Chapter 56 – Halo Effect
When Renly saw “Cleopatra” was ranked 48th on the iTunes instant download chart, he was truly surprised. This obscure folk song, sang by an unknown independent artist had no sales gimmicks whatsoever, and in the sea of thousands of digital singles, the chance of it being discovered by listeners was almost zero.
Although iTunes has a feature that recommends songs based on users’ playlists and personal preferences, the recommended songs are always carefully selected. Even when recommending independent artists, they tended to promote those who had signed contracts with them. This was the best way to maximize profits. Recommending an unknown nobody? Apple isn’t in the charity business.
In other words, Renly’s dream of “Cleopatra” making it onto the download chart was just a pipe dream.
But now, a miracle had actually appeared before Renly’s eyes. He couldn’t help but slightly open his mouth, unable to find the right words to describe his feelings at the moment. But after hearing Neil’s excited words, Renly just laughed out loud, “Billboard? I don’t think so.”
As the most representative, authoritative, and popular music chart in the world, Billboard may not represent the preferences of all listeners, and may not be professional enough, but as a chart that reflects the commercial and popular aspects of the music market, it is unique. Even Japan’s Oricon chart and the UK’s Pop Chart cannot compare.
Billboard’s charts can be broken down into every music genre, but the most important ones are undoubtedly the comprehensive chart, the album chart, and the singles chart. Any artist who can top these three charts, even if it’s only for a week, is the most intuitive reflection of their popularity.
The ranking on the Billboard is not only calculated based on sales. This ranking system is constantly adjusting itself and takes into account radio airplay, digital downloads, physical sales, as well as online streaming data from platforms like YouTube, VEVO, and Spotify. The data is calculated according to an official formula and the final ranking is based on points.
In other words, the iTunes instant download chart is only a part of the weekly ranking calculation for the Billboard chart. Without data from radio airplay and streaming data, even if a song temporarily tops the iTunes download chart, it would be difficult for it to rank high on the Billboard chart.
Therefore, media often mention that a song has “low points because it hasn’t been promoted on radio,” or “it has low streaming numbers because there is no music video.”
The single “Cleopatra” has not been promoted on radio, has no music video, and has no physical copies. With only the data from iTunes instant downloads, it is impossible for the song to rank in the top 100 on the Billboard chart.
Furthermore, the download data for “Cleopatra” is not exceptionally high, only ranking 48th with a download count of around one to two thousand. However, for a single without any promotion, this is still an incredible achievement, which is why Renly was surprised. Nevertheless, for it to get on the Billboard chart, this is not enough.
“Why is it impossible?” Neil became excited instead. “Let me tell you, people in the bars near Greenwich Village love this song. This download count is definitely not just for show. Last month, Stanley even went to a radio station in Manhattan to promote this song, and we heard it twice last week.”
As a country on wheels, the radio industry in the United States has not declined due to the development of television and the Internet. On the contrary it has remained prosperous. Each state and city has its own radio stations, and there are hundreds of radio stations on just Manhattan Island alone.
Most commercial radio stations have signed agreements with the five major record companies, with a defined spectrum of music playlists set for each day. 90% of the music played by radio hosts comes from that kind of lists. However, as a famous music bar in Greenwich Village, Pioneer Village has even been recommended in the official tourism brochure of the New York City government, so Stanley still has some connections with the local radio stations.
Renly couldn’t help but show a surprised expression again. Although he gave “Cleopatra” as a gift to Stanley initially because of Stanley’s persistence and enthusiasm, he really didn’t expect that Stanley would care so much and even go out of his way to promote the single.
Seeing Renly’s expression, Neil became even more proud, and his chest swelled with satisfaction. “But it’s not over yet.” After throwing out another bomb, Renly remained calm, which made Neil anxious. He brought over his computer and eagerly opened the YouTube page, randomly clicking a few times. “Look, look, this is another achievement!”
After watching the video for a while, Renly’s brow furrowed slightly. “What is this?”
Neil’s heart sank slightly, realizing he had been too caught up in his pride and had actually taken the initiative to expose it. From Renly’s expression, it was clear that this was the first time he had seen this video. “Hehe, just a hobby. I recorded your performance at the bar last time. I thought such an outstanding performance shouldn’t just be seen by ourselves; it should be shared with everyone.”
Playing on YouTube was the video of Renly singing “Cleopatra”. He had no idea that Neil had recorded it, let alone put it on the YouTube. Looking at the upload time, it was obviously from last summer. As the person involved, he only found out now, which was…a kind of ridiculous feeling.
Neil carefully scrutinized Renly and was uncertain about his emotions at the moment. He quickly preempted, “You see, everyone really likes it! Last Thursday, this video was even recommended by YouTube and now has over two million views, and the number of likes has also reached…” Under Renly’s gaze, Neil’s voice gradually diminished, becoming almost inaudible.
“My eyes still work,” Renly said in a deep voice. The number of likes on the video had exceeded fifty thousand, which was truly astonishing.
As there are many YouTube stars nowadays, if you picked anyone at random, their statistics would probably surpass Renly’s. However, the problem is that Renly had not undergone any publicity nor frequently uploaded his videos. With a video uploaded almost nine months ago, that quietly got to its current level, makes all of this even more amazing.
Thinking carefully, the reason wasn’t hard to find – “The Pacific”. The heated discussion this work had caused on the internet had brought Renly a strong exposure rate. As the search index rose, the YouTube video’s views also climbed, which in turn explained the increase in iTunes downloads.
This was the first time Renly had personally experienced his rise in popularity. He was no longer an unknown actor. The name “Renly Hall” was being recognized by more and more people, and the news reports finally gave him some sense of reality. However, he didn’t expect to experience it in this way. The Internet age in the 21st century is truly unique.
Suddenly, Renly realized what had happened. Why did the middle-aged man driving the truck react that way earlier? He didn’t watch “The Pacific”, but a video of his performance on YouTube. He found it strange back than that the reaction of the other party didn’t match that of the others that watched “The Pacific”!
“Don’t blame Neil, I’m also responsible for this.” Stanley’s familiar voice came from behind, and Renly turned to see Stanley walking over with a guilty expression. “I just feel that beautiful music should be shared with everyone, and your performance shouldn’t just be appreciated by the old men in Pioneer Village. I hope you don’t mind this.”
Renly had never had much interest in music, and it was actually disrespectful for them to go behind Renly’s back like this and make his creation and his performance public.
At first, when he found out, Renly was surprised and a little bit angry. He didn’t like the feeling of being deceived. However, looking at Stanley’s sincere expression, all the negative emotions disappeared, and instead, Renly felt a slight ache in his chest. He could feel Stanley’s enthusiasm and dedication, and this purity was enough to move anyone.
Moreover, the person who recorded the single and completed the upload was Renly himself, without anyone’s coercion, right?
“Shouldn’t I thank you?” Renly said with a smile. Niel, who was standing beside him and pretending to be lost in thought, looked up suddenly, with a look of surprise in his eyes. “This is a gift I gave to you. As for how to use it, it’s up to you. But now it seems that this gift is also bringing me some returns. At least I should have some income from royalties. I’ll treat everyone to a meal someday.”
Renly’s banter made everyone burst out laughing, and Niel began to show off again. “I knew it. I knew your music would be loved by countless people. Look, the streaming numbers are still rising, not just on YouTube and iTunes, but also on Spotify. Next, you will enter the Billboard Hot 100. This is definitely not just talk.”
Looking at Niel’s appearance, Renly couldn’t help but laugh. “Then should we start thinking about me entering the top ten, or even getting the top spot?” An independent folk song entering the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100? That would be the best joke in the music market in the 21st century.
“Why not!” Neil thumped his chest, confidently.
Renly nodded seriously, with a hint of a smile on his lips, and said earnestly, “Then I’ll wait for that day to come! When it does, I’ll take you for a spin on the Hudson River.”
Neil and the others immediately cheered, and Renly stood up and walked over to Stanley. He said solemnly, “Thank you, Stanley, I mean it.” This old man who has loved music his whole life was realizing his dream in his own way.
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