finally Lane and Kelly, who are solely on the chart thanks to airplay.
  • One more thing: This feature won’t be this long each week, so don’t worry about having to read this wall of text every week. It’ll be more succinct moving forward now that I’ve got all of the rules and methodology of the chart out of the way.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 25

  1. Zac Brown Band
  2. Jon Pardi
  3. Russell Dickerson
  4. Chris Janson
  5. Garth Brooks

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

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