Ultratop is a non-profit-making association created on the initiative of the Belgian music industry, as represented by BEA Music. 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. The charts keep up with the times and that is why legal downloads were added to the charts in 2006. Since 2016 streams and airplay, measured by Radiomonitor, also count towards the single charts. We are no longer talking about the best-selling singles, but the most consumed, most popular songs. After all, people listen to their favourite music in different ways and we all try to map them. In 2017 streams were also added to the album chart.
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. In addition, the numbers of the download and streaming platforms are also processed daily. The cut-off point is Thursday morning every week. 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 tipparade (bubbling under chart) includes songs that have not (yet) reached the main Ultratop 50 but are going upwards – they are potential hits for the future. The chart mainly has a signal function allowing a wide range of new singles to receive extra attention. The airplay is measured by Radiomonitor, a British company that specialises in all kinds of studies regarding airplay on radio and TV channels in Europe. Satellite beams record when a song is played, on which channel and at what time. Calculations are then made by the computer and the measured plays are linked to the listening density. This is how the airplay charts are created that are compiled weekly per country, per region, per language, ... For Belgium, the measurements have been coordinated by Ultratop since 1998, then in collaboration with Nielsen Music Control, later via Radiomonitor. In the meantime, more than 80 local channels are monitored non-stop. All songs are compared with a file in the computer via fingerprints. For example, Radiomonitor creates airplay charts per channel (and per region). The results of this count towards the charts, which are the result of sales, streams and the number of times a song was played on the radio, linked to the number of listeners. The song must be commercially available before it is allowed in the charts. Charting on the basis of airplay alone is therefore not possible, charting on the basis of sales alone 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 was subsequently processed and produced in one week. This meant the chart reached dealers, radio listeners and TV viewers one week earlier.
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 subsequently the dance chart was based solely on their measured sales. The system operated in the same way as the other Ultratop charts. We were, of course, working with a smaller number of shops here, all of whom also specialised in different dance genres, which made 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. In 2016, just like in the singles chart, streams were also added.
Specifically for Studio Brussel an 'alternative' albums Top 50 was also started up in early 2001, while in September 2012 MNM launched the R&B/Hip-hop 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 dropped below a certain PPD (Published Price to Dealer) limit, they were permanently moved to the mid price chart. This ensured that new talent was more likely to find its way to the regular album chart and consequently the chart became more interesting. With the market shift to streaming, the PPD difference is much less important. In 2019, the full price and mid price charts were therefore merged again. The chart expanded to a top 200 in 2012 to highlight more titles, also replacing the Heatseekers top 20, a chart of new albums just below the top 100.
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 full year-end charts, all #1 hits, all kinds of trivia and records, photos and annotations of 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. In order to keep documenting the changing music consumption, the reported numbers of the streaming portals along with the airplay were added to the single charts in 2016. Streaming was also added to the album chart a year later.
In 2014 the Flemish Ultratop 10 was expanded to a top 50. In this way we wanted to give more attention to Flemish artists. There was much competition to get into the top 10 and the offer was very large. Since then, the chart has been broadcast on Radio 2 on Sunday afternoons and is a derivative of the singles chart and tipparade.
A code of conduct was drawn up for the compilation of the charts. This contains general and chart-specific rules. This way you can know perfectly which titles qualify for which chart, you can read the rules regarding consult signing sessions and sales-stimulating events, etc. Because making charts is not a stagnant phenomenon and has to keep up with the times, the code is regularly updated. For an update of the code of conduct, please contact us.
Ultratop gets a great deal of attention in the media, who consider Ultratop the primary chart reference. More than a million people tune in to Ultratop on the various radio channels every week. You can listen to our charts on MNM (previously Radio Donna), Radio 2, Radio Contact and Bel RTL every week.
In the early years the charts were printed in the newspapers and there was the special Ultratop brochure. Since our inception, it was available in shops for free every Friday and was replaced by a shop poster in early 2006. Since then we have mainly worked with our popular website. The new Flemish and Walloon charts are updated every Friday afternoon. The site quickly became one of the largest Belgian music sites. In addition to the weekly charts, it also contains a wealth of information: year-end charts, chart overviews per artist, links to foreign charts, daily update with new titles / new YouTube clips / albums, chart analyses, overview of gold and platinum titles, overview of #1 singles and albums, special charts (Christmas, Nineties, Nillies,…), music news, birthdays, competitions, stock-trading game, all information about the Eurovision Song Contest, blogs (Chart Chat, Het Collectief Geheugen, Popattitude), information about author / composer / producer, sound carriers, labels, release date, covers, sound fragments, music videos. Visitors can vote for the weekly forum tip, post their own charts, rate and review songs and albums.
You can also consult the old chart archives from 1954 onwards.
In 2008 we launched a successful newsletter that has since become a fixture for many music lovers.
In 2009 and 2010 we brought together a room full of chart fans for our 15th anniversary for the great Ultratop hit quiz.
We also organised Ultratop parties, released numerous hit compilations, launched an Ultratop app and even released Ultratop school supplies.
The charts were also broadcast on TV in the past, just think of the chart shows on TMF, Ketnet and RTL.
Of course we also became more and more active on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
In 2016 we started creating playlists on the streaming portals. In addition to the weekly chart playlists, we also started the New Music Friday playlist in 2017. In Belgium, it was not yet made by the portals at that time and we thought it was important to provide an extra platform for new songs and local artists in this way. Later the name was changed to Fresh Friday Release, a playlist that has now become fully established and for which all labels and many artists pitch their songs to secure a place in the list.
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, but also small labels can show solidarity at a much lower rate and support Ultratop. All labels receive the same comprehensive charts and information from GfK and Radiomonitor. Chart fans can also take out a subscription so that they will receive the charts on Friday noon.