We recently heard from a Russian company called FindStream, which tracks over 30,000 web radio stations to identify the hottest rising songs on terrestrial and web-only radio stations, so that people in the music industry can get on top of them. That’s not what concerns us here, however.
FindStreams also tracks “all time hits,” which it defines as “the best songs of all time most stable on the web radio for the rolling 7 days [sic].”
We were struck by the fact that most of the music on that chart is not new releases, but rather catalog hits from the past. As of right now, for the most part, its “all time” chart for the past seven days looks positively ancient, as compared to something like Hype Machine, or Findstreams’ own trending charts:
These songs look like a mixed up playlist from several high school reunions — but what they don’t look like is the music of today.
We were so confused that we asked Daria Golyanina, chief marketing officer of Balakan, Inc., which runs FindStreams, what is going on here. What are all these dinosaurs doing stomping all over today’s web radio — and remember, this includes both the web streams of terrestrial radio stations and web-only stations?
Her response (unedited other than our note in the middle):
As for the all-time hits and their presence on the radio, this fact has also amazed us when we first saw the results of monitoring. We thought that today few are broadcasting Tracy Chapman or Ready for the World. And were really surprised when we’ve found out that the most aired music band on the web radio today is not Daft Punk or One Direction, but The Beatles (due to the total number of songs that are aired anywhere on the web radio, The Beatles are ahead of any other contemporary artist).
[In other words, the Beatles don't have any songs on the above chart, but if you total up all their songs, they're the most-played artist on web radio, according to how FindStreams measures things, anyway.]
I believe this can be explained by numerous facts – on one hand, it’s a relative independence of Internet-only stations that allows them to compile the playlist they want, on the other – the song’s real popularity among radio listeners, and I guess that’s the key. By doing All-Time hits charts we want to show what music survives through the times and stay on the radio no matter that’s in trend nowadays. These songs are not extremely gaining the audience’s attention, they don’t top the airplay chart – but they are ever-present because radio DJs know the audience love this music and it’ll stick to the station when some greatest hit is aired. And we rely on the opinion of radio Djs – if they continue broadcasting some old song for a relatively long time period, then it’s accredited as an all-time hit. For older fans they are recollections of great days, and for young generation – another way of music discovery, great music they may never heard but that’s definitely worth hearing.
Unless we’re missing something, FindStream has no way to track personalized radio stations — just the pre-programmed stations that come from AM/FM simulcasts on the web, or on static web-only radio stations. And because the vast majority of streaming radio happens through personalized stations on Pandora, iHeartRadio, and elsewhere, FindStreams is missing a whole lot of listening.
Still, it claims to track 27 thousand stations, two million songs per day, and 50 million listeners, which is not nothing. According to that data, the most popular songs on web radio over time are the same ones that stand the test of time on more traditional formats.