The Top 500 Chart
The Top500 was conceived as a way to celebrate our first birthday. The idea was an obvious one - create a chart of 500 songs that could be counted down over the course of 50 back-to-back, hour long shows.
Creating a chart was the first hurdle.
We could have selected a whole bunch of songs and let people vote on them.
This wasn’t a great idea. A list of 500 tunes would be a cumbersome thing to navigate. Also, there’d be no surprise element. You’d know which songs would be in the chart, you just wouldn’t know where and, as you got closer to the top of the chart, people could guess what would be appearing by a process of elimination.
For the Top 500 to be a genuine suprise, you’d need to make many more songs available for voting on. Say, a thousand songs. But this would make the process of displaying and navigating them harder still.
I eventually hit upon the idea of going through the entire 1Radio playlist, the automated record of every song played in every show. The number of plays, factored by the number of times it had been requested, combined with how many people were listening when it was aired, all contributed to produce the definitive chart of the last twelve months.
Whilst this approach was unique and mostly automated, there was still some manual work to be done in identifying duplicates, correcting misspelled artist and title info and filling in some blanks where the MP3 metadata was a bit of a mess. After a long spell with Excel, the chart duly emerged and we had ourselves a fantastic list of 1000 of the most played, most requested and most heard songs from our first year of broadcasting.
Interest in the chart was immense and everyone was keen to get involved. This presented the next challenge. How do we keep the chart a secret and ensure its a surprise to everyone? Indeed, how do we decide who gets to reveal the top 10 at the end of the fifty hours of shows? I was quietly pleased with the solution to both.
Firstly, I decided we’d have a lottery for the last ten shows of the event, in which presenters count down the final 100 tracks. Everyone who wanted to participate could register their interest online and in special show a few weekends before the event, we revealed the line up for the final ten hours. Chris Matthews won the right to present the last segment and reveal the #1 song in our very first Top 500 chart.
The other forty slots were then open for booking by anyone. The first show would kick off at 10pm on Friday. The five hundreth song and ulitmate number one would play out just before midnight on Sunday. I also recorded a special message for the concluding DJ to play out thanking everyone for their participation.
Take up was amazing and almost all of the slots were booked. Some presenters did multiple shows to keep momentum and where a particular slot had no presenter (typically 3am in the morning), the relevant 10 tracks were scheduled to play out using the AutoDJ.
To maintain secrecy as to which tracks had made it, each presenter could only see the songs for their portion of the chart that they were presenting. This ensured that no one had a big picture view of the overall chart, only their particular segment. Another problem I’d anticipated was that some presenters might not have all the songs they were expected to play in their show. To address this, I added in a special feature where a presenter could request help to source hard to locate tracks.
The Top 500 event was massively popular, a great community building event and had some of our best listening figures in the first year. The finale was not a shoutcast buster but it did register our highest listening numbers for the station up to that point.
During the chart rundown, presenters had a wealth of information available to them in the system to help pad out their shows - artist bios, other tracks from the performer that had already appeared in the chart plus how many more of their tracks were still to come. The presenters were enthusiastic and excited and listeners enjoyed the variety and inevitable surprises and shocks. Some less well known and obscure songs caused some amusement when they made it to the chart and presenters could revel in the fact it was during their show that the track first appeared.
If I recall correctly, Akon had the number one song in the first Top 500 weekender. It was a genuine coincidence that Akon was mentioned in the banner that appeared above the shoutbox throughout the event. Or perhaps I'd put it their subsconciously. Who knows? It certainly got a reaction when someone noticed the #1 artist had been visible throughout the event.
We repeated the Top 500 on the second birthday of 1Radio. The chart was built in the same way as the previous year but also incorporated Facebook likes and other social media cues. Also during the second year show, the countdown positions were automatically tweeted shortly after they were played.
A proud moment for me was when Kate Bush, Annie Lennox and a few other A-listers (or was it their fanclubs) tweeted (or retweeted) their Top 500 mentions and said they were pleased to have featured in the chart. Awwwww.
Posted by Tim on Tue 14 Jun at 10:57 and viewed 47 times.