Maybe the Billboard charts need another update. Yesterday, Post Malone topped the Hot 100 chart with his song “Rockstar,” like most No. 1 artists today, on the strength of his streaming numbers. Today, the Fader noticed there’s a video of “Rockstar” on YouTube that was uploaded by Republic Records, Post Malone’s label, that has racked up over 41 million plays. But the video only features the chorus of “Rockstar,” looped over and over, for three minutes and 38 seconds.
The Fader cited an unnamed source, who said that those millions of views counted towards the total that pushed Post Malone to No. 1.
Shortly after the article was posted, Billboard confirmed as much, speaking to Spin (both magazines are owned by the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group):
U.S. streams for that clip do contribute to our songs charts, the same way an instrumental track or a remix of song would count towards the main song’s placement if downloaded or streamed.
So each video view pushed the song closer to No. 1, even though the clip doesn’t include a single verse (including the verse by 21 Savage, who’s featured on the song). TrackRecord reached out to 21 Savage’s management to ask about his removal from the popular video, and they declined to comment.
This was a fairly sneaky and insanely smart move on the part of Republic. There is no official music video for “Rockstar” yet, or even a lyric video. If Republic has any sense of how music fans use YouTube (as a go-to music search engine), and let’s be honest, they probably do, then it looks like the label uploaded this version of the song with the hope it would sit at the top of millions of fans’ search results. Although Republic haven’t uploaded the official audio to YouTube, the label still found a way to still collect streams from people who were searching for it. All hail Big Algorithm.
Republic also disabled comments, meaning anyone who listened to chorus-only version and wanted to warn other potential listeners of the chicanery couldn’t. And the Republic Records YouTube account doesn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason—it’s just a hodgepodge of different kinds of videos—which raised a red flag for me when I saw they were behind the video.
Post Malone already holds a highly popular VEVO channel (1.6 million followers), so the fact that Republic Records chose not to upload the chorus-only version to that channel is fairly telling. Ironically, the head of Apple Music, Jimmy Iovine, recently warned of this exact tactic being used to game the charts. Last month Hannah Karp wrote on the matter for Billboard, stating:
The trio is also hoping for changes to the way Billboard calculates its charts — where a free stream on YouTube counts equally to a paid stream on Apple Music — which could incentivize artists and labels to promote their music on higher-paying platforms, rather than racking up free streams to win the No. 1 slot.
Billboard hasn’t publicly indicated they’re going to change anything about the charts—but it certainly feels like something should be done to prevent the charts from becoming a further testing ground of exploitable technical loopholes for chart position.
TrackRecord reached out to Republic Records for a comment and will update if we hear back.
Anyway, below is a video of “2am” by Adrian Michael, a much better song hidden on this strange Republic Records YouTube page.