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When musicians think of getting major play on a radio station, they’re probably also thinking of “the charts.” But what are the charts?
Collectively, the term “the charts” refers to just about any radio chart that keeps track of airplay (or in some cases, playlist adds). However, not all charts are created equally. Some have more industry clout and receive better publicity than others, and the more significant a chart is in terms of artist visibility, the more competitive and rewarding landing on it is going to be.
Wherever you are in your music career, making any chart is a huge step toward increased listenership — so how are the charts different, and how can you make it onto one?
The NACC Charts
NACC, which stands for North American College & Community, has a rich history in the music industry, tracing its roots all the way back to 1978. That year, Robert Haber launched the inaugural issue, and since then, NACC ‘s popularity has taken off like a rocket. Not only is there a NACC publication and numerous NACC charts, NACC also hosts an annual music marathon, a rock music festival, and even a film festival. The best part? All of it is devoted to college radio acts.
Because college radio stations are non-commercial, their charts are more realistically accessible than major commercial radio charts. (Without a firmly established reputation, a dedicated following, a large budget, and a professional promo team, no artist is going to land on the Billboard Charts.)
However, just because college charts are comparatively easier to crack, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Making it onto any chart is a huge challenge — particularly for brand new acts that are learning the industry ropes.
NACC keeps track of a medley of different music charts, such as Top 200, Latin Alternative, and AAA (Adult Album Alternative). While all associated with NACC, some of these charts carry more weight than others. We discuss some of the most prominent below.
NACC Top 200
Top 200 refers to the top 200 most played songs from a given week. Where do these 200 tracks come from? College radio stations all across the country. How do those stations decide what to submit? They work off of their own charts.
Top 200 is made out of something called Top 30. For any week, a college station will determine which were the “top 30” tracks to get the most airplay during that seven-day span. These Top 30 charts then go toward NACC for determining the ultimate, overall Top 200. Essentially, the process is structured like a giant tournament bracket.
NACC Radio 200 Adds
This one sounds similar to Top 200, but it reflects a very different sort of musical breakthrough. Whereas Top 200 refers simply to the top 200 most played songs from a particular week, Radio 200 Adds refers to, well, adds. But what counts as an “add”?
An add means that a track was added to the station’s library, and isn’t necessarily a reflection of actual airplay. For example, a song can be included on a station playlist, without yet having been played. (Imagine your iTunes library with no number in the “play count” column.)
To be more specific, the NACC Radio 200 Adds chart counts reported adds (i.e. Official Adds). Radio stations are allowed to report up to five Official Adds to NACC each week, but most stations add more than five albums to their rotations.
Making it onto Radio 200 Adds is a huge achievement. Maybe you haven’t been played yet, but it’s a sign that you’ve got your foot in the door.
NACC Genre Charts
While Top 200 and Radio 200 Adds are among the broader and more well-known NACC charts, they certainly aren’t the only charts that NACC tracks. For example, there are genre-specific charts like:
- Loud Rock (metal, hard rock)
- RPM (electronic, dance)
- Hip Hop
Genre also plays a role in the NACC Add Charts.
Earshot, Dusted, FMQB, and KKBB
In addition to the numerous NACC charts, we’ve also selected four more charts to highlight for new musicians: the Earshot Canadian College Charts, the Dusted College Radio Charts, the FMQB Charts, and the KKBB Charts.
The Earshot Canadian College Charts
The Earshot Charts take their name from Earshot Magazine (technically !Earshot Magazine), a Canadian publication which exists in both paper and digital format. Earshot, which calls itself “the national campus and community radio report,” is dedicated to spotlighting the best emerging non-commercial acts in Canada. Like NACC, Earshot tracks numerous charts, such as:
- Monthly Top 10
- Top 50
- Various genre charts (e.g. Electronic, Hip Hop, International)
The Dusted College Radio Charts
Like the Earshot Charts, the Dusted College Radio Charts are based on a publication (Dusted Magazine), and are devoted to college (i.e. non-commercial) artists. Unlike the Earshot Charts, the Dusted Charts are centered in America, as the magazine operates out of New York City. Dusted logs a Weekly Top 40 Chart, which can be viewed on their website. As of now, Dusted cites 31 contributing stations.
The FMQB Charts
FMQB stands for Friday Morning QuarterBack, in a play on the popular phrase “Monday morning quarterback.” FMQB is an industry magazine — and an absolute data mine for new musicians. FMQB features music news, articles covering musicians, and of course, its own set of charts. The FMQB Charts cull their material from commercial stations, and include:
- Mainstream Top 40 Chart
- SubModern Chart
- Commercial Specialty Charts
The KKBB Charts
KKBB, also known as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is a digital publication devoted to “keeping alternative and specialty safe and united for a better tomorrow.” The e-zine’s website offers free music downloads, a weekly catalog of new releases, and the KKBB Tracker Chart. The Tracker Chart is “exclusive to all industry folks with an interest in key chart tracking,” i.e. keeping an eye on trends in commercial specialty radio charts. In addition to the exclusive, paid-only Tracker Chart, KKBB also displays two charts which anyone can view for free with the click of a button:
- Top 10 Specialty Singles Chart
- Top 10 Specialty Artist/Album Chart
Tips for Getting Onto the Charts
- Get a professional radio promoter. Radio promoters can give musicians a boost in many ways. They supply information, act as a guide, make contacts with radio stations, track trends, and of course, spread the word about your music.
- Promote yourself. Even if you have a professional promoter, you shouldn’t rest on your laurels. Always be proactive. Enter contests. Reach out to radio stations. Make a website.
- Always comply with packaging rules. If you want to submit music to a radio station, whether online or traditional, it’s critical to adhere to the rules that station provides for how music should be formatted, packaged, and labeled. Radio staff are all but drowning in submissions, so if you want to be noticed, your submission needs to look professional and be easy to identify.
- Use social media. Almost everyone uses either Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or all three — not to mention the virtually countless other social media sites in existence today. Make your act visible online. Advertise yourself and spread the word about your music.