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 1948–1958, Billboard used three charts to measure the popularity of a given song. In addition to the jukebox chart, these charts included:
- The "best sellers" chart – started May 15, 1948 as "Best Selling Retail Folk Records." This chart had anywhere from 10-20 positions during its ten-year life, with the number of positions varying each week.
- A "jockeys" chart – started December 10, 1949 as "Country & Western Records Most Played By Folk Disk Jockeys." This chart had anywhere from eight to 15 positions, varying from week to week.
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 effective April 30, 2005 the chart was renamed "Hot Country Songs".
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 that of the Billboard Hot 100. Digital downloads and streaming data are now combined with airplay from all radio formats to determine position. A new chart, the Country Airplay chart, was created using the previous methodology of this chart using airplay exclusively from country radio stations. Following the change, Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," a pop song that had been falling from its peak in the mid-teens when the change took effect, shot up to number one on the chart on the strength of recurrent rotation on non-country stations, where it would begin the longest run at number-one on the country charts since the 1960s.
- Whitburn, Joel. Top Country Songs 1944-2005 - 6th Edition. 2006.
- Billboard Hot Country Songs chart – online version.