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Billboard parent company buys Nielsen Music as battle of charts heats up


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Valence Media, the owner of Billboard, is buying the Nielsen Music “insights and product suite’ that it uses for its charts in the US.

The two companies were previously under the same roof between 1999 and 2009 when they were part of Dutch media group Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen (VNU). That was until VNU sold Billboard to e5 Global Media Holdings which eventually led to its operating under Valence.

“By bringing Nielsen Music Products and Billboard back together, we’re answering the request from the music industry for a more coordinated, powerful, agile and global suite of independent measurement products,” said Deanna Brown, president of Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Group, in a statement.

Valence is also keen to stress that this will be business as usual, and that even though Billboard and Nielsen Music will be housed together it “pledges to operate with clear separation between the data and editorial teams and continue to follow best practices and security standards to ensure clients’ data integrity”.

Deal terms were not made public, but Digital Music News is suggesting that Nielsen is selling off assets in an attempt to recoup losses, noting that the company’s share price has tumbled from $50 in 2016 to $20 now.

This comes as not just the very role of Billboard’s charts but also their authority is being challenged like never before in the US. In July, Rolling Stone launched its own charts that it claimed were more dynamic than other charts (you can guess who it meant here) because they are daily rather than weekly. The argument was that they better reflect how streaming has changed the nature and the speed of consumption and the trajectory of success.

Rolling Stone’s charts are powered by Alpha Data (formerly BuzzAngle) at the time of the chart launch, Penske Media Corporation, which owns Rolling Stone as well as Variety, took a strategic investment in BuzzAngle.

Both Billboard and Rolling Stone are gearing up for a battle of the charts, but this is not even a pure duopoly: our industry has more charts than ever before jostling for attention as we head into 2020, from the rankings on the various streaming and video services, to the efforts of analytics firm Chartmetric to develop a “cross-platform performance” ranking.

The net result is a cacophony of charts, all with their particular merits, but also chipping away at the concept of any single chart being definitive. Listen now to the voices rising in volume and trying to drown each other out, in the vein of a famous movie: “I’m Charticus!”; “I’m Charticus!”; “I’m Charticus!”; “I’m Charticus!”…

Eamonn Forde

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