Billboard, publisher of the music industry’s scorecard of record, is finally catching up. Starting in December the company will include data from more than 1,500 music-streaming services in its weekly album charts, the biggest update to the ranking formula since 1991, when it started using SoundScan data.
“We were always limited to the initial impulse, when somebody purchased an album,” Silvio Pietroluongo, director of charts, tells the New York Times. “Now we have the ability to look at that engagement and gauge the popularity of an album over time.”
Record-industry executives have so far welcomed the news, but the specifics of the formula are sure to spark debate due to its impact on artists’ perceived clout. For example, the new charts will include “track equivalent albums,” industry-speak for counting 10 downloads of an individual track as a full album. As a result, the album charts may look more like Spotify’s list of top earners (the more a song streams, the more the artist makes).
While Billboard has been testing scenarios in order to tweak the formula, it’s hard to know exactly how the changes will work in practice. Last year, in a major nod to millennials’ listening habits, Billboard updated the Hot 100, its pop singles chart, to include YouTube views. Suddenly popular amateur videos, like a Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” parody, were influencing the list.
Nielsen, which provides Billboard with the underlying data, has also been updating its video-consumption metrics. Yesterday the agency announced that it would begin tracking Netflix and Amazon Instant Video viewership, alongside viewership of traditional television.
For Nielsen and its partners, the changes represent an overdue acknowledgment of digital media consumption patterns. Album sales continue to drop, while streaming services continue to grow, and viewership of traditional TV is declining as more households turn to streaming video as a more convenient, on-demand option.
[h/t: New York Times]