When is the best time for one to appreciate music? You may answer “any time.” That is valid and true.
But when is the best time to fall in love with music? Your answer may differ from mine, but we may agree that perhaps the most important period may have been our early teenage years. There we are, ready to discard our “childish ways” and feeling that we are now adults, or at least much closer to that phase in life than ever before, and militant enough to convince our parents that we understand life better than they do. The bravery, the openness, the possibilities… the world is your proverbial oyster. Eventually, you will find what you are loyal to, or at least a scene that speaks closest to you and validates your worldview. Every emotion you feel is legitimate, and every thought and big idea is the most important thing in the world.
I liked songs as a kid, but upon entering my teens, I began searching for songs that truly spoke to me. Naturally I went to the source that offered a surfeit of options: radio.
Somehow, I discovered Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 on an FM station that went by the call sign 99.5RT. Every Sunday, I would tune in and listen to his warm baritone as he counted down the hits and gave bits of trivia for most of the songs that made it to the weekly countdown.
However, this is not a story about the show, the station, or even Casey Kasem himself, God rest his soul.
Even during those days of innocence and discovery, I was wondering: who decided the list? I didn’t like every song (of course) and would be ecstatic if the ones I did like, for whatever reason I had at the time, would go up in ranking the next time I tuned in. Or would feel terrible if a tune I liked dropped a notch or three… or just disappear. Kasem would give a rundown of the dropouts and, dude, sometimes it really hurt.
He also would say that the AT40 was based on the Billboard Charts.
What on earth is Billboard, I wondered? That’s a thing you see on highways, right?
I kept looking at whatever literature, and shows, I could find in print, radio, and television. I discovered other shows based on other charts. However, it was plain to see: if it’s Number One in the AT40, there was no doubt that it truly is a Number One. More importantly, the source of the AT40 made the official declaration; the other “charts shows” were medals but the AT40 was the trophy. The show was a reflection of what Billboard tallied based on radio and sales figures combined. Billboard, clearly, had final say. All the major certified stars proudly quoted Billboard results… and referenced little else.
I asked a US-based cousin to buy and bring home a copy of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” She bought a copy for herself as well. That’s two people I know who contributed to the album’s legendary success. And, yeah, I felt I made sure he stayed at Number One.
Today, the validation that Billboard provides still rings true. The industry has changed radically, and consumer behaviour (and media and tech) has shifted just as much. Online streaming and social media engagements are, to perhaps oversimplify, what radio, tv, and physical sales were in my generation’s (and earlier, plus at least a generation later’s) perspective. Billboard kept up with the times. Michael Jackson’s actual sales figures are different from Justin Bieber’s perhaps but both, during their respective career peaks and historical contexts, deferred/defer to the Billboard charts as nails in their competition’s coffins (at least for spells). Many charts continue to exist but Billboard still has the final word: it summarizes, scientifically then as now, the results of all the charts of importance that you can think of.
And now, Billboard is officially present in the Philippines as BillboardPH. What does this mean?
I will refer back to my teenage years when I innocently wondered: Where’s the PHILIPPINE Top 40? And I know I was not alone when I asked that question… not then, and not now.
BillboardPH has, in its hands, the responsibility to do what Billboard has done since the mid-20th Century: to reflect and report on what and who music fans like. Except… we are going to reflect and report specifically what Filipino music fans are into, whether it’s Sarah Geronimo or Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber or “Tatlong Bibe,” Parokya Ni Edgar or Lamb Of God.
It will not be easy; we are not pretending it will be.
You are now (September 15, 2016) checking out a site that is at the foot of the foot of the foot of a metaphorical mountain (Apo or Everest? Take your pick). But we do want to make it clear that the summit is in our sights (Apo,. Then, Everest). BillboardPH also intends to map out the terrain of Philippine music: past, present, and future. It will take time. We are in the process of developing music charts not only of national concern, but regional as well. Just like you, we are looking for the next phases/faces of Filipino music. Is it a provincial act? Rock? Hip-hop? Pop? EDM? Tagalog? English? Cebuano? Kapampangan? The possibilities are practically endless.
Whoever it will be, whatever the form he/she/they choose, BillboardPH wants to know. And, we know, so do you. After all, Billboard never decided who will be in the charts. As music fans, WE did.
You are the music fan. You make the decision. You take your hero to Number One.
BillboardPH will be the tallying point. And that’s just for starters.