What's being described as the most significant change in more than two decades to the way Billboard magazine calculates its album chart positions is set to kick in next week: For the first time, digital streams are to be factored in with the retail sales on which the chart has always been based.
As consumers move in greater numbers to streaming music rather than buying it, Billboard and the Nielsen SoundScan sales monitoring service that gathers the data on which the charts are based are to recognize that shift in determining chart positions. Under the new plan, 1,500 streams of any song will be treated as the equivalent of one album sold, and counted toward that album's position on the weekly Billboard 200 album ranking.
The new policy is to be implemented for the sales week starting Monday and running through Nov. 30, and will appear in charts to be published Dec. 4 online and contained in Billboard's Dec. 13 print issue.
"Adding streaming information makes the chart a better representation of music consumption activity," Billboard's director of charts, Silvio Pietroluongo, said in a statement released Wednesday. "While an extremely valuable measurement, album sales would mostly capture the initial impulse only. ... 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."
The move is expected to manifest in greater longevity at the top of the album charts for musicians whose songs and videos are the most popular on YouTube, Spotify, Rdio and other streaming services. Many of those acts have younger fan bases that favor streaming over purchasing downloads or physical CDs.
Daniel Glass of Glassnote Records label told the New York Times in a story published Wednesday that "with this all-in-one streaming chart, it's a much truer reflection of how much is being consumed."
Last year, Billboard began incorporating YouTube views into its computations that determine placement on its Hot 100 singles chart.
Meanwhile, Taylor Swift's "1989" easily remains at No. 1 this week with sales of more than 312,000 copies. That's well ahead of the No. 2 album, the Foo Fighters' "Sonic Highways," which is been the subject of an eight-part HBO documentary series using the same title. In the No. 3 slot is Pink Floyd's "Endless River," the album started almost two decades ago and completed recently by longtime band members David Gilmour and Nick Mason.
Coming in at No. 4 on the overall chart and No. 1 on the Billboard country albums listing is Garth Brooks' first studio album of new material in 13 years, "Man Against Machine." It sold just under 130,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.