About My Folk Music Airplay Charts

I am the host of "The Real Folk" broadcast at 91.3fm on KBCS radio in Bellevue, WA, and streaming at KBCS.FM. The show airs every Sunday 6-8pm. You can also stream archived shows for up to two weeks after air date (also MixCloud).

I started my folk music career at KBCS in 1997, with "Lunch with Folks". Almost immediately I wanted to know what albums were trending so I didn't miss anything. Being a software developer, I started writing a program to calculate a chart based on folk music airplay reported to FOLKDJ-L. It was harder than I had first thought and required a lot of manual adjustments, but it worked. After awhile I turned over my charts and the website folkradio.org to Folk Alliance. They have kept it going ever since.

My new folk airplay charts

I decided to develop a new folk airplay chart program from scratch in 2020. The idea was to have a completely automated system that would update every day and include weekly charts in addition to the monthly and annual charts. In this way, DJs would have more current information available.

A playlist is a list of songs played, in order, on a radio show or streamed or a podcast. For each song, we need the name of the artist and the name of the song, at a minimum. Almost all DJs include the name of the album the song is from, or an indication that the song is a single. Many DJs include the record label as well. Other information, such as composer or year released, can be included, but will be ignored when compiling the charts.
Which playlists are counted?
Shows with playlists posted to FOLKDJ-L. The shows can be broadcast over the radio or a cable network, or streamed on the internet, or a podcast. As long as the playlist is posted to FOLKDJ-L, it counts. If a duplicate (or near duplicate) playlist is posted, only the most recent is counted, if within the same calendar month and no more than 7 days later. All playlists are weighted equally - no attempt is made to weight by audience size. I figure if a DJ goes to the trouble to prepare a show, then it should count.
Which songs are counted?
Songs must be from a recording, either a single or a track from an album. Songs played live in the radio studio don't count. We're trying to assess the popularity of recorded music, so other DJs can play it.
How are playlists analyzed?
In my old chart system, I kept a table of DJs, their playlist format, their station (or website) and location. This info was forever going out of date. If a new DJ appeared, the program could do nothing. The new chart code takes more of an AI approach. Messages are scanned and sorted into playlists and not playlists. For playlists, the program figures out from the text of the message who the DJ is, what playlist format they are using, their affiliation and location. If something changes, it's usually not a problem, and in most cases new DJs are included right away.
Date and Time
FOLKDJ-L gets playlists sent from all over the world. For purposes of my charts, the date and time of each playlist message is the date and time it arrives at the Penn State servers in the Eastern time zone of the United States. The date and time email headers are the local date and time of the sending computer, which may be from a different time zone and could even be a different date. They are ignored. You can see which week, month and year each message is categorized by looking at the FOLKDJ-L archives.
Weeks, Months and Years
My old chart program got playlists via email. It turned out that about 10% of FOLKDJ-L messages never made it to me. My new chart program scrapes playlists from the FOLKDJ-L archives at Penn State. The archives categorize messages by week, month and year. The first week of a month is day 1 to day 7, the second week is 8 thru 14, the third week is 15-21 and the fourth week is 22-28. The fifth week is always a short week of 1 to 3 days. February in a non-leap year doesn't have a fifth week.
The "Gillmann rule"
My system usually just adds up all the spins for an artist, song or album. A problem occurs when one DJ is the only one playing it - normally popular items get spins from many DJs. To prevent a single DJ from unduly influencing the chart, I have the following rule: if more than half the spins come from a single DJ, the count for that DJ is limited to the sum of plays from all the other DJs, plus one. For example: an album gets one spin from DJ A, two spins from DJ B, and 25 spins from DJ C, and no spins at all from the 100+ other DJs. In this case, DJ C is limited to 4 spins, and the album total would be 7, not 28. If this case, the count would be listed as (7/28) instead of (28).

Richard Gillmann Folk Airplay Charts
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