The folks at the Hype Machine, the popular music tracking site, think that all of the Twitter music charts out there are “lame,” so they decided to make their own Twitter Music Chart. It encourages people to Tweet out links to their favorite songs on the Hype Machine, where you can listen to the full audio stream. They came up with a formula which gives people with more followers on Twitter more points for every song they Tweet. The songs with the most points, move up the chart.
It seems straight-forward enough, but it is way too easy for people with a large number of Twitter followers to game. I just RickRolled the chart by Tweeting a link to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” from the TechCrunch Twitter account. The TechCrunch account has 916,735 followers, which gives each Hype Machine Tweet 2,997 points. A single Tweet was enough to put the song at the top of the chart, above Michael Jackson’s and Telepopmusik’s “Remember The Time” (1,972 points). Okay, so maybe it wasn’t fair to use the TechCrunch account, but what else am I gonna do on a Saturday morning plane ride back to New York (gotta love Virgin America’s WiFi in the sky).
Even before I Tweeted the link with the TechCrunch account, I Tweeted it first through my personal @erickschonfeld account, which only has 7,224 followers, and was able to get the song to debut on the list at No. 24. Every time I Tweet out a song link, it counts for 266 points, noyt enough to get a song to the top spot with one Tweet, but enough to move “Superteen” by The Care Bears On Fire from the No. 12 spot to the No. 5 spot.
The Hype Machine’s formula is flawed. No single person should be able to affect the rankings so easily. To be fair, it just launched, and as more people start voting, the system should self-correct. But the bigger problem with ranking songs based on someone’s popularity on Twitter is that just because someone has a lot of followers doesn’t man they have good taste in music (TechCrunch and myself excluded, of course). Ranking music based on roughly on how many Twitter followers someone has is just as lame as any of the other methods the Hype Machinists are trying to replace. (I like WeAreHunted). If there was a way to figure out who are the music experts or influencers on Twitter and give their Tweets more weight, that would create a more interesting list.
Otherwise, the Hype Machine’s chart is just going to keep on getting RickRolled.