Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ Debuts on Billboard Country Airplay Chart
In the wake of Lil Nas X's removal from the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, the song in question -- "Old Town Road" -- has registered spins across dozens of country radio stations and clocked in at No. 53 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart for the week of April 13, 2019. However, context suggests that there is more to the story than simple radio airplay.
While no country radio stations officially added "Old Town Road" to their music rotation, Billboard reports that it earned 140 plays on 35 reporting stations -- an audience of one million people. But, as Headline Planet explains, the airplay is thanks to something called the "syndication effect," in which a majority of spins can be attributed to radio shows that are syndicated over a multitude of stations.
Billboard confirms this theory: The spins came largely from The Bobby Bones Show, iHeartMedia's syndicated morning show. While one station in Madison, Wisc., did play "Old Town Road" 14 times at various times throughout the days, no other station played the song more than five times.
Headline Planet also reports that at least one station played "Old Town Road" as a part of a "TikTok challenge" promotion for its listeners; additionally, following the release of the song's new remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, radio play intensified. Put more simply, the song's jump onto the charts is partially due to novelty spins, and to the controversy surrounding the song and its removal from the country charts.
After gaining popularity on the TikTok app, "Old Town Road" debuted at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in mid-March, but was removed from chart consideration shortly thereafter. Billboard explained at the time that the song "does not embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version."
However, hot debate broke out on social media about the song's exclusion from the chart, with many arguing that Billboard's decision was racially motivated. The media organization denied those claims.