Billboard has just announced that it will soon include plays on streaming music services such as Spotify, Beats and Google Play in calculating its Top 200 album chart. The company will also include digital downloads of songs from an album.
Billboard magazine has long been the bible of the music industry, giving the most accurate and respected information as far as the album and song charts. Though other magazines and charts have tried to compete, Billboard has always been the most highly cited and regarded chart. When it is reported in the media that a record is number one, chances are they're referring to the Billboard chart.
Back in the day, the calculation of the Billboard album chart was easy enough. Stores reported physical sales of albums and the chart was calculated based on the total number for each album. In 1991, Billboard partnered with Nielsen Soundscan to help improve the accuracy of its data, and when digital downloads of albums became available, they were also included, but this is the first time the chart will be based upon other information than actual "sales" of an entire album.
The new methodology will count 1500 streams of a song from an album as one sale of the album. They will also count digital downloads of 10 tracks from an album as the equivalent of an album sale itself. The weighting of the streaming tracks was based upon the royalties received by artists and record companies from streaming services, which are much less than those derived from digital downloads.
"We were always limited to the initial impulse, when somebody purchased an album," said Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard's director of charts, in an interview. "Now we have the ability to look at that engagement and gauge the popularity of an album over time."
David Bakula, a senior analyst at Nielsen, agrees: "Album sales have become a smaller and smaller part of the industry," Bakula stated "To just look at album sales and say this is how we measure success is really leaving out that half of the business that is coming from streams and song sales."