Every day, the Chart Data Twitter account shares dozens of updates about sales projections, RIAA certifications, and chart placements.
When it comes to music-related social media pages, @chartdata is about as nerdy as it gets.
Something strange has been happening to the account for the last two years, though. The stats-driven page has grown a huge following that recently topped six figures and it regularly gets shared by stars like Cardi B. Their updates often receive thousands of retweets and the page's followers leave the kind of comments you usually see under Instagram photos from boy bands.
The page has never resorted to memes or other social media tactics to build its large audience. Every tweet focuses solely on data. So, how did this happen? As Chart Data's anonymous founder has noticed, music fans are now more interested in data than ever. Constantly updated sales statistics aren't just for record label executives and super-nerds. Casual fans are interested, too.
"Some of the increased interest is probably related to the rise of different kinds of charts and the visibility they have," Chart Data's founder says. "There is also so much information available instantaneously now. Streaming services have their own charts, the relevancy of genre charts seems to be increasing, and the ability to reach artists through social media has caused fans to embrace these achievements and share them back like never before."
We spoke with the person behind Chart Data about the history of the account and music's growing fascination with data. Read the interview in full below.
How did Chart Data begin?
Chart Data began just over two years ago in June 2016 with the goal of providing relevant and noteworthy updates on tracks, albums, and artists on a global level. I’ve always been interested in the numbers that go into constructing the charts and aimed to deliver this information publicly. Numbers don’t lie. Having the information to confirm chart placement verifies the validity of the system. My identity and personal opinions have always been irrelevant because that’s not what I set out to promote.
Although this account is the first one that has been focused exclusively on charts, it’s not the first music account I’ve operated on Twitter.
Is this a one-man operation or do you have a team?
It’s currently a one-man operation in terms of tweeting, but I’ve got several other individuals helping me deliver information more effectively. I definitely couldn’t do it without them.
How has it grown and evolved since then?
Outside of the Hot 100 positions, the account didn’t have much structure at the beginning. It became clear that having a schedule of recurring updates was important and this realization was integral in helping the account gain in popularity. Unfortunately the sheer amount of updates that I decided to include for the United States charts has somewhat tabled my coverage on a global level.
the rise of streaming has changed the type of stats people are interested in. I have started to add more YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music stats and calculate equivalent sales units for singles and albums whenever possible.
How did you manage to build your following and gain the trust of people as a reliable source?
Gaining trust was a slow process. In fact, I still get questions about my credentials and messages about whether or not my updates are genuine. I don’t want to share too much but I do verify that the sources are credible and the information is accurate before posting. Building the following came down to being among the first to report on big or expected updates and simply listening to my audience.
What have been some of the biggest moments for you guys when it comes to artists sharing your work?
So far the biggest moment was when Cardi B posted a video of herself on Instagram reacting to my tweet about “Bodak Yellow” reaching No. 1 on the Hot 100. I didn’t even realize the video existed until several weeks later. Of course I’m appreciative of all artist re-shares, but that was the first time I’d legitimately ‘seen’ a reaction to one of my posts.
My coverage of Migos’ “Bad & Boujee” reaching No. 1, Drake hitting 400 consecutive weeks on the Hot 100 and the release of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” received additional notice from various media outlets, which fueled early success. I’ve had conversations with several other artists. I enjoy interacting with them and answering questions they may have.
You often tweet out information before anyone else (including Billboard). How are you able to be so fast? Where do you get the information?
A lot of it has to do with being prepared. Some information is available ahead of time. Additionally, I try to stay up to date with new releases and anticipate where they will land on the next chart. Sometimes I’ve got five or six versions of the same tweet planned out in my notes just in case.
In addition to reporting hard facts, you also often share projections about sales and chart placements. Those projections are usually fairly accurate. How do you do it?
I can’t take credit for albums predictions as I get most of those courtesy of Hits Daily Double. As for placement on the singles chart, predictions are formed using an array of individual chart predictors and I look at the numbers myself as necessary. I limit the amount of singles chart predictions I post to guarantee a high level of accuracy.
It seems like artists and music fans are more concerned about numbers and stats than ever. Why do you think that is?
I would definitely agree. I believe some of the increased interest is probably related to the rise of different kinds of charts and the visibility they have. There is also so much information available instantaneously now. Streaming services have their own charts, the relevancy of genre charts seems to be increasing and the ability to reach artists through social media has caused fans to embrace these achievements and share them back like never before.
One of the biggest trends is rule changes to accommodate market shifts. Some chart records have become immortalized while others are suddenly breakable.
How has the world of music-related data changed in recent years? What are the biggest developments that have changed how things work?
This is hard to answer but I would say the rise of streaming has changed the type of stats people are interested in. I have started to add more YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music stats and calculate equivalent sales units for singles and albums whenever possible. At the same time, there’s still a passionate group of people who believe pure sales are the best measure of popularity. For the time being, I’m working on covering both sides of the issue.
You're constantly looking at music numbers. Are there any mind-blowing stats you've come across lately? Or any general trends you've noticed?
One of the biggest trends is rule changes to accommodate market shifts. Some chart records have become immortalized while others are suddenly breakable. For example, the rise of streaming will likely keep the all-time list of best selling pure albums steady for the foreseeable future. Similarly, the Official Charts Company’s (UK) new rules limiting the amount of songs by an artist that can chart in a single week will allow albums like Ed Sheeran’s Divide to hold on to all-time chart records. On the other hand, the Hot 100’s commitment to ranking the top tracks in America has allowed streaming powerhouses like Drake to break or tie records that have stood for decades.
Other than that, looking at albums posting notable increases or setting longevity records—and why—is always interesting. Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city hitting 300 weeks on the Billboard 200 and Adele’s 21—the longest charting album by a woman—re-entering with a massive sales spike were highlights this week.
Also, there are coincidences like last week when two tracks titled “Ocean” charted in back to back positions on the Hot 100. That was pretty amusing.
Beyond the Twitter account, you have a website as well. And it looks like you're working on bringing new types of features and content to it in the future. What types of things do you use the website for and what are your plans for the future with it?
Initially the website was set up as a place to give answers to questions I’ve been asked many times before. Around the time the account reached 100,000 followers I checked the site’s stats and realized that the few pages I had already set up were capturing thousand of views. It just made sense to expand with chart stories that can’t be boiled down into one or two tweets.
Right now there is not a strict focus on the website. In addition to articles analyzing chart performance and milestones, the site features data archives, such as the list of best selling digital singles and Spotify calendars. I’ve also partnered with several other passionate chart followers for content focused on trends and the state of industry. Although the Twitter account is the priority, there is room for more here.
Do you have any other plans to grow and expand Chart Data in the future?
People seem to be interested right now but I don’t know where this is going. Sometimes I try new things to test the public’s interest. A few of these have become new regular features. While I personally hope it continues, the audience will play a big part in the longevity of the account.
How can people support you?
I’m not doing this for profit, but I would like to grow the audience. I appreciate any re-shares and media interest. I also wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for the continued support from the audience. I’m glad that what I enjoy reporting on is appreciated by so many others.