chart wars

What Are Billboard’s New Global Charts and How Do They Work?

Maluma is the first artist to hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Global Excl. U.S. chart. Photo: Jeff Kravitz/MTV VMAs 2020/Getty Images for MTV

From urbano music to K-pop, some of the biggest developments in pop music today are taking root outside the United States. In response, two new Billboard song charts will now crown global No. 1s — one accounting for the entire world and one excluding the United States. Billboard announced the new charts, called the Billboard Global 200 and the Billboard Global Excl. U.S., on September 14. Both charts will be determined by a mix of song sales and streams, according to the magazine’s announcement, with streams from paid subscriptions holding more weight than streams from free subscriptions. Billboard’s announcement didn’t say how many paid and free streams will equal one song sale; it takes 125 paid streams or 375 free streams to equal one sale on the Hot 100. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” opens the Billboard Global 200 at No. 1, while Maluma’s “Hawai” is the first Global Excl. U.S. No. 1.

Aside from the scope of the charts, they notably don’t account for radio play. “The focus was on metrics that could be systematically measured in each country,” said a rep for parent company MRC Entertainment. “Unlike streaming and download sales, radio is not reliably measured at this time in many territories and, even if tracked, is not done consistently from country to country.” The Hot 100, Billboard’s flagship songs chart, still uses a blend of sales, radio play, and streaming to determine hits in the U.S. Even as streaming has come to dominate music listening, Billboard has been slow to adapt and fine-tune to streaming (which the charts first counted in 2007), and radio still determines a larger share of the Hot 100 than streams. The new global charts seem to fall more in line with Rolling Stone’s Top 100 chart, which debuted in 2019 as a competitor to Billboard. The Top 100 uses a mix of sales and streams, with 120 paid streams or 360 free streams equaling one song sale, although it only accounts for American hits.

With their global reach and a lack of radio, the new charts are sure to become dominated by stans. International fans (and artists) have already found ways to game Billboard’s U.S. charts with VPNs — see Justin Bieber, who earlier this year encouraged fans outside the U.S. to use VPNs when they streamed “Yummy.” (Some VPNs allow internet users outside the U.S. to act as American internet users, and therefore be counted as American music streams.) Also earlier this year, 6ix9ine accused Billboard of cheating when the charts only counted 55.3 million first-week streams for his song “Gooba,” despite YouTube showing over 180 million streams. As it turns out, most of those streams were from outside the U.S. Let’s see him accuse these charts of cheating now.

This story has been updated with comment from Billboard parent MRC Entertainment on the new charts.

What Are Billboard’s New Global Charts and How Do They Work?