Billboard is about to add data from music streaming services to its weekly Billboard 200 charts for the first time as services like Google Play, Spotify and Apple’s Beats Music become increasingly popular. The New York Times reports that Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan plan to start incorporating both streams and downloads from music streaming services, in addition to the music sales the chart already covered, in order to more accurately reflect popular albums based on what users are listening to. The first chart including streaming services will include data for next week and arrive online Dec. 4:
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Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard’s director of charts, said that by looking at streams as well as sales, the new chart will more accurately reflect how people listen to music these days… “We were always limited to the initial impulse, when somebody purchased an album,” Mr. Pietroluongo said in an interview. “Now we have the ability to look at that engagement and gauge the popularity of an album over time.”
More specifically, the new formula for the Billboard 200 will count 1,500 song streams as an album sale as well as “track equivalent albums,” which counts 10 downloads of the same song as an album sale.
SoundScan and Billboard will count 1,500 song streams from services like Spotify, Beats Music, Rdio, Rhapsody and Google Play as equivalent to an album sale. For the first time, they will also count “track equivalent albums” — a common industry yardstick of 10 downloads of individual tracks — as part of the formula for album rankings on the Billboard 200.
The report gives an example of how including the streaming services might change rankings noting that a popular album ranked No. 36 on the chart would have been No. 9 if including streaming data: “Ariana Grande’s “My Everything,” for example, which opened at No. 1 in September, was No. 36 on last week’s chart, with 10,000 sales. Under the new formula, it would have been No. 9.”
The change is an important one for companies like Apple and Google after some, according to recent data, experienced a 14% decline in music sales during 2014. It also comes as the drop in digital sales vs an increase in revenue for streaming services is thought to be one of the big motivating factors behind Apple’s purchase of Beats Music and the launch of competitive services. Apple is reportedly planning to make a big push with the Beats Music service next year by bundling it with iOS and potentially making it part of iTunes.