Billboard has announced that they will start to incorporate streaming services and individual track downloads into their formula for Billboard 200 top albums chart. Billboard chart director Silvio Pietroluongo told The New York Times that by working with this new data they will be able to “gauge the popularity of an album over time.” The charts will count 1,500 song streams as one album sale and count “track equivalent albums” — at least 10 downloads of individual songs from the same album — as one sale as part of the new formula.
One effect of the change will be that big pop albums will remain higher on the chart for a longer period of time, mainly because of how the single cycle works for mainstream pop artists with regards to streaming and individual track downloads. Billboard provided a few examples: Ariana Grande’s My Everything, which placed at No. 36 on last week’s chart would move up to No. 9 with the new formula, and a legacy act like Barbra Streisand’s Partners which is at No. 7 right now would fall to No. 13. Taylor Swift would still be No. 1, streaming or not.
This change is a long time coming considering that album sales are at an all time low and streaming services are only becoming more popular. “Album sales have become a smaller and smaller part of the industry,” Nielsen SoundScan analyst David Bakula told the Times. “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.” This also marks another way that Billboard has become increasingly focused on digital avenues of music consumption — they added Youtube streaming to their Hot 100 formula last year and debuted a social top 40 over the summer in conjunction with Twitter to analyze what music is trending at any given time.
The new Billboard 200 formula will go into effect on December 4th and the first chart using the updated formula will be published in Billboard’s December 13th issue.