HomeafliTunes Chart Manipulation, Explained -- Consequence

iTunes Chart Manipulation, Explained — Consequence

Earlier this week, as pointed out by several social media users, the iTunes singles chart looked particularly spicy. At one point in time, the top five songs on the platform were as follows:

Because the iTunes charts update daily, the order has continued to shift, but at time of writing, each of these song have remained within the top six, save for Spears’ 2011 deep cut, which has fallen to number 16. In the words of TikTok user holdensmith962, “This is probably the messiest top five in iTunes history.” More on the the spiderweb of intersecting dramas, lawsuits, and politics that connect these tunes shortly, but first, compare iTunes’ top hits to Spotify’s as of January 30th:

spotify singles chart iTunes ben Shapiro Megan thee stallion

Spotify Top 100 — USA on January 30th, 2024

It doesn’t take a keen eye to notice the differences: Spotify’s got no Ben Shapiro or Tom MacDonald rapping about so-called “FACTS,” no Britney Spears, no Justin Timberlake (which, some might argue, is deserved), and a much lower showing for Nicki Minaj. Megan Thee Stallion stands as the lone consistency, as songs that have been in the top 10 for weeks or even months (“Stick Season,” “I Remember Everything,” “Lovin On Me,” “Never Lose Me,” etc.) occupy most of the remaining slots.

So, why the discrepancy? Is there some great conspiracy that wields power over the iTunes charts? Well, actually, kinda. While there’s no secret, singular cabal conspiring to force you to hear the “wet-ass P-word” guy rap, the current landscape of music consumption has left iTunes as a platform open to manipulation. Relatively small organized efforts can lead to the most purchased songs to drift far from what’s actually receiving the most attention.




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