New chart extinguishes payola
Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
In an industry plagued by payola, Lloyd Laing says he has formulated a computerised global reggae chart that is credible and free of human interference.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner recently, Laing explained that the recently-started Reggae Top 40 chart (reggaetop40.com) is very credible and will help in the advancement of the reggae industry.
"The main aim of the project was to create a non-partisan, automated charting system that would reflect the reggae industry on a global level. The software has been tested over the last 16 months and has been proven to reflect an error margin of three to five per cent. This is because three to five per cent of the data sources are susceptible to payola," said Laing, who is the co-founder of the Reggae News Corporation and chairman of the Jamaica World Cinema Showcase.
"The chart is one of the most credible tools to be introduced to the industry since the MP3. It is based on hardcore numbers - not what we think in Jamaica. It represents the reggae industry on a global level."
He added, "well that (payola) is the one factor that makes or breaks any chart in any region. And the human element doubles that risk. So we designed the software to not only collect and calculate, but also to post the data online as well."
More than 2,000 sources
He further explained that the data used in the chart is gathered from more than 2,000 sources, including playlists, downloads, sales statistics, torrent feeds, social-media presence, digital asset portfolios and other music metrics from around the world.
"The system uses a specially designed algorithm to create results based on a delicate balance of qualitative and quantitative content analysis," he added.
Laing said the main consideration when he decided to start the chart was how he would eliminate human influence.
"When we studied other business models, such as Billboard and the UK official chart, we came to [the] realisation that the reggae industry did not grant the luxury of using solely quantitative data. We had to create a matrix to include qualitative data such as new Twitter followers, Twitter responses, Facebook likes, and other social-network commentary," he said.
"The qualitative data, in essence, reflect how artistes/labels are managing their digital assets which, in turn, determines the brand influence of an artiste in the global marketplace. So once the algorithm was designed, we decided that the software would have to be 'knowledgeable' enough to operate autonomously."
Currently, the data is collected from more than 80 countries, including Slovakia, Sweden and Australia.
With a computerised chart that gathers qualitative and quantitative data, Laing says he will be offering more than some of the local charts that currently exist.
"Presently, there is no computerised reggae-specific chart in the industry. For years people have been compiling charts, and payola vastly affects the true results. In Jamaica, who can buy the most phonecards is the No. 1 artiste, and that is no way to measure any industry," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
So far, he said the response to the chart has been mostly favourable. However, "just as any other aspect of research, some will disagree. Not everybody agrees with numbers, but everybody knows the numbers don't lie," he said.
In just a week of being online, the website has also exceeded his expectations.
"The site has already surpassed some of our expectations. It has gathered over 10,000 unique views in less that one week, and the feedback from industry players has been major. We are already in discussions with media outlets locally and worldwide to syndicate the content for radio, press and TV/cable," Laing said.
"We plan to add other modules that will allow labels, artistes, booking agents and managers to track an artiste's performance and to allow strategic planning for PR (public relations) and marketing. Locally the chart will give charted artistes additional visibility in the press, radio and soon TV or cable."
Phase two of the project is what Laing believes will bring even more benefits to the reggae industry, as it will be a "tool that will be on the desktops of industry players worldwide. Phase two will be a web-driven desktop application that monitors an artiste and provides analytical data in real time."
Laing said this will include geo-demographical analytics,
Moving forward, Laing said there are also plans for a Reggae Top 100, which is an annual email subscription with the weekly top-40 results. There will also be a quarterly magazine, Reggae Market Report, that will have in-depth industry data. There are also plans for the Global Reggae Media that will include the publication of the data online and off-line, as well as weekly broadcasts of the chart on radio and TV. By February 2012, Laing said he also plans to start the Global Reggae Awards to honour and celebrate the top 10 artistes of the year and the three top disc jockeys.