This Top 30 doesn't rate the popularity of songs, but that of melodies within the main body of broadside ballads. The following criteria were considered in compiling this list, rated in order of importance:
- the number of different contrafacts (new song lyrics) set to any particular melody
- the degree to which a song (lyric) was well-known, i.e. the number of places in which a given song was found
- the number of different tune indications for a given melody
- the degree to which a melody is still currently known
- the degree to which it is referenced in other contemporary song sources
Only very few melodies can be found within the collection in musical notation. The missing melodies are - inasmuch as possible - derived from music sources from the time in which the melody was popular.
The libraries of the Meertens Institute (folk song sources), and the Theatre Institute (light music), both of which are located in Amsterdam, have proved invaluable. The most useful reference work has been Fl. Van Duyse, Het oude Nederlansche lied (The old Dutch song). The Hague, 1903-1908 (four volumes).
In order to facilitate the search for other melodies, two rare music sources have been added to the collection of broadside ballads, namely:
- Marius A. Brandts Buys, Gezelschapsliederen. Oud en nieuw. (Round songs. Old and new.) Leiden, [c. 1875].
- Jb. Kwast, Gezelschapsliederen of uitgezochte verzameling van 145 Nederlandsche Zangen en 14 Volksliederen van de voornaamste landen met de in gebruik zijnde Melodieën en Piano-Accompagnement [?] (Round songs or selected collection of 145 Dutch Songs and 14 Folk Songs of the most important countries with the Melodies and Piano Accompaniment used therefore [?]) Third expanded edition. Amsterdam [c. 1900]
Although many melodies originate abroad, Dutch lyrics have been chosen for this top 30. If the 'original song' (i.e. the song referenced as the melody) wasn't available within the collection, another lyric was chosen for that melody.