by: Ben Scheffler
Since the 1950’s, Billboard’s album and singles charts have been the industry standard, and regarded as the quintessential reference by industry professionals and music fans alike. For the better part of the last decade, BigChampagne has been working to supersede Billboard and become the entertainment industry’s chart of choice. The so-called “technology driven media measurement company[’s]” major competitive advantage over Billboard and other traditional media charts is their inclusion of online activity as equally important to that of traditional sales and radio plays. While those traditional forms of measurement are included in their calculations, BigChampagne also accounts for the multitude of web based platforms on which media is consumed and discussed. From iTunes sales to YouTube views to Tweets to Bittorrent downloads, BigChampagne keeps tabs on what media is most popular on the web.
After launching in 2000, BigChampagne quickly made a name for themselves by tracking activity on Napster, the first major peer-to-peer filesharing network. At a time when the music business, and entertainment industry as a whole, regarded the internet as a backwater for nerds, or at best a fad that would burn out, BigChampagne had the foresight to recognize the massive cultural implications of the web. According to Eric Garland, co-founder and CEO of BigChampagne, “Instead of CDs, we paid attention to this sleepy little internet thing, but it happened when no one was watching. Well, we were watching.”
In August 2009, cnet.com reported that BigChampagne finalized a deal with Universal Music Group, “to help track the popularity of the label’s music online.” A major selling point for the company is their new BC Dash software: which allows users to track activity on streaming sites, online retailers, and peer-to-peer networks in real time. The deal with Universal is indicative of the importance of the work that BigChampagne does. Formerly, Universal relied solely on Nielsen SoundScan for tracking data, reportedly paying between $7 and $8 Million for the service. To be sure, BigChampagne’s paycheck from Universal will likely have fewer zero’s, but the fact that the media conglomerate is paying for the service at all speaks volumes about the fundamental, cultural shift in the way media is consumed in our culture.
BigChampagne unveiled their Ultimate Chart of top 100 songs at the New Music Seminar in July 2010. A message on the Ultimate Chart website reads “The Ultimate Chart is a chart for the 21st century, based on a scalable technology platform developed over more than ten years. We collect billions of points of data, online and off. Our machines are very clever but our analysts are too. Real people grade the computers’ work to ensure accuracy. We collect more relevant information from more sources than anyone ever has, by our count. But don’t worry. We’re not taking a day off. The Ultimate 100 is just the beginning. Stay tuned.” Clearly, BigChampagne has BigPlans for the future.