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What goes into getting a song on Billboard’s Hot 100? And what factors into charting when it comes to Christmas music?

On this episode of Play the Music, we’re joined by Gary Trust, Senior Director of Charts, Hot 100 Chart Manager and Chart Beat Editor at Billboard; as well as Courtney E. Smith, Editor and Music Critic at Refinery29.

Together, they share their insight on what makes a holiday hit, what drives streams and more. They also make their picks for this week’s FanLabel Five, “Sounds of the Season” one-of-five contest.

Don’t miss a big announcement—the launch of the FanLabel Marketplace!

Articles mentioned in this podcast:

Play the Music is powered and distributed by Simplecast.

Tune in next week for an all-new episode of Play the Music™!

Gary Trust

Gary Trust


Jeff Sloan: [00:00:00] All right. Welcome to “Play the Music” sponsored by FanLabel. This is the podcast where we talk about what’s happening in music. We certainly feature what’s going on in fan label, the hot contests, maybe some other news, new releases, new features in the app. And this week, speaking of new features, on with me as cohost is Mick Brege. Hey Mick.

Mick Brege: [00:00:23] Thank you for letting me out of the development cave. I’ve made that joke every time I’ve been on the show, so I’m glad to be back.

Jeff Sloan: [00:00:30] Well, we are thrilled to have you and I know you’re going to give us news later in the show about some of the cool new FanLabel features: a major feature release in the FanLabel this week to talk about.

We’ll get to that in a minute. Before we do that, we’re going to do a couple of other things. First, we’re going to talk about last episode’s contest and the results. We’ll see how we did and I know you’ve been on a bit of a roll. You have, Mick. You’ve been picking really well.

Now I’ll tell you though, having said that, I believe I’m five or six number-one picks in a row. We’re going to have a couple of really cool knowledgeable expert guests on that are going to talk to us about the charts and particularly about the factor of Christmas music.

This is a very special holiday show for us on Play the Music, so I can’t wait to jump in with, and then what we’re also going to do, following on a discussion about Christmas music on the charts, we’re going to do a FanLabel contest themed, of course, as Christmas music. We’ll have five songs curated by one of our guests, and we’re going to make our picks on the record.

Mick Brege: [00:01:34] I took a look. I peaked a little bit early before we’re supposed to, and the picks are great. 

Jeff Sloan: [00:01:40] All right, so Mick, let’s get right into it. Let’s get to our first guest. We’re going to bring on a guy who is an industry expert. This guy knows about the Hot 100 and 250 other charts too, in addition to the Billboard Hot 100. All right, so Mick, tell us a little bit of our first guest.

Mick Brege: [00:01:57] Gary Trust is going to be on with us. He is the senior director of charts for the Hot 100, chart manager, and Chartbeat editor at Billboard.

Jeff Sloan: [00:02:05] When you think charts. You can’t think charts without thinking Billboard. They’re synonymous. They’re one in the same. It is the brand in the chart business

Mick Brege: [00:02:12] He is the cohost of the billboard Chartbeat podcast, which started in 2016, based out of New York, and he’s been an editor with them since 2009 so he’s covering everything that’s going on, news, what’s happening on the charts, what’s trending.

Gary, I think is really an authority of what’s happening in the music industry and what’s charting and what to watch out for.

Jeff Sloan: [00:02:34] All right. And then following on that, we’ve got another guest who’s going to come on and actually talk about not only the charts and how and why music charts, but also specifically the impact of Christmas music on the charts. And that guest, Courtney Smith is also going to talk to us about each of the five songs in FanLabel we’ll find this week. She’s the one that curated them. She picked them. She’s going to tell us about the music she picked this week and why. So we’re going to get to all that. Before we do anything further, let’s get right to Gary. Gary, welcome to Play the Music.

Gary Trust: [00:03:04] Oh, thank you so much for having me on.

Jeff Sloan: [00:03:06] It’s good to have you, Gary. Now you’re the senior director of charts, the Hot 100 chart manager and Chartbeat editor at Billboard. Wow. I mean, first of all charts are interesting. They’re kind of enigmatic a bit, you know, there’s a little bit of magic for those of us who are on the outside looking in, you know, people don’t generally know how, when, why a song is number one versus number 10. We know generally, but maybe it’d be really cool if you could kind of give us an overview of how charts work and how music and why music appears to certain places on the charts. I mean, what’s interesting.

Gary Trust: [00:03:38] That’s all true. Billboard has over a 250 weekly charts. So the answer actually depends on what chart you’re talking about. So we have songs that chart radio airplay for songs. We have album sales charts, we have album charts that, cover not just album sales, but overall consumption for their streaming, for sales. We have social charts so we can track how people are charting based on their social activity from their fan armies. So there’s a lot of different charts and a lot of different methodologies. Some more simple than others. At Billboard, we do our best to explain it as clearly as possible, but, you know, sometimes we have to get into the weeds. But, you know it kinda depends. But, I totally agree.

Jeff Sloan: [00:04:28] All right, so listen, Gary, I think most people think – Mick, when people think charts, we think the Hot 100 right? Let’s just take that one. Give us some idea of some of the factors, Gary, that go into getting a song in a certain spot on the hot 100.

Gary Trust: [00:04:43] Sure. So, yeah, that’s our main songs chart that goes back to 1958. So one of the cool things about it is when an artist is number one today, it’s the same chart that the Beatles were number one on 20 times in the sixties and seventies. So there’s that great history that I know artists and record labels and fans as well really consider just an absolutemilestone. So it’s changed over the years. Obviously when it started, jukebox play was a part of it. Radio airplay was then too, for many years it was based on store sales and radio airplay. And then this decade, we’ve added a streaming. So that’s pretty much on average the main metric for songs on the Hot 100 nowadays. It’s really hard to get to number one, to get high on the chart if you’re not a big streamer. So, uh, we saw that earlier this year with Lil Nas X and, and “Old Town Road,” which broke streaming records. It broke the record for the most time at number one, 19 weeks.

So it changes over time. There used to be in the 2000’s, if you were an American Idol winner, that week you put out your winners single that would sell a huge amount of downloads. And that could get you to number one. So that’s what’s kind of interesting is that the charts, just like music itself, they’re always evolving.

Jeff Sloan: [00:05:58] Gary, before spins mattered, before downloads mattered. Now it’s mainly driven by streams. Is the most popular song still the most popular song? In other words, is the most popular song still the number one song? Or have things changed based on how we measure and the metrics we use to drive the outcomes on the charts?

Gary Trust: [00:06:18] Well, we certainly hope that the number one song on the Hot 100 each week is the biggest song in the country. So there’s three metrics for the Hot 100. It’s streaming, sales, and radio airplay. You might not be number one in each of those metrics. You might be, and at that point it’s pretty clear you’re absolutely the biggest, but there are some weeks where there’s a certain song that’s number one in streaming and something else is, is number one in sales, or something else is number one in radio airplay. So all these numbers are crunched. We get our data through Nielsen Music and it’s all compiled. And, you know, generally it feels like the biggest song is number one. You can certainly look at the top 10 and get to see the biggest heads.

You know, streaming has really reinvigorated the chart and in some ways and because the reach is just so much bigger now, it’s streaming. Maybe a hundred million streams that just a decade ago didn’t exist anywhere; the methodology, the platform didn’t exist.

So people are consuming music more than ever, andthat’s a good thingfor the charts.

Mick Brege: [00:07:24] And when you said the number one song in the country, that was interesting to me too, because I know a lot of times you could have a song that is so huge on streams through a viral hit, something on YouTube that is just absolutely massive, but still the general populace just isn’t totally cued into it.

It’s still something where like if you ask your parents or something like that, they’re not going to know what that song is about. But it seems like, you know, something like Lil Nas X, it has infiltrated both levels of a streaming hit, a viral hit, and then also through sales. So it’s interesting to hear how you guys account for that as well.

Yeah, you’ve got that. And you’ve got something like – and I’m sorry if everyone starts hearing this in their head now – but “Baby Shark” – huge streaminghit that radio didn’t touch at all. It wasn’t the biggest selling song, but because of memes and just the way that took off online, you’ll – yeah. There are certain hits that are really huge, but yeah, that got into the top 40 at the Hot 100, didn’t get into the top 30 and I certainly didn’t go to number one. So, you know, there are certain things that are really big, but if you only really have one metric such as streaming, there’s really only so high you can get on the Hot 100

Jeff Sloan: [00:08:36] And what does it mean, other than the obvious, you know, the bragging rights and how cool it is and everything else to have a number one song. Does it mean more than that? Does it mean other things that we on the outside and the consuming public may not understand? What’s the significance of being a number one song?

Gary Trust: [00:08:53] Yeah, a big part of it is certainly bragging rights. But you know, beyond that, if you have that big a hit, it’s streaming well, it’s probably selling well. It’s probably getting a lot of play on radio for the most part, and all that adds up business-wise. So, you know, for an artists and a labels bottom line, it’s certainly a good thing to have a huge hit.

Obviously if you’re not a big number two hit, not number one, you know, those financial numbers may not change that much, but if you’re a number one song for a month or two, chances are yeah, you’re making more money from it. That’ll translate to more appearances, a bigger tour as your profile gets bigger and you get more fans, and that ultimately leads to more sales and streams going forward.

So it just gives you that extra spotlight. They’re not always going to run a story about a number two, but if you go to number one, you’re going to be all over Billboard’s socials. Everyone’s going to be hearing about it. So it, yeah, it just opens up a lot of different avenues.

Jeff Sloan: [00:09:47] Right. It’s probably a jumping-off platform for a lot of other commercial opportunity too. I mean, when you get that kind of status, I don’t know if it’s endorsements or commercial opportunities, advertising opportunities, all those things help you get noticed when you hit the pinnacle of success on the popularity charts.

Let me ask you this: there’s a lot of good music out there, a lot of good music. And so really, while it may be the most popular song that hits number one, the charts are not necessarily indicative, nor can they embrace or be all inclusive of all the good music out there. What are some of the key things you have to have in order to even have a shot to get onto the charts, you know, aside from a great song? Cause again, a great song, isn’t good enough, is it?

Yeah. I mean, the one thing is, with these charts, we can say this is number one, but there’s no element of us saying these are the best songs. Best is personal to everybody.

Gary Trust: [00:11:03] We have so many charts that the nice thing is, if you’re notreally high, or even on the Hot 100,if you’re a folk artist, you might be on our Americana Folk Albums Chart or if you’re blues or a reggae or all these different charts we have. But yeah, for the hot 100, you have to be a huge mainstream pop hit. For the most part, hip hop has obviously been huge at the top of the Hot 100 we’ve seen, “Meant to Be” by Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha you know, bringing country to the top parts of the chart. For the most part, you’re going to see songs that fit on top 40 or hip hop radio are going to be probably something that sounds like what you tend to hear. Success tends to breed imitators, so you’re going to hear, if you listen to top 40 radio, if you listen to hip hop radio, if you listen to really any, format, you’re going to hear a similar thread throughout. So once something’s hit, other people are saying, “Well, how can I do that?” And it’s a lot of the same writers. It’s a lot of the same producers. So it’s sort of all in the family to that point. So, you know, I think ultimately the, I mean, there’s no secret, you know, for six decades of a rock and roll history, no one knows what the secret is to making a hit, but, you know, it seems to bea general rule from, talking to a lot of people is: have it sound like what other hit music is, but also have something about it that stands out just enough so that people hear it and say, “Oh, that’s the sound I like.” But then something grabs you that, “Wait a minute, that’s different.” And I think you could say that for Lil Nas X, the way he brought new country elements to “Old Town Road,” you could say that about Billie Eilish for doing sort of a different version of pop. So if you can get people’s attention, but maybe have some elements of familiarity, that’s probably a good place to start.

Mick Brege: [00:12:57] So what’s interesting about this too is in the elements of making a hit, you know, with Lil Nas, it’s probably unlikely that in a few years he’s going to return with “Old Town Road” being back on the Hot 100 or something like that I would imagine. Now on the other hand, with holiday music, especially, what’s coming up on what we’re kind of focusing on now, “All I Want for Christmas is You” is back to the Hot 100 and it’s specific to holiday music. So at what point through the year are we seeing the jump in streams for songs like that or songs coming back and infiltrating that list?

Gary Trust: [00:13:30] Yeah, it’s pretty much right afterThanksgiving. So Mariah’s kind of in her own world with Christmas music and with, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” we, we start to see that onejump in streams and sales a little bit before some of the others.

But it’s pretty much after Thanksgiving. That’s kind of when everyone puts their full focus on Christmas time coming up. It’s when a lot of radio formats, including adult contemporary, they start to go all Christmas music, which, maybe a little before Thanksgiving, seems a little weird, especially if it’s warm, but, even in Southern cities, we see flips to all holiday music before Thanksgiving.

So yeah, it’s pretty much right about now. And this week on the Hot 100, there are some returns of, of the decade’s old songs. So Mariah’s song is number 18 this week, but Burl Ives, Andy Williams, Wham’s “LastChristmas”is top 50 this week.

Jeff Sloan: [00:14:26] And so now let’s bring on our next guest because we’re getting into her territory. And that is as it relates in the context of the show, Christmas music specifically, and the impact of Christmas music on the charts and the charts’ impact on Christmas music.

Yeah, CourtneySmith. Courtney we’re so glad to have you. And about Courtney, there’s no one better to be curating this list this week, our FanLabel Five, cause Courtney has just amazing experience in TV production, label relations, music programming, music copyright, online video, content creation for anyone from MTV, CBS, and iHeartRadio. Courtney is also the author of “Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd One Album at a Time,” and most recently, which is going to be awesome that we’re talking about a holiday music today, she has written the article, “Tis the Season to Get Down: All the New Holiday Tracks to Add to Your Playlist,” off of which today’s contest is based. So we’re really, really glad to have Courtney on today.

Courtney Smith: [00:15:26] Hi, thanks for having me.

Jeff Sloan: [00:15:27] Courtney, could you give us some kind of high level of your perspectives of, you know, the impact of Christmas music on the Hot 100 at this time of year?

Courtney Smith: [00:15:35] So I first paid attention to the holiday craze that radio in about 2010 when I was working at an iHeartRadio cluster in San Antonio, a warm city, and there was a war within the market of the hot stations to see who would flip first. And there was definitely high-level conscientious decision making of when to do it, and everybody did it before Thanksgiving. And it, to me, it’s really interesting because it speaks to this idea that the people who are most interested in Christmas music are moms, and that’s who kicks the holiday season off and who’s responsible for it. And that was the case for a long time. I think it has impacted who we see making Christmas music, and now in the world of streaming, nine years later, it looks really different. The landscape looks really different. Mariah Carey was a big change because she was still a core pop artist at the time that “All I Want for Christmas “came out, and it was unusual. Like that was not a normal career move to record a song like that or a Christmas album even. It reached multiple age groups because she was able to cross into moms and kids and pop radio and all kinds of formats. And now in the age of streaming, I think it’s really interesting to see footprint we’ve seen Mariah leave behind.

It’s giving us Christmas albums for people in their prime of pop music: Ariana Grande, Kacey Musgraves, SIA, even Tyler, the Creator with his “Grinch” soundtrack. I think that the legacy of what Mariah’s done really changed how and who records Christmas music.

Jeff Sloan: [00:17:16] And to both of you, Gary, and Courtney, the interesting thing here is that Mick, going back to your discussion about Lil Nas X, that song, you’re not likely going to see that make a return to the Hot 100 every year perennially, or even maybe ever in the future. But these songs, and this makes the point that these artists do this, not only because they love being part of the holiday culture and the scene and the whole thing, but this is big business every year when you have a great Christmas song that makes a presence on the charts perennially.

Mick Brege: [00:17:43] And how many times has Mariah been on the Hot 100? I mean, it has to have been since this song was released, right? I feel like it’s been every single year since

Gary Trust: [00:17:52] It’s pretty weird. There’s a weird history because of chart rules. So it wasn’t actually a single you could purchase on its own. Actually, until this season. So for years you couldn’t be on the Hot 100 if you were just a radio promotional single, which is what “All I want for Christmas is You” was.

But those rules changed over the years and, and once streaming, it became a part of the Hot 100 earlier this decade. It’s the annual return of Mariah. Yeah, around this time of year, and then we watch it rise up the charts all the way through Christmas.

Mick Brege: [00:18:23] Courtney, for you too, I noticed this season, especially even some of the underground bands that I’ve been tracking, there’s these new holiday album launches or just holiday singles, and they’re all coming out around the same time. It’s like third or second week into October. Is that just to beat the, the Thanksgiving – day after Thanksgiving – rush with the holiday music vibe? Or is there actual strategy to this? Is that what it is?

Courtney Smith: [00:18:48] I think part of the strategy is to give press enough time to cover it. So my article on the songs that are coming out this year, which is just a list of every new Christmas song, launched on November 1st, because that’s when people started searching for it online.

So record labels had to have sent me submissions and released singles and have something for me to link and bed to so that people could hear it ready to go. Holiday season maybe doesn’t kick off on your radio or in your mind until Black Friday or Thanksgiving. But seriously, online, people start searching in November, people start putting that Christmas tree up early and they need a soundtrack.

Mick Brege: [00:19:25] And at Refinery29, do you guys rely on submissions for tracks or are you organically kind of going and searching word of mouth, doing a little bit of research before the point and seeing where it goes from there? Or is it more like, “Hey, did you hear that this just launched?” or “what’s trending?”

Courtney Smith: [00:19:40] Well we get a lot of press releases from record labels, and that’s the jumping off point so that I know what’s happening. And I talk to them about what to prioritize because a lot of the Christmas albums, honestly, I’ll just get a stream of the album in October and I don’t even know what the single’s going to be yet.

And sometimes I feel like they don’t know either. So yeah, I kind of look around. There’s not a lot out there that I don’t get sent to me just because that’s how media works. But once this launched, I started getting a lot more people reaching out and independent artists hitting me up on Twitter specifically to pitch me their new holiday songs.

So I just keep adding from there, sifting through what I get and I’m picking the stuff that I like. Everything that I get doesn’t go up because everything isn’t the right fit.

Jeff Sloan: [00:20:29] Now, Courtney, you’ve been good enough to help us curate this week’s featured contest, which is a contest focused on Christmas music, right?

We’ve got five songs that you’ve helped pick and Gary, we want you to stay on with us here cause we’re going to pick some of this Christmas music. We’re gonna need to make our picks and uh, and we want you all to be part of that if you’re willing to do that. But first, what we want to do is go through the songs.

Courtney, since you picked them, maybe you can help us learn a little bit about each of the songs, and why you pick the song to be in the contest this week.

Courtney Smith: [00:20:57] I think what’s really interesting about the Christmas songs that I’ve been getting this year is there are maybe slightly more original songs than covers of Christmas classics, and that is a change that is not the norm.

And I think that is another thing attributable to Mariah Carey and the effect of her songs. It’s really desirable to artists to write their own original Christmas song because then they get a lot more publishing money. It pays off. And if it becomes a hit, you have a better, I think a better chance of having a long tail hit year after year with an original song now because of streaming services, people can go back to them and you’re seeing it happen with Ariana Grande.

Her Christmas EP from a few years ago is spiking in a way that it hasn’t before and that is very appealing to a lot of artists. So yeah, in our songs, there’s only one that is a classic Christmas song and the other four are all original.

Jeff Sloan: [00:21:57] Let’s go song by song. We’ve got five songs like we usually do in a family with five contests. And the idea here in these contests is that we’re going to ask FanLabel players to pick the song, the one out of five that they believe out of this group will stream the most relative to the others over the next week’s period. So let’s go through them. Courtney, let’s start with “A Hand for Mrs. Claus” by Idina Menzel.

Courtney Smith: [00:22:19] Yes. Featuring Ariana Grande. So this is Idina’s second Christmas album. It’s an original song. Personally, I don’t know how strongly it’s going to catch on. I think it’s got a stronger chance because it’s got that feature from Ariana, and that helps this crossover to Broadway fans, moms, younger people pop, everything you can think of, it gives it a longer life, but it doesn’t have that kind of catchy something to me. So, i don’t know guys, maybe, maybe not.

Jeff Sloan: [00:22:52] Let’s have a little listen here. We just want to get a sample of each of the songs so that we can put it in context. Go ahead. Let’s take a listen. All right, jazzy pop sound.

Mick Brege: [00:23:13] I love the subtle album name, “Season of Love,” throwing it back to. “Seasons of Love”, little musical theater history with “Rent,” sneaking in there from Idina Menzel. I had to say it.

Jeff Sloan: [00:23:30] All right. Number two, we’ve got, and these are in no particular order, but we got “Christmas All Over Again,” by Puss N’ Boots. Courtney, tell us about this one.

Courtney Smith: [00:23:39] Puss N Boots as a little project featuring a singer you might’ve heard of called Nora Jones and three of her friends, and it’s an original. This is your sad Christmas song. So why I like it and why I think it’s a sleeper candidate to sneak in there with the most streams is because people get really sad at Christmas, and I mean “Last Christmas” is not a happy song, but it’s one of the most played Christmas songs ever. A lot of these songs, even the classic ones, are very sad, and this definitely hits that note. It’s slow, it’s different, and that makes it memorable. It is just completely outside of the pop sphere though.

It is definitely a AAA adults or alternative kind of song. So that means the audience is maybe a little different and limited, but also it means it has that cool factor. Okay.

Jeff Sloan: [00:24:30] Let’s take a little listen here. Not one of the more uplifting, joyous kinds of things, but the Christmas season can be a little melancholy too, right? I mean, again, it fits.

Mick Brege: [00:24:51] It’s got the Norah Jones swing.

Courtney Smith: [00:24:55] Yeah, that’s, that’s the thing. It’s got that Christmas flavor to it though. So again, I don’t know, but I, I think it’s a sleeper.

Jeff Sloan: [00:25:04] All right. Let’s talk about our third song in the FanLabel Five, “Like It’s Christmas” by the Jonas brothers. Tell us, Courtney, give us some background on this one, why you picked it, why it’s in here.

Courtney Smith: [00:25:14] I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Jonas brothers, but they’re kind of a big deal. They’ve had a massive year, and it wasn’t just a massive music year. They released an album, obviously had a huge hit with “Sucker,” but theirfollowup song didn’t do so great, which is why I think they’ve strategically decided to release a Christmas song to keep the momentum going and remind people of the album in time to buy it for Christmas for anybody who didn’t perhaps get a copy, maybe you need it on vinyl. They also had a big year in terms of their personal lives with all the weddings and the tabloids. And they really cleverly played that into, their song writing and what kind of the way they presented themselves as they came back this year. So this is, to me, an attempt to like, take one more shot at owning the news cycle at the end of the year, and they are, as far as I’m concerned, the biggest pure pop act to release an original Christmas song this year. It’s catchy. It’s good. If they release a music video with the wives in it, they’ve got a smash on their hands.

Jeff Sloan: [00:26:31] Courtney, you’re throwing us a lot on that one, I think. That’s a hot, I mean, talk about songs that are going to stream well, right?

Well, let’s not tip our hats yet. That’s tough.

Mick Brege: [00:26:49] It’s a local holiday station play over and over and over again.

Jeff Sloan: [00:26:54] How about, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Maddie and Tae?

Courtney Smith: [00:27:02] So Maddie and Tae are country artists, and this is a country take on a standard Christmas song. Don’t underestimate the power of this because I haven’t seen a ton of great Christmas music from the country spirits come through this year. I think it’s going to be really easy for them to own that space with the song. And I think country fans love a standard. They don’t want an original Christmas song.

You could put this next to the Jonas Brothers in terms of how popular it potentially could be, but it is specifically a country audience. Like they did not pull any punches. The instrumentation on this song is not mainstream.

Jeff Sloan: [00:27:51] Let’s hear it. I gotta tell ya, I did you qualify this as pretty hardcore country?

Courtney Smith: [00:28:06] Yeah. Well, for what country is now.

Jeff Sloan: [00:28:08] That’s true. That is so true. Because you know for what country is now, I’m glad we got that qualification in there because the reality is, that kind of sounds like it could be on pop radio and really making a big play

Mick Brege: [00:28:21] Palatable for anyone.

Jeff Sloan: [00:28:22] Absolutely. Classic.

Courtney Smith: [00:28:24] Wait until you get like everybody who’s listening at home, listen to the full thing. Listen to the instrumentation in the middle. There are definitely some banjos and slide guitar in there that make it country

Jeff Sloan: [00:28:34] Right on. And “Holiday-ish” by the Regrettes featuring Dylan Minette.

Courtney Smith: [00:28:40] So this one is another one for the kids, but maybe the cool kids. So the Regrettes are this great, alt-rock girl bands who have had a few things come out but haven’t had like, haven’t found their hit moment yet, and Dylan Minette is in a band called Wallows, but he’s also the star of a show called “13 Reasons Why.” And that is a big selling point. There’s also a lifestyle selling point to this story where the lead singer of there Regrettes is dating Dylan. So for them to record this together is like a cute thing for, you know, the Tumblr fans. This song though reminds me of do you remember the alternative Christmas compilations where we got great Christmas songs from like Coldplay and No Doubt, and those kinds of people in the nineties? It has that vibe to me. So I think you’re going to hear this on your alt-rock stations, your AAA stations, and it’s going to be the kind of thing that bubbles along and has a really long life for years of years.

Jeff Sloan: [00:29:40] Cool. Let’s hear it. Well, there we have it.

Mick Brege: [00:29:50] It definitely does have the “Dark Was the Night” compilation album vibe too. I could totally feel that right in place there, Courtney, so that’s a great call. The Regrettes rock. 

Jeff Sloan: [00:30:07] All right guys. Now, now we’ve got those. So that’s the FanLabel Five this week doing a unique thing featuring Christmas music, and we want to pick the song that we believe will make the biggest impact on the charts, at least over the next five days anyway – we want to pick the song that we believe will earn the most streams. 

You know what, Mick, we should probably do this cause we don’t want to be influenced by either Gary or Courtney, the experts. Let’s you and I put our picks on the table here.

Then we’ll go to Gary and then we’ll go to Courtney.

Mick Brege: [00:30:37] Yeah, and I’m glad to be back doing this because I think every time I played the last few times I’ve, I’ve been right. Every time. No one should go back and fact check me.

Jeff Sloan: [00:30:46] Okay. What do you got for us, Mick? What are you picking?

Mick Brege: [00:30:50] The Joe Bros.

Jeff Sloan: [00:30:53] I’m right there with you. That’s what I’m going with. Both of us. We’re on the Jonas brothers.

Mick Brege: [00:30:57] My heart says Nora Jones. My heart is whole-heartedly Puss N Boots, but my mindsays, Joe Bros.


Gary Trust: [00:31:12] All right, well, I’m going to admit I was totally, I was totally ready to cheat. I was going to look at our streaming charts and try to get a little little leg up. Yeah, Jonas Brothers. It already is really the biggest new holiday song here. It’s already top 10 on AC radio at this point. So they’ve just started playing holiday music and it’s already in the top 10 for overall songs they’re playing.

So yeah, it’s been a huge, really, their maybe their biggest year ever, which has been such a fun comeback for them. And this is really a nice way to the cap that. It’s already doing really well. I’m assuming it’s gonna keep doing really well over the next five days.

Jeff Sloan: [00:31:51] When you put the Jonas brothers in here, I mean, that might tip off, but the most successful streaming song is over the next five days, but let’s do this: Mick, what if I asked you to pick the number one and number two songs?

Mick Brege: [00:32:10] I think I’d go for Idina Menzel cause when I first read through the list here, I thought, Oh, at first glance I’m like, okay. So if we tie it back to “Frozen 2,” it’s going to be a big holiday season for her, so that might be the case.

Courtney Smith: [00:32:24] Yeah. I feel like you guys are all picking the Joe Bros. I think it’s Idina. There’s so much going on. There was all the Thanksgiving parade appearances. There’s “Frozen 2,” which is massive. And having Ariana on the track is not something to underestimate. That means it’s got a doubly wide audience reach.

Jeff Sloan: [00:32:44] Right. Yeah. Interesting. So Gary. If we put you on the spot, you’ve got Jonas Brother’s number one also, but what would be your number two?

Gary Trust: [00:32:50] Yeah, I would, I would probably go with Edina as well for all the reasons Courtney said. Everybody was just talking about Frozen 2, is just starting to do really well, the soundtrack now that the movie’s out, Ariana, you can’t go wrong. So yeah, I would say if we’re talking commercial, standpoint of, of what could stream the most, I think that’s pretty good after the Jonas brothers.

Mick Brege: [00:33:11] If it does get that radio and streaming play, I think it’ll just shoot up. I’m not sure where it stands right now on streaming services, but I do feel like with the success of Frozen 2, especially with being number one. Most successful animated film of all time, or something like that, release. Yeah. It’s gotta be huge, and that all ties back to her and that album.

Jeff Sloan: [00:33:29] So Courtney, last but not least, what is your number one and number two?

Courtney Smith: [00:33:33] I’m putting Idina and my number one spot and Joe Bros. Is number two.

Wow. Well that’s cool. It’s good to mix it up a bit. Very cool.

Mick Brege: [00:33:42] And so this is a little bit interesting cause we were just talking about this with “Like it’s Christmas” by the Jonas Brothers. We were talking about the launch of their albums, the few successful singles, and then following that another Christmas single to keep the momentum going through the holiday season. Do you think that this track – this is pure speculation and I know how it would go on the production side – was created and released as a response to it, or did this, is this something that they’ve been planning for a while? What would you guess? What would your best guess be?

Courtney Smith: [00:34:10] So after this album came out, I actually talked to the head of West Coast operations at the Jonas Brothers’ label who helped them conceive of this like from the moment they decided to do a comeback to setting them up with Ryan Tedder to producing the album with them and giving them songwriting direction based on what she was seeing interest in incorporating their lives into their music.

And for them, I know the number one thing that they wanted, especially Nick, was to have a number one song. It’s something that hadn’t happened for them with any of their previous releases together and they wanted their billboard hot number one.

Mick Brege: [00:34:53] Yeah, when I think of the Jonas Brothers, my first thought is, “Oh, they never had a one number one track. So who cares?” I’m just kidding. Absolutely kidding. But God, that’s ridiculous. That’s so funny. That’s really interesting though.

Courtney Smith: [00:35:09] I think once they saw all the success with “Sucker” and the followup, singles were maybe a little less successful that the idea, if they didn’t have this track in the bag already when they recorded the album, the idea of putting one together was going to be an easy sell and very appealing to them because it’s a great way, first of all, at the end of the year when people are shopping to remind them that you have product out, especially if your album came out in the middle of the year and second, it’s a great way to get a second life cycle for your album. People will be like, “Oh, right, Jonas Brothers, this song’s great. I’m hearing it everywhere. I’m going to go back and listen to the album now.”

Mick Brege: [00:35:44] Okay. That’s really, really interesting. So it was always kind of their back pocket play.

Courtney Smith: [00:35:47] Well, I can’t say for sure with 100% certainty, but I wouldn’t be surprised that they’ve been very strategic with everything they’ve planned to do. So it would not surprise me at all if they have this tucked away for months and months or if they even recorded it while they were doing the album.

Mick Brege: [00:36:05] That’s great.

Jeff Sloan: [00:36:06] All right, well, you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to check back on next week’s edition of Play the Music. We’ll see how we did. This is fun. This is great music. We really appreciate both of you guys being on the show and Courtney to you for curating the music and this week’s contest and Gary to you for helping us understand how charts work behind the magic curtain.

All right. Thanks so much guys. This was fun. All right, so we’ve got on record. We’ve got our picks down Mick, and good luck to you.

Mick Brege: [00:36:33] Thanks Jeff. You as well. We’ll see who’s on top. And I think we both had the same answer.

Jeff Sloan: [00:36:37] Now let’s go to just a quick recap of the songs from the last Play the Music episode and see how we all fared.

So, Mick, you weren’t part of picking last week, but you’ll still be interested to hear the songs and, those of us that did pick, how we fared. So here we go. In last week’s contest, we had a song by Miranda Lambert in the country category. That song being “Track Record.” Alright, well, I’m going to tell you the reason we mentioned that song first, Mick, that song, and we’ll cut a couple of the others too, but that song got 338,000 streams during our five day period in that particular contest. And I picked that song. Once again, I think my streak is intact. That’s five or six number one picks in a row and it looks like Gill chose that as well.

Gill Green picked that song. Also that was a bit of a wild card pick. Bit of a risky pick. You know, typically you look for a really strong pure pop song or something that’s maybe even hip hop, right? No country.

Mick Brege: [00:37:39] And you say it was a wild card pick and it is from the album “Wild Card” That is a great little joke that I’m calling out.

Jeff Sloan: [00:37:47] There we go. “Track Record.” Miranda Lambert, our number one song out of last episode’s contest. We’ve got Jeff Sloan and Gil Green picking that as the number one song and number two was “Breathe” 204,000 streams by Umi. And numberthree we had, “We Are One” 28,700 streams by Hootie and the Blowfish.

That song was picked, bythe way, by Rich Sloan at number three. Number four, “Don’t Go Wasting Time” by Alfie Templeman coming in with 28,600 streams and the number four spot in the alternative category. And at number five, “Better Now.” 1,100 streams. Talk about rap, hip hop usually being so powerful. Well, in this particular case, 1,100 streams, song comes in at number five, that song by Fred the Godson featuring Jim Jones and Mark Scibilla.

Mick Brege: [00:38:57] All right. I dig it and I think I would have given it. I’ll give it a sympathy’s pick for coming to number five.

Jeff Sloan: [00:39:03] Well, there’s an interesting thing here. That’s the cool thing about music, you know. The song that is the most commercially successful is the song that gets the most streams right? But it has nothing to do with the song you liked the most. You know, you can, you can love a song that gets a thousand streams no more than a song that gets 338,000 streams over the same period.

Mick Brege: [00:39:27] Right. And what I was talking about earlier, the fact that this one only has a thousand streams allows me to now share it with my friends like I discovered it.

Jeff Sloan: [00:39:33] So there you go. Yeah. You own it, Mick, it’s yours. That one’s got Mick Brege written all over it. All right. Now moving on from that, the beginning of the show, we mentioned that we had some really cool feature releases in the FanLabel app. What do you got for us?

Mick Brege: [00:39:47] Yeah, so this has been the long-awaited FanLabel feature that we’re looking for and it is marketplace. The marketplace is now live, and let me clarify a few things. The marketplace currently has merchandise from some of our top artists in the app right now, so I’m talking Billie Eilish merch, we have some Rolling Stones merch to cover some of the old school taste. We have Prince, we have newer artists, we have a culture hoodie for Migos. It really does rock. There is a ton of stuff in there right now, and as usual, and as we’ve talked about for the marketplace beforehand, it is a combination of royalties that you’ve earned plus cash.

The royalties allow you to buy some of this exclusive merge, and then the cash component is always less than you will find anywhere else on the market.

Jeff Sloan: [00:40:33] Substantially less. So I pulled up for example, a Billie Eilish graffiti hoodie. Normally retails at $54.99 all cash. You can get into that hoodie for $36.99 and 7,450 royalties, those royalties that you’ve earned that you spend toward the purchase in combination with a $36 and 99 cents in order to in effect, create a really nice discount for yourself. Yeah, I mean, all it takes to get in and buy this product is playing a few contests and you’re already taking off a really, really decent chunk of that price.

Mick Brege: [00:41:06] And like all of our items, it is unisex. Most of these items are unisex, so you can partake on, no matter what your style is and what you like. It’s a really good place to start. And you know what? The thing about the marketplace though, this is where we’re launching, I know this has been a most requested feature.

We have our partners at Bravado who are supplying the merch for us and it’s really an exciting time to jump in and use some of the royalties that you’ve been banking on and get some stuff that you’re not going to be able to get in a lot of other places. And a lot of it is exclusive too, so like the Rolling Stones hoodie. That is from one of their most recent tours, and you’re not going to be able to find that unless it’s like on a, you know, eBay or something. 

Jeff Sloan: [00:41:45] Several of those have moved already, right? I know that’s a hot item and soon you’ll be able to by using all royalties on certain items and there will even be a promotions and so on.

If you, if you’re playing and playing off and you’re, you know, you’re getting into your app often. You’ll see from time to time, you’ll have opportunities to buy things with all royalties with no cash.

Mick Brege: [00:42:02] Yeah, absolutely. And here’s what else is coming. So we’re going to be doing flash sales like that we’ll be doing all-royalty purchases. We’re going to have other things besides this initial round of merch. This is our first drop. So we’re going to have a series of drops from Bravado, from some of our suppliers, from things with our partners for tickets, for experiences, for VIP rewards that you’re not going to be able to get anywhere else besides FanLabel but we really want it to be kind of a love letter to the players who have been spending their time earning royalties and playing for things they can’t get anywhere else. So keep an eye out in the coming weeks for changes to the marketplace. And you know what? We have our eyes on reviews and emails. Send us an email at Shoot us a message at what you want to see, what you think of the marketplace so far, what you think of the prices as well. And we’ll see how we can improve the experience in the future. And also if you just really dig it, that also is great to hear and it helps us out to keep moving forward and adding new fun things.

So we’re really excited about where the marketplace is and what’s going to be coming. So keep an eye out on it and your app will notify you when new stuff drops. And it’s just really sweet to have. Finally, I know so many people have been asking about it. We get a message every week when the marketplace is coming and also announcing this.

Today, we haven’t really talked about this anywhere else online or anything yet, but in the future, the marketplace is going to be split up between physical product. Like, you know, tickets or merchandise like we’re talking about today. And then also it’s going to consist of digital goods, ways to customize your label, ways to set your label apart from others, and also being able to compete with your friends against this too. So friending is coming. And friends’ systems are coming, ways to compete against people in a league. And then also of course in the marketplace, you’ll be able to buy digital goods to set yourself apart, customize what you have going on to your label. So all this is coming to FanLabel.

This is a big stepping stone for us.

Jeff Sloan: [00:43:59] Great stuff Mick. Thanks a lot, and you guys all out there. Check it out. All right, great addition of Play the Music, before we sign off, we want to thank our production team, Kara O’Blenness, Kristin Kujawa, Andrea Garcia, Damon Nallamothu, Ryan O’Blenness, and our engineer Mark Pastoria. Download the FanLabel app from the Apple store or the Google play store

Jeff Sloan: [00:44:30] and play FanLabel today.

FanLabel Staff

FanLabel Staff

Enjoy great music and fun contests as you operate your own fantasy record label in the FanLabel app! Pick the songs you think will rise on the contest charts. Compete for the top spot and become a music mogul!