Airplay 101 - BDS / Mediabase / Soundscan
We've covered "reporting", as it is done manually by a person filling out a fax or email and sending it to a radio magazine. This is how non-commercial stations, and commercial stations in small and non-rated markets, do their reporting. But the larger commercial stations (the ones with the most listeners) have their reporting taken care of automatically, through a system called "monitoring".
Monitoring is a system that does not rely on what the PD/MD says is playing... instead it listens to what the station actually plays. It is a high-level system, and due to it's cost it is used mostly by medium and large labels... but it definitely is something you should know about.
BDS (BROADCAST DATA SYSTEMS): This system uses computers to listen to the large stations throughout the country. The information is tabulated and sold to subscribing customers... most of which are medium and large labels, management, radio group owners, and others which absolutely have to know where a record is playing, because the decisions that need to be made are going to cost thousands of dollars per market. Subscribers can log on at any time and find out exactly where and how many spins any record is playing, and what time of day it played.
MEDIABASE: This system is similar in concept to BDS, but instead of using computers to listen, it uses people. Also, since a human is actually doing the listening, that person can make notes of special things, like if the music was heard in a advertisement, or if the artist was talked about by DJs, or other things that a computer would miss.
BDS is used to make all the Billboard airplay charts. MediaBase is used to make many of the charts in Radio & Records (except for the specialty and "indicator" charts, which are still done manually.) I should repeat this one point about specialty: Although MediaBase does detect specialty spins on the stations it monitors, this info is not used for the specialty charts in R&R... instead the specialty charts are made using manual reporting. MediaBase subscribers could still, however, search for and find a specialty spin if they wanted to.
MediaBase and BDS monitor about 80% of the same stations; therefore you may need to get both in order to get proper coverage.
The other major charts, FMQB and CMJ, use manual reporting for both the specialty and regular-rotation charts, and thus they are more suited to the beginning label.
Larger labels that have several projects going at once (and who are already selling 200 to 300 albums per week) might want to take a look at a BDS overall-package that let's them log on at any time to check spins. Smaller labels will have to get the limited one-title package that just emails you the results every Monday. Mediabase, since it can be accessed at any time with even it's smallest package, is a good starting point for smaller labels.
Mediabase has a special section for the indicator stations, called R&R Tracking. This sub-section of Mediabase is good if your genre has a lot of indicator stations, but, it's non-real time; the results can only be had once a week.
SOUNDSCAN: This system should not be confused with BDS or MediaBase. Soundscan is not for radio... it is for retail sales. It is the system that is connected to the barcode scanners at retail stores; it tabulates the sales data, and sells it to subscribers at a lofty price.
A note about who owns whom: Soundscan and Billboard and BDS are all owned by the same company. MediaBase, on the other hand, is owned by Clear Channel, the largest owner of radio stations (1200) in the world.
Next topic: Commercial Ratings
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