For the first time since 1991, Billboard is changing the methodology they use for calculating their Top 200 Album chart.
Beginning with next week’s tally, streams of songs from albums and “track equivalent albums” will be added to sales which, previously, were the only figures used to rank LPs.
Until 1991, Billboard relied on manually submitted information from record stores to calculate their charts. Beginning in ’91, Soundscan information, tallied from actual sales at individual retail registers and sites, were used to rank the albums.
That methodology may be a bit antiquated now as people are cherry picking individual tracks from albums from the digital services rather than purchasing whole albums. Even newer technology allows people to simply stream albums or individual songs from LPs over the internet.
Billboard will now get figures from services like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, etc. and will calculate additional album “sales” by using 1,500 song streams as the equivalent to one purchased album. They also will begin to use what are called “track equivalent albums”, allowing one sales unit for every ten individual tracks from an album that were downloaded from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and other digital retailers.
This is, most likely, going to put the Albums chart through a major change. Albums that have huge debuts and then have dropped off quickly to the lower part of the charts may have a much longer life cycle as people enjoy them through streaming services.
From the aspect of the veteran artist, the new heyday of record setting debuts, achieved because the traditional album market has soured with younger buyers, may come to an end as albums by Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea and Ed Sheeran suddenly are given big boosts by music consumers who prefer to stream their latest sets or just buy the hits from the albums.
The changes and the new landscape of the charts will be revealed, starting next Thursday in Billboard.
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