Hot Country Songs is a chart published weekly by Billboard magazine in the United States.
Billboard began compiling the popularity of country songs with its January 8, 1944 issue. Only the genre's most popular jukebox selections were tabulated, with the chart titled "Most Played Juke Box Folk Records". The chart length was not standardized; a given week had anywhere from two to eight positions.
For approximately ten years, from 1948 to 1958, Billboard used three charts to measure the popularity of a given song. In addition to the jukebox chart, these charts included:
The names of each chart changed slightly during each chart's life. The "jukebox" chart - which by 1956 was known as "Most Played C&W in Juke Boxes" - ended on June 17, 1957. The "best sellers" and "jockeys" charts continued until October 13, 1958.
Starting with the October 20, 1958 issue, Billboard began combining sales and radio airplay in figuring a song's overall popularity, counting them in one single chart called "Hot C&W Sides". The chart began with a standard length of 30 positions each week. The name of the chart, and the number of positions varied through the years: Its name was switched to "Hot Country Singles" on November 3, 1962; it was expanded to 50 slots on January 11, 1964; then 75 on October 15, 1966; and finally 100 beginning July 14, 1973.
On January 20, 1990, the Hot Country Singles chart was reduced back to 75 positions and began to be compiled entirely from information provided by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, a system which electronically monitors radio airplay of songs. Four weeks later, on February 17, the chart was retitled "Hot Country Singles & Tracks". Beginning with the January 13, 2001 issue, the chart was cut from 75 to 60 positions, and all songs on the chart at the time had their tally of weeks spent on the chart adjusted to count only weeks spent at No. 60 or higher. Effective April 30, 2005, the chart was renamed "Hot Country Songs".
Starting in 1990, the rankings were determined by Arbitron-tallied listener audience for each spin that a song received. The methodology was changed for the first chart published in 1992 to tally the amount of spins a song received, but in January 2005, the methodology reverted to the audience format. This change was brought on because of "label-sponsored spin programs" that had manipulated the chart several times in 2004.
From its inception in 1973 through August 2009, American Country Countdown used this chart in its programming, using the top 40 singles/tracks on it for each week.
The Hot Country Songs chart methodology was changed starting with the October 20, 2012 issue to match the Billboard Hot 100: digital downloads and streaming data are combined with airplay from all radio formats to determine position. A new chart, the Country Airplay chart, was created using the previous methodology (airplay exclusively from country radio stations). Following the change, Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" shot up to number one on the new chart; it would begin the longest run at No. 1 on the country chart since the 1960s. However, its length of stay at No. 1 was soon surpassed by Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise". It has likewise remained buoyed by a new remix featuring Nelly; it had the longest stay at number one of any song in the country chart's history (24 weeks), until it was surpassed by Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road" in 2017.