Lady Gaga, who just played a sold-out show at Chicago’s United Center, has the number one song on Billboard’s Hot 100 despite getting lukewarm reviews by critics and fans. “Born This Way” isn’t number one because of airplay, but rather because the song has been selling like hotcakes on iTunes. Since pop single sales don’t exist anymore, Billboard relies on iTunes data. But there is a major problem with this.
Any record company can get themselves a number one hit these days by downloading a single thousands of times. It costs a lot of money, but the publicity of having a number one hit may be worth it in the long run. On several Lady Gaga fan sites, fans encouraged each other to download the song multiple times.
I can’t single out Lady Gaga here. There have been multiple campaigns among fans to download Mariah Carey and Green Day songs. The end result is that a song that hits the top position in Billboard may not be a top hit after all.