#1 ON THE HOT COUNTRY BILLBOARD CHARTS 2015

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Ralph Murphy
....I reiterate, that every year I look at the #1s on the previous years Billboard Charts so I can get a sense of "listener expectations" for the New Year. I do this as a business person, not a songwriter, because I'm in the "Music Business"....for better or worse!

There were 11 #1s on the Billboard Hot Country Charts in 2015
All of them had intros which means they were probably designed to accommodate the radio format...14.4 seconds

FIRST USE OF YOU
The word "You" is a trigger word that invites the listener in. It's called playing the "you" card. It's important to tell that "you" character information specifically about them. If you average all the times to first use of "you",10 out of 11 songs used the pronoun "you"on average in about 28 seconds.

STRUCTURE
For the first time ever, the 4th form (verse/prechorus/chorus,verse/prechorus/chorus, bridge, prechorus, optional, chorus...out) dominated with 8 songs of the 11. The traditional form for country radio was 2nd or 3rd form..."don't bore us, get us to the chorus"! Well, 3rd form(verse/optional verse/chorus, 2nd verse/chorus, bridge or middle 8, chorus and out) finished 2nd with only two uses..and good old 2nd form (verse/chorus/verse chorus/instrumental, chorus out) was only used once...

TWO MINUTE WALL
Almost all...except Chris Stapleton(2.52) get to a bridge/middle 8 or instrumental between 2 minutes and 2.30.  This is important for radio because the listener/consumer starts getting bored after a couple of minutes.

BEATS PER MINUTE
Beats per minute are very important when you're looking at Country. Because the songs are under 100 BPM they are designed for a sedentary audience...think cars, kitchen, think "sitting". Over 100 BPMs..specifically 120-135 is intended for dancers.   The creator of the work matches the heartbeat of the song to the listener, and the listener at Country is probably not dancing.
Only "Something in the Water" and "House Party" cracked the 100BPM ceiling..2 of 11, which means the bulk of the songs were intended for radio.

FADE/DEADEND
When you dead end a song, you annoy the lister and make them want to hear it again, whereas when you fade a song you move them along to the next song...there were only 3 fades out of 11 Chart Toppers on the Billboard Hot Country Charts.

TIME TO FIRST USE OF TITLE
What the writer of a hit does is "create an expectation" and then "fulfill" it. Part of the expectation of the listener at #1 is that she/he arrives at the first use of title(fulfillment) in 60 seconds or less. Everything leads to the title.
After the lyric started, all the number one songs arrived at the first use of title within 60 seconds...9 of the 11 reached the first use of "Title" within 60 seconds including the intro!

GENDER
The only solo female artist to have a number one in 2015 was Carrie Underwood with "Something in the Water". The group Little Big Town, featuring a female artist also had a #1 with Girl Crush.
There were also only 6 women writers who wrote on a #1 last year. Carrie Underwood, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose, Linda Hargrove and Stephanie Jones...Hillary Lindsay had 2 #1s with Girl Crush and Shotgun Rider.
The other 19 songwriters that had a #1 on the Billboard Hot Country charts were male. With 2 each were Ashley Gorley, Chris DeStephano, Luke Bryant, Sam Hunt and Josh Osbourne. So there were 14 other male writers who had #1s in 2015.

Also, the only group to score on the Billboard Hot Country Charts was Little Big Town.
Other than Carrie Underwood and Little Big Town the other #1s were solo male artists.

SO YOU WANT A #1 ON THE HOT COUNTRY BILLBOARD CHARTS
Okay....
Have a 14 second intro
Use the pronoun "you" within the first 30 seconds
Use detail in saying just how wonderful "you" is
Make sure you honor the "2 minute wall"
Keep the BPM under 100 BPM
Dead end the song
Aim it at a male singer...or make the female singer a winner.
Write the song in 4th form
Get me to the first use of the title in 60 seconds of less
......or don't!
Hopefully, seeya on the charts.

Again, I would like to thank Anna White, Holly Chester, Suzanne Lee and the ASCAP interns Katherine Ross, Andrew Anto and Sara Barron, who helped compile the mountain of data needed for me to distill this down to a few pages...I certainly couldn't do it without you all.

Ralph Murphy