What does it really take to get to the top of the Billboard charts?
According to Reggie Gooden, partner at 818 Talent, the answer depends if you ask. Gooden, who has been named by the Hollywood Reporter as a top executive for artist and entertainment talent, told us that the rules for listing on the Billboard 200 had already changed since we arranged that podcast interview a few weeks ago.
“Musicians and people in the music business have to deal with the fact that the goals are constantly shifting,” said Gooden. “There’s all these numbers and rules that define exactly what an album is and isn’t… and then suddenly everything changes.”
We asked Gooden about DJ Khaled’s spectacular meltdown last year when Billboard refused to give his name father of Asahd the #1 album on the Billboard 200 (the award went to Tyler, the creator).
The reason is that Khaled has been accused of skyrocketing his album’s “sales” through a novel sponsorship connection, which has misled the Billboard charting authorities.
Khaled threatened a lawsuit — over a chart entry — though Gooden told us that might have made business sense.
But why was there any confusion at all? Amazingly, Gooden said Billboard changed the rules right after the Khaled dispute. That was just a few months ago, and Billboard has changed the rules multiple times since then.
And with every rule change, there’s a whole new way to exploit a loophole.
Gooden took us down the dark and filthy rabbit hole of Billboard chart gaming, into a world of “stream farms”, nifty product ties, “playola” and other nefarious weapons to snag a #1 spot. No, these aren’t useful “tips and tricks,” but at least you know what you’re dealing with (or maybe you’re ready to switch to the dark side).
At one point, Gooden outright called the Billboard charts “rigged.” It’s almost like a touchdown pass counts as 6 points, then 9 points, then 4 points. all in the same season. “Things are getting out of hand,” Gooden lamented.
Unfortunately, too much chart manipulation can be bad for your health and your fanbase—especially when it comes at the expense of your music. And Gooden said that’s the wrong path for most artists. “Things are getting out of hand,” Gooden repeated. “We just have to create incentives for everyone to play fair.”