Belgique (Wallonie)


Who is Ultratop?
How is the chart compiled?
The Tipparade - The odd one out
Ever-improving quality
Synergy with the media

Ultratop is a non-profit-making association created on the initiative of the Belgian Music Industry Federation, as represented by BEA. Since Ultratop is managed by the music industry itself, it is the only official Belgian music chart, and it sets out to be the very best one. Before Ultratop the charts were produced by means of a telephone survey carried out by an official overseer, and later on the basis of units reported by the industry. Neither of these systems gave an accurate picture of sales. Responses to the telephone survey were not only easy to manipulate, they were also invariably subjective. Retailers found it easier to remember their recent sales and harder to remember those at the beginning of the week. Therefore in late 1994 a new system was introduced which only took account of monitored sales. In order to make the chart as objective as possible, the expertise of AC Nielsen was called upon. Up to 2006 they compiled the chart on the basis of sound recording media sold in retail and legal download platforms. As of 2007 the agency in charge of the charts is GfK.

As the only monitored music chart in Belgium based on retail sales, Ultratop is the only one providing an accurate picture of Belgian sales.

Sales figures for Ultratop are gathered from a selection of independent dealers, chains and supermarkets. All shops able to report their sales adequately are included. This allows us to obtain a representative number spread across the country. The selected outlets (around 500 in total) record their sales on their own scanning systems. The weekly cut-off point is Saturday (or Sunday in some cases). This information must first be refined and ranked. Suspect or irregular sales are removed via an anti-fraud procedure. This eliminates fake purchases and other attempts to manipulate the chart. Some titles have several references, all of which are linked together by the computer. All the information from participating dealers and download platforms is naturally highly confidential. This information is ultimately used to produce a Flemish and a French-language version of Ultratop and its various sub-charts.

The Ultratip Bubbling Under or Tipparade is a Bubbling Under chart for songs that have not (yet) reached the main Ultratop 50 and is the only one of the Ultratop charts compiled in a different way. As the Tipparade is primarily an indicator, a wide range of new singles should get a chance to feature on it. This chart is a combination of sales and airplay. Nielsen Music Control is an international company, with European head offices in Dublin and Baden-Baden, which conducts all types of surveys of radio and TV airplay across nearly the entire world. Every time a song is played, the station playing it and the time of broadcast are recorded via satellite. The computer then does some calculations and the number of plays measured is coupled with the audience figures. This is how the airplay charts are compiled each week, by country, region, language etc., the highlight being the European Top 100. Ultratop has been co-ordinating Music Control measurements for Belgium since 1998. MNM, Studio Brussel, Radio 1, Radio 2, Topradio, Q, Joe FM, FM Brussel, Nostalgie, RGR, Story FM, FG, TMF, Jim, Ment TV and MTV NL are monitored for Flanders, while Radio Contact, Bel RTL, NRJ, Fun, Pure FM, Vivacité, La Première, Nostalgie, Classic 21, Sud Radio, Twizz, FG France, MCM and MTV FR are monitored in the French-speaking provinces. Obviously the composition of this panel is regularly evaluated. All songs are compared against a file in the computer, and Music Control uses this information to compile an airplay chart for every station (and region). The results of these are also used for the Tipparade. The Tipparade is therefore based on both sales and the number of times a song is played on radio or TV, coupled with the number of listeners. However, a single has to be commercially available before being allowed into the Tipparade. A Tip chart entry purely on the basis of airplay is therefore not possible; charting exclusively on sales however is.

Ultratop aims to continuously improve its charts. It does so by making minor or major adjustments to the system. In 1997, quality was improved by speeding up the survey time leading up to the chart. Whereas there used to be a 14-day gap between the cut-off point for sales and radio broadcasts, the Ultratop poster is now processed and produced in one week. This means the chart reaches dealers, radio listeners and TV viewers one week earlier. Sales are cut off on Sunday, the charts are announced on Wednesday and broadcast on Saturday.
Another important step was the launch of the Ultratop dance chart in September 1996. Originally, the dance chart was a compilation of the most danceable tracks from the mainstream chart, compiled in the same order. Then, at the request of the dance labels and as a result of the massive interest in current dance music, Ultratop started contacting specialist dance shops and now the dance chart is based solely on their measured sales. The system operates in the same way as the other Ultratop charts. We are, of course, working with a smaller number of shops here, all of whom also specialise in different dance genres, which makes it more difficult to produce a completely representative chart. That is why we developed our own automated store system and more outlets were added to the panel of shops. The dance chart was originally broadcast by Studio Brussel, subsequently by C-Dance and from early 2005 it was broadcast for five years on Topradio. At the end of 2009 legal downloads of specialised dance portals were added to the dance chart as well. At the end of 2011 airplay of dance stations was added to the mix. Ever since the Ultratop Dance 50 is broadcast by MNM in Flanders and since September 2012 on Radio Contact in Wallonia.

Specifically for Studio Brussel an 'alternative' albums Top 50 was also started up in early 2001, while in September 2012 MNM launched the Urban chart, derived from the singles chart.

In 2004 the album chart was split up into full price and mid price charts, as a reaction to the changing music market. As soon as albums drop below a certain PPD limit, they are permanently moved to the mid price chart. This ensures that new talent is more likely to find its way to the regular album chart and consequently the chart becomes more interesting.
The spring of 2004 saw the start of the Music DVD chart. Following the rise of the DVD in general, music DVDs had also started booming. Ultratop reacted upon the rocketing sales and ever-increasing offer by launching a weekly music DVD chart.
To celebrate Ultratop's 10th anniversary a jubilee book of over 600 pages was successfully published in late 2005, covering:
  • All hits from the Flemish and Walloon album Top 100, single Top 100 and airplay Top 200
  • 5,882 artists, 15,282 singles, 5,457 albums
  • All complete end-of-year charts
  • All Number Ones
  • All sorts of trivia and records
  • Photos of and comments on the main artists
Since the summer of 2005 there have also been tests with integrating legal downloads into the charts. Having become ever more important and taken in a considerable part of the singles market, the legal downloads have been added to the charts as of January 2006. This rendered the Ultratop singles chart more well-rounded and better. Sales of all main download portals are included. Since these sales were originally reported later, they were integrated with one week's delay in the charts. At the start of 2009 however an acceleration was carried out, allowing download sales to coincide completely with physical sales. No distinction is made between the sales of CD singles and downloads. Bundles are considered as one sale. Since early 2008 album downloads are also included in Ultratop's album charts. Since many 'oldies' also remain available as downloads, in 2009 separate back catalogue download charts were introduced for any songs older than two years.

We also started up the Heatseekers Top 20, a chart of albums still ranked right below the Top 100.
In 2011 the Flemish Ultratop 10 was also split up into separate charts for general and children's songs. This way Radio 2 fully supports the Flemish Ultratop 10 again. In 2012 this chart was cancelled and the album chart was expanded to a Top 200.

A code of conduct has been drawn up for the compilation of the charts. This includes general rules and specific ones for each chart. It explains perfectly which titles qualify for which chart, when a CD is moved to the mid price chart and lists the rules regarding signing sessions and sales-stimulating events as well as the way the dance chart is compiled. Since compiling charts is no stationary phenomenon and must adapt to its time, the code is regularly adapted.

Ultratop gets a great deal of attention in the media. More than two million people tune in to the Ultratop on the various radio or TV channels every week. You can listen to or watch the charts on stations of VRT, TMF and RTL every week.

The charts are also printed in almost all newspapers and a number of magazines each week. Besides the special Ultratop poster, which appeared in the shops for free every Friday since our start and was replaced by a shop poster in 2006, we also have our own websites. The new Flemish and French-language charts are updated every Friday afternoon. There are also links to the websites of music companies, artists, radio stations, foreign charts, weekly releases, chart analyses, end-of-year charts etc. as well as competitions every week. Please visit www.ultratop.be for our Flemish and French-language sites. You can keep up to date with the changes in broadcast hours, listen to sound samples, post reviews on songs and albums, participate in the chart stock game, chat, search our chart archives and consult all our charts, i.e. the singles Top 50, album Top 200, Tip 100, dance Top 50, Top 20 compilations, Flemish Ultratop 10, music DVD Top 10, mid price Top 20, Belgian album Top 20, back catalogue downloads Top 50, classical Top 20, dance bubbling under 20, urban Top 50. Those interested can also get a paid subscription on the charts and receive them by e-mail. In 2008 we also started a successful newsletter, which for many music lovers has already become a weekly fixture.

It goes without saying that the system used by Ultratop is very expensive to run. Music companies can join Ultratop by paying a fixed fee. The majors pay most of the cost, and smaller companies pay a smaller contribution. At present, about 27 companies, who together account for 95% of CD sales in Belgium, are members of Ultratop. All members are entitled to the same benefits: a seat at the General Meeting, eligibility for a seat on the Board of Directors, the Board of Directors' reports, extensive weekly charts, quicker access to weekly charts (Wednesday afternoon), quarterly, six-monthly and annual overviews, additional statistical information, better advertising rates in the Ultratop poster, better rates from Music Control, a subscription to Ultratop posters and a free link on the Ultratop website. In addition, Ultratop has concluded a contract with VRT/TMF in Flanders and RTL/Contact in the French-speaking provinces which grants them the exclusive right to broadcast all Ultratop charts.

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