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THE WEIGHTING IS THE HARDEST PART:
BUZZANGLE'S LIDESTRI ON A CHART DISPUTE

Jim Lidestri of BuzzAngle, whose company now powers HITS’ charts, has weighed in, so to speak, on why Kenny Chesney was #1 on our most recent SPS and Album Sales charts, while Jeezy took the top spot on Billboard’s Top 200. Lidestri describes the methodology of Billboard data partner Nielsen as “outdated, inaccurate and unfair,” due to its use of “weighting” for physical sales (more about that in a moment). Some players at Sony Nashville are said to be contesting Billboard’s decision to crown Jeezy, and arguing that at least one indie physical retail outlet was radically over-represented in the count.

BuzzAngle’s practice of using only raw numbers is one reason the company was chosen as HITS’ data partner.

Weighting is the process of artificially increasing the sales that were counted to make up for the sales from stores that don’t report their data. “This practice had a place 20 years ago, but has no place anymore,” Lidestri asserts. “Nielsen weights both chain stores and independent music stores. There simply aren't any chain stores selling music that don't report their sales, so weighting this category results in a completely bogus number. And while there are a few hundred independent music stores that don't report their data, they are the smaller stores—and the methodology Nielsen uses to weight them has no mathematical accuracy whatsoever.”

He notes that Chesney's raw consumption numbers were 5K higher than Jeezy's album, but that Jeezy had 1k+ more sales at indie stores and 2k+ more sales at chain stores. These two segments were weighted in SoundScan and resulted in adding another 5k+ artificial consumption units to Jeezy's total, propelling it just ahead of Chesney's. This, Lidestri says, is a prime example of how the practice “causes an artificial movement in chart position.”

In addition to its undue sway on rankings, Lidestri continues, “these weighting factors change each week, thereby making week-over-week or year-over-year analyses impossible. This practice also leads to possible gaming of the charts. It is relatively easy to see which stores are getting the higher weighting factor, which allows someone wishing to get an unfair advantage to ‘purchase’ a few hundred titles at one store—which gets translated in Nielsen's system to many thousand.”

BuzzAngle’s practice of using only raw numbers, we should add, is one reason the company was chosen as HITS’ data partner.

In the meantime, the Chesney-Jeezy battle continues behind the scenes, almost like some kind of … disputed election result.