Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan announced on Wednesday that they will begin using music streams as well physical sales and downloads in tabulating rankings on its Top 200 Album chart.
It's a necessary, late-to-the-party move because even as first file sharing and now streaming has cut deeply into music sales and the entire industry has been reshaped - with artists earning revenues from a variety of sources, including music syncs in commercials and TV shows - the purely sales-based chart has remained the most common - and often misleading - media measuring stick of what's popular.
Streaming services like Spotify have been in the news lately, particularly since Taylor Swift pulled her music off the service, a move that doubtlessly aided the strong sales performance of her album 1989, which sold almost 1.3 million copies in its first week, more than double what any other album has achieved this year.
Under the new system, 1500 streams from an album - even if they are 1500 streams of one song that's a hit single - will be equivalent of one album sale. On demand streamng from services such as Spotify and Beats Audio is up 50% over last year, according to Variety, while track and album sales continue to plummet at a double digit rate. Billboard vice president of sales Sylvio Pietroluongo said in a statement: "Adding streaming information makes the chart a better representation of music consumption activity."
Artists such as Swift, Beyonce and the Black Keys have pulled music off Spotify, in some cases citing not only the negative impacts on sales, but also the streaming services low payout rates to artists and songwriters. With the new system, which is scheduled to go into effect on the chart that comes out Dec. 3 reflecting the big shopping week of sales that includes Black Friday, pop acts whose music is streamed consistently over time will benefit, rather than fall off so precipitously after a big opening week. Acts like Swift whose music is not available to stream, will likely see their chart postion adversely effected.
Google's new streaming YouTube Music Key paid streaming service launched on an invite-only basis this week.