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Billboard to include streaming and single track sales data in US album chart

By | Published on Thursday 20 November 2014


Billboard, having adding streaming data into its main singles chart back in 2012, has announced that it will include the same in the calculation of its Billboard 200 album chart from later this month.

“All of the major on-demand audio subscription services are considered”, says Billboard, specifically naming Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play and Xbox Music. Chart compiler Nielsen will take 1500 streams from one album as being equivalent to one sale. The updated album chart will also measure single track sales – equating ten track sales from an album to one full album sale.

Billboard says that the changes, if already launched, would have had an impact this week on artists like Ariana Grande, Hozier and Maroon 5, whose streaming and single track sales are outperforming full album sales. Also, while mainstream artists traditionally push for high first week sales, thus often seeing a steep drop off in chart position in later weeks, it’s likely that the changes will mean pop acts in particular maintain a higher position over time.

This is perhaps interesting news for Taylor Swift, who of course is currently not making her music available through a number of streaming services – notably Spotify and (contrary to earlier reports) YouTube’s new Music Key.

As much reported, her stance is that she wants no part in the “grand experiment” of ad-funded freemium streaming tiers on on-demand services. Though it will be interesting to see how the chart changes affect her chart position (her number one already assured by her impressive full album sales figures) and if potentially seeming to fall out of favour quickly shifts her opinion at all. It’s unlikely that the effect will be great this time around, though by her next album the landscape is likely to be very different.

Explaining the changes, Billboard’s VP Of Charts And Data Development, Silvio Pietroluongo said: “Adding streaming information makes the chart a better representation of music consumption activity. While an extremely valuable measurement, album sales would mostly capture the initial impulse only, without indicating the depth of consumption thereafter. Someone could listen to the album just once, or listen to one track or a number of tracks 100 times. We are now able to incorporate those plays as part of an album consumption ranking throughout one’s possession of an album, extending beyond the initial purchase or listen”.

Supporting the addition of streaming stats to the album chart, Sony Music EVP Of US Sales & Distribution, Darren Stupak added: “The new methodology for the Billboard 200 is a welcome and necessary evolution of Nielsen and Billboard’s album chart data. The ways in which fans consume music, and the ways in which music is monetized, have grown beyond the traditional metrics of album sales. Music consumption in today’s marketplace is a diverse mix of access and acquisition, including on-demand streaming, track and album downloading, and physical product purchasing. The introduction of this expanded scope chart brings the Billboard 200 more closely in line with the multi-platform, multi-format experience of music fans”.

The UK is likely to follow suit next year, The Official Charts Company’s Martin Talbot told AIM’s IndieCon conference earlier this week that it was “a matter of when, not if”.

The first Billboard 200 chart to incorporate streaming will be published on 4 Dec, covering listening from Monday 30 Nov.