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Changing the Way We Chart Music

Beginning this week, Billboard Magazine will incorporate YouTube plays as part of the metric it uses to determine its weekly singles chart, as reported in yesterday’s New York Times.

Coming on the heels of news that the Times is putting The Boston Globe up for sale again, it’s almost too much to take in a single news week.

Indeed, the times they are a-changin’ (stopping to ponder whether a visionary like Zimmerman saw this coming). Yet I must admit, I certainly didn’t, even though with videos like “Gangnam Style” and “Somebody That I Used To Know” garnering more views than the population of most of the world’s continents, I also admit I should have.

Here’s where the nostalgia sets in: I remember vividly tuning into pop radio during my preteen years, counting down America’s Top 40 with Casey Casem, wondering if my favorite artist would claim the top spot that week, and if not, how far their song would climp or (gasp) dip. But that was a long time ago, when MTV played music and the best video games were six feet tall and weighed 300 pounds.

And so I come to the realization that MTV is dead, and so are arcades, and so goes the way we consume popular entertainment these days. I guess it’s healthy in way, in that one could potentially vie for pop stardom from their bedroom or basement, remaining (at least, for a while) free from the trappings and creative constraints of big-time record companies and their bean counting partners in crime.

And if something tangible has been lost in all of this – the spinning of a 45, the careful construction of mix tape for your best friend, or the sights and smells of a freshly opened gatefold of liner notes – something has likely been gained, even if I’m not entirely certain what that something is. Perhaps its choice.

Which reminds me of what my son chose to pull out the other evening in lieu of listening to music on his  iPod, smartphone, or, computer, or Playstation – the Motion Picture Soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever – on vinyl, no less.

At 14, I only dreamed of such a smorgasbord.

–John Ciampa

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