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Billboard denies 6ix9ine’s claims that Ariana Grande fraudulently beat him to number one in the Hot 100

By | Published on Tuesday 19 May 2020

Tekashi 6ix9ine

Billboard has responded to claims made by rapper 6ix9ine that the latest Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the US was rigged in order to deny him the number one spot for his new single ‘Gooba’. He claims that Ariana Grande’s team fraudulently bought copies of her Justin Bieber collaboration ‘Stuck With U’ to get her to the top of the chart.

“I want the world to know that Billboard is a lie”, he said in a video on Instagram prior to the chart being announced. “You can buy number ones on Billboard”.

Bold words. And words he backed up with spreadsheets and a claim that he and unnamed people had conducted their own investigation in order to reveal the truth.

“Ariana ‘Stuck With U’ submitted 60,000 units last second”, he claimed. “With [our] investigation, we found this: They purchased half of those things with six credit cards. When we asked, where [were] those six credit cards linked to, Billboard said ‘we can’t disclose that information'”.

Quite how he discovered the payment information for those purchases, or what store they were purchased from, or indeed who it was who suddenly submitted 60,000 chart eligible unit sales at the last minute, he doesn’t say. But he does shout “SIX CREDIT CARDS” a lot and point at some numbers on his phone.

He concludes his video by demanding that Billboard explain itself, saying: “Now Billboard, if you wanna explain to all the hard working artists out there, and established artists at that, because there’s a lot of established artists right now that don’t get number ones and don’t understand why”.

“It’s like looking at an apple, right?” he adds. “An apple sometimes is most likely red, right? There’s green apples, but just look at this… There’s apples that are red, right? And, you’re looking at an apple – and this is what we did with Billboard – yo, explain how you deduct… if there’s 50 million streams, right, on ‘Gooba’, why only count 30 million? Right?”

“So then, looking at an apple, saying, ‘I’m obviously looking at you and you’re red, but you’re not… but you’re telling us it’s not red'”, he concludes. “You got caught cheating red-handed, right?”

Billboard did go to some lengths to respond to 6ix9ine’s various queries. Well, not to the whole apple thing, which I imagine scholars will be trying to get their heads around for decades, if not centuries, to come. However, in a detailed explanation of its chart rules and how it counts sales, the industry trade mag and chart compiler denied any wrongdoing. It also noted that the spreadsheets that 6ix9ine points at in his videos are not official figures from Billboard itself.

The short version is that 6ix9ine is forgetting or doesn’t realise a number of things. Particularly that Billboard doesn’t just tot up all the publicly available numbers on streaming platforms, and only counts US-based streams in its US-based charts.

“Streaming numbers visible to the public on audio and video data platforms do not reflect the volume included in Billboard’s chart calculations”, it says. “Neither do the stream counts that services make available to content owners (including 6ix9ine and his team) directly through a proprietary data feed or dashboard”.

“Instead, each data provider provides a post-audit number to Billboard and [fellow chart compilers] Nielsen Music/MRC Data – excluding streams that do not meet long-standing charting parameters, such as US-based-only plays, minimum play length, excessive plays and lack of user verification. This is applied to all songs from all artists”.

On its discussion with the rapper, it says: “Billboard and Nielsen Music/MRC Data were open and forthright with all information pertaining to ‘Gooba’ with 6ix9ine’s team. That includes explaining the Hot 100 methodology and how the final ranking and chart points for ‘Gooba’ were calculated”. But, as for what happened with ‘Stuck With U’, “[we] cannot … provide granular detail on a title to anyone but its content owner”.

Billboard does, however, acknowledge that there was a late sales spike on this week’s number one track, noting that “the sales spike is likely referring to sales on Thursday 14 May – the final day of the tracking week – when signed ‘Stuck With U’ singles were put up for sale in Grande and Bieber’s webstores”.

“A signed single or album is an accepted form of sales available to any artist and has been noted repeatedly within Billboard chart stories when such items have impacted the Hot 100”, it goes on. “6ix9ine, meanwhile, released a non-signed CD single/digital download on the last day of the tracking week via his webstore”.

See, you’ve got to sign stuff if you want fans to instigate a last minute sales surge. That’s where 6ix9ine went wrong. Although, had he focussed specifically on the impact of Grande and Bieber’s sneaky signed product push – rather than coming up with a complicated apple analogy that seemed to confuse even the rapper as he explained it – maybe he would have had time to find some other acts to come out in support of him in this particular chart rant.

After all, a number of artists in recent years have been critical of how other acts use items on sale in their online stores to bump up their chart positions – although that criticism has generally been in relation to bundles where the music seems like a secondary item.

Back in 2018, Nicki Minaj got very angry when Travis Scott beat her to the number one position in the Billboard album chart. She claimed that he’d sold bundles on his website where the thing people really wanted were tour tickets, but they also got a chart-eligible album sale along with it. She also accused a baby of being part of that conspiracy.

Coming from the opposite angle, DJ Khaled threatened to sue Billboard for discounting a load of his album bundles, after it deemed an energy drink to be the thing that people were actually buying.

All of this resulted in Billboard updating its chart rules to be firmer on when an album sold as part of a bundle can be chart eligible. Now, you might say this is not relevant here, except that it might explain why Ariana Grande is selling actual physical copies of her new single to her fans like this is the 1800s or something.

The CD singles were signed by both Grande and Bieber and were made available in the US only for 24 hours only (the last 24 hours before that week’s chart cut-off). All of which suggests the signed disc promotion was a ploy to boost the track’s US chart position.

6ix9ine may, therefore, have good reason to be angry. Rather than some secretive conspiracy, it seems that he was done out of the number one by a fairly transparent ruse to sell a lot of records in a short space of time. Though, of course, as noted, he also attempted something similar, putting a limited edition CD single up for sale on his website just before the chart cut-off. But, as well as failing to sign those discs, he also didn’t do the time limit gimmick to focus sales into one chart week.

That said, even if he had promised to sign some discs, and limited that promo to one day, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’d have gone to the top of the chart. Not least because, in the final countdown, he’s not even at number two.

But, on the plus side, despite being in third place, at least the rapper doesn’t now have to work out how to get a team of interns to sign tens of thousands of CDs for him amid current lockdown and social distancing measures.

I’m just kidding, of course, Grande and Bieber will definitely sign all of those CDs themselves, and anyone who says otherwise is a red apple. Or a green one. I still don’t really understand that whole thing.