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Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Charts: The Good and The Bad

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In partnership with Afrobeats brand Afro Nation, Billboard is set to debut the first-ever United States chart for Afrobeats music.

The Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart is expected to be launched on March 29, 2022. Its metrics will be determined by a weighted formula that takes into account official streams on both subscription and ad-supported tiers of DSPs and video music services, as well as digital song downloads.

This follows the footsteps of the UK Official Afrobeats Charts launched in July 2020, by Official Charts Company and Afro Nation, where the top 20 Afrobeats songs in the United Kingdom are compiled on a weekly basis.

This development portends a lot of potential for the global distribution of Afrobeats, however we must carefully consider its pros and cons.

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Good: Global reach

The initiation of this Chart, highlights the undeniable growth of Afrobeats globally. Listeners and interested corporate entities in the United States and the world at large have a platform to see the best performing Afrobeats songs in the United States which will, in turn, create more visibility for these songs.

Bad: Gentrified Music

It is the fear of many listeners and stakeholders that Billboard will inaccurately classify songs that are not necessarily Afrobeats under the charts. One fear is that foreign acts may make an Afrobeats esque record and make it to the charts redefining what Afrobeats mean, the other concern is that music institutions in the United States, like the Grammys are notorious for erroneously classifying seemingly similar songs under a wrong category.

Good: Streaming Revenue

Nigeria’s marque acts make most of their streaming revenue from foreign climes. This is because, due to the disparity in the subscription cost of streaming platforms and a bigger streaming audience outside Nigeria, Nigerian artistes earn 2 or 3 times more from streams generated abroad than from Nigeria. It is expected that with more foreign eyes on the charts, listed songs will have the potential to earn Artistes more revenue.

Bad: Disparity in Audience

The U.S. Afrobeats charts reflect the biggest Afrobeats songs in the United States and not the biggest songs in Africa. In 2021 for example, Essence by Wizkid and Love Nwantiti by CKay were the biggest Afrobeats songs globally although they were not in heavy rotation back in Nigeria, mainly because the world caught up late to the songs, similar to Davido’s IF and Fall blowing up in the U.S. in 2019 after being big in Nigeria and Africa in 2017.

We expect some concurrence however, Fireboy’s Peru was simultaneously big in Nigeria and overseas.

Good: Style Over Substance

Almost two years after debuting the   UK Afrobeats charts, we are yet to quantify the benefits it has given to African music in the United Kingdom. We are yet to see any artiste the Charts have broken or given massive exposure in the UK music industry. It is feared that a similar fate may befall its U.S. counterpart.

Bad: Deprioritizes Local Charts

Nigerian charts have struggled to gain legitimacy. With the rise of Afrobeats, it would have been ideal for a Nigerian Chart platform to be the official indicator of the best songs of the era. With the creation of the US Charts, it will take prirority over local charts when it comes to bragging rights and official indexing.

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