The Top Ten Project is an ambitious undertaking, with an ultimate goal of no less than bringing together the entire world of recorded music under a single roof. As the name of this project implies, the fundamental framework for the project is the vast array of popular music charts from around the globe.
The power of popular music charts has been well demonstrated, and "Hit Parades," in various forms, have offered a variety of benefits over the years. The record industry has used them to monitor and guide its own activities as well as to promote itself to the record-buying public. Music fans have been consulting charts for decades, using them as an entertaining window on the world of music as well as a convenient map for exploring unfamiliar waters. Researchers, librarians and archivists have referenced popular charts in order to examine the history and development of music as well as to build collections for their patrons. The Top Ten Project promises to address all three of these areas.
My initial goal is to build a database of chart data that is as wide-ranging as can be imagined, collecting information from across the musical spectrum, spanning as many genres, time periods and geographical regions as possible. The Project currently is tracking more than thirty music styles and formats within the United States in addition to following charts in over ninety countries and regions around the world. I see this as only the beginning. While collecting and organising this data on a weekly basis is a primary, and substantial, undertaking, there are three directions in which it needs to be expanded.
1) Locating New Charts. The vast majority of my research is done online, and new resources become available all the time, (while, sadly, valuable ones occasionally disappear completely). A regular activity is conducting searches in order to fill gaps which still exist. While North America and Western Europe are well accounted for, with substantial redundancy in some cases, other areas, especially Africa and Asia, are only sparsely accounted for at this time. Locating sources for this missing data is a high priority.
I also keep an eye open for new formats within the United States and other musically diverse countries. I already follow Canadian rock, German alternative and Australian country music, as some examples, but there are so many additional, valuable musical subcultures around the world, as well as in this country.
2) Researching Older Charts. Many charts were published well before the Top Ten Project commenced, and as resources permit I work to gather and track them through those earlier periods as well. A few sources have valuable archives online, which is helpful, but many archives exist only in hard copy form. I have spent much time in various libraries, including the Library of Congress, collecting and transcribing historical charts which are otherwise unavailable. This approach becomes more problematic when the data in question resides outside the U.S., but it is an attainable goal.
3) Chart Compilation. There are numerous styles of music that enjoy regional or non-mainstream popularity but are not served by regular music charts. Although these important niches are overlooked by Billboard and other major music and radio publications, the Internet puts the necessary resources within reach. As of early 2021, I have succeeded in assembling a monthly Cajun/Zydeco album chart for over a year and a weekly Hawai’ian Island radio chart for six months, and have begun a weekly progressive/non-commercial radio chart.
For various reasons, including pragmatic value and proprietary issues, this is the work that will appear here first. Offering charts that are not otherwise available or do not exist elsewhere seems the most logical place to start. Time permitting, I will begin adding pages with links to other charts, but expanding work that covers overlooked and neglected areas will remain the top priority.
4) Chart Recreation: This is the most ambitious, most daunting and, in some ways, the most exciting facet of the project. In their book "Pop Memories 1890-1954," (now revised as "Pop Memories 1900-1940"), Steve Sullivan and Joel Whitburn demonstrated the feasibility of constructing charts as they would have appeared. While Billboard published the first independent, record-specific music chart in their issue dated July 20, 1940, this book presents "chart" data going back a further half century.
They are not alone. Hot 100 Br@sil has reconstructed not weekly charts, but lists of the top Brazilian records by year, back to 1902, well before any recognised charts were published in that country. (This site disappeared many years ago, but its data did not. I recently discovered that playback.com has these reconstructions available!)
There are numerous exciting prospects for this type of research around the world, but the U.S. is a prime candidate, and has much important, valuable information to offer up. Charts introduced in Billboard which very realistically could be recreated during the periods preceding their initial publications include: Rhythm and Blues (1920-1942); Country (1922/3-1943); Album Rock (1966-1981); Modern Rock (1975-1988). I also see possibilities for album charts such as Jazz, New Age and World-Beat, and countries from Britain, France and Germany to Turkey, South Africa and India may provide opportunities for exploring their musical pasts in empirical detail.
These projects, once completed, will prove invaluable to other researchers and historians, but they will also be much appreciated by music fans and will, as such, prove valuable to the recording industry as well, by stimulating interest and providing something of a "handle" on their catalogue product.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR/RESEARCHER
My involvement in music goes back as far as I can remember, but I discovered music charts in my local newspaper in 1981. At the tender age of fourteen, I was hooked. My interest in charts, along with my taste in music, has only expanded from that humble beginning. By the time I graduated highschool, in 1984, I had a subscription to Billboard and a collection of 45s which numbered in the thousands.
I spent much of the summer following my graduation poring over microfilm at the local California State University. I owned a couple of Joel Whitburn's research books, including a forerunner of Pop Memories, a crude, red paperback covering the sales charts from 1940 to 1954, but was interested in what went on before that time period. During that summer I reconstructed charts covering most of the period from 1936 through 1940, for my own use, two years before Pop Memories was published.
My interest in earlier music and my growing CD collection got me involved with radio during the mid-'90s, when I hosted public radio shows devoted to classical, jazz and big band music. I have done radio work off-and-on since then.
In 2001, I began in earnest the activities which have evolved into The Top Ten Project, discovering on the Internet a wealth of previously unheard-of resources, learning about the actual popular music of countries such as India, Turkey and Brazil. It was a modest start, but expanded quickly.
The following year, I began compiling and publishing the College Air chart myself. I have a special fondness for the adventurous music played on college radio, and was frustrated by the lack of a chart which ranked the individual songs. Working from online radio station charts and playlists, I produced a weekly top 10, which, as the depth of my resources grew enough to warrant, was expanded to 30 positions over the following three years. I discontinued College Air only when Media Guide began gathering college radio data digitally and compiling an even more accurate chart. (Media Guide discontinued radio monitoring in 2012.) I have continued to use the Internet, along with hard-copy sources, to gather data in order to create college radio charts as they would have existed before the first College Air chart. The College Air Web site no longer exists, but all of the weekly charts are available at Web Archive's Wayback Machine!
My fondness for older popular recordings, many of which are still impossible to find on CD, has led me to collect 78s and cylinder records as well. While I have yet to transfer any cylinder recordings, I have successfully transferred a number of 78s into the digital medium in order to add them to my library. I am a big fan of the work of Glenn Sage and the Archeophone label in their preservation and distribution of long unavailable recordings. Thanks to Pop Memories, I also have become a big fan of Bert Williams, (that's my biography of him, under a pen name, at AllMusic.com)
I look forward to hearing from anyone who recognises and appreciates the value of what I am attempting to do, or who has suggestions or resources to help move the project forward or in new directions.
2694 Del Norte Pl.
Highland, CA 92346
eMail: fcgier @ toptenproject . com