Nielsen and Billboard to incorporate streaming into weekly charts

20 Nov 2014

Ariana Grande, one of the artists likely to profit from the move as her digital song sales have been outperforming album sales in recent weeks

In what could be a defining moment for digital music, Nielsen SoundScan and Billboard are to incorporate music streams from services such as Spotify and Beats music into their weekly charts.

In what is seen as a long overdue move, Nielsen SoundScan will tabulate music streams into its ranking of the most popular albums in the US from 3 December.

It is understood that 1,500 song streams will be the equivalent of an album sale or a ‘stream equivalent album’.

Track equivalent albums – whereby 10 downloaded tracks equal a single album – will also be included in the album charts.

The move has been described as the biggest makeover to the charts in 23 years since Billboard first used Nielsen’s SoundScan point of sale data in 1991.

New adventures in Wi-Fi

The chart – which ranks the top 200 every week – aims to provide a better sense of an album’s popularity by reflecting not just sales but consumption activity.

All of the major on-demand audio subscription services are considered, including Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play and Xbox Music.

According to Billboard, artists such as Ariana Grande, Hozier and Maroon 5 will benefit the most from the change, as their streaming and digital song sales have been outperforming album sales in recent weeks.

“Adding streaming information makes the chart a better representation of music consumption activity,” said Silvio Pietroluongo, VP of charts and data development at Billboard.

“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,” Pietroluongo said.

The move comes at a vital time for streaming music. Spotify has been engaged in a war of words with artist Taylor Swift since she decided to remove her songs from the service. It claims it has redistributed US$2bn to musicians since launching.

Meanwhile, video-sharing site YouTube has begun beta testing its Music Key platform while consumer tech giant Apple, which bought Beats Electronics this year for US$3bn, is rumoured to be planning to deploy Beats to hundreds of millions of iOS devices via an update next March.

Ariana Grande image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years