Someone inform Taylor Swift immediately — the streaming experiment shall continue. Billboard, in partnership with Nielsen Soundscan, plans to include streaming data from Spotify, Rdio, Xbox Music, Google Play, and a panoply of other subscription services in the Top 200 album charts. The chart will also include album equivalent downloads in its methodology of album sale tabulation for the first time.
The new chart will debut on Billboard.com on December 4 and include streaming data from Thanksgiving week (ending Nov. 30). Under the new formula, 1,500 streams from songs on a single album will account for one album sale, and 10 digital track purchases from a single album will equal one album sale. The discrepancy between the two measurement’s relative influence on the charts is more than likely attributed to the fact that the per-download royalty payouts for services such as iTunes are 100x times higher than reported per-stream royalties from major on-demand music services Spotify and Pandora.
Describing traditional album sales as capturing the “initial impulse only,” Silvio Pietroluongo, vice president of charts and data development at Billboard, believes streaming data offers a better view of the consumer’s relationship with the album after their initial purchase. “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.”
While Billboard has just begun including album equivalent download data in its album chart formula, Nielsen has tracked the stat since 2005; two years after the debut of the iTunes store. Digital album and track download revenue experienced their first year-to-year decrease in 2013 since the introduction of the iTunes Store in April 2003. In the same year, revenue from on-demand music subscription services accounted for $1.4 billion, equaling 20 percent of the music industry’s total revenue.
This is the latest attempt from Nielsen and Billboard in their effort to definitively assess the influence of digital distribution. The past fours years has seen Billboard include YouTube views in its Top 100 singles charts and dedicate entire charts to tracking artist’s popularity on social media and music activity on Twitter.