The adjustment to how Billboard applies streaming data to its charts was first announced in concept last October, and was followed by exhaustive industry discussion and internal analysis to arrive at the new methodology.
Currently, Billboard has two defined types of streaming plays for the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart (and our other genre-specific hybrid songs charts): on-demand (such as Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube) and programmed (such as Pandora and Slacker Radio), with on-demand having a greater weight. The Billboard 200 albums chart -- and our other genre-based consumption-ranked albums charts -- uses a single tier (equating 1,500 streams as one album unit) for on-demand audio streams (paid or ad-supported) from subscription services. Video streams and programmed audio streams do not contribute to the Billboard 200’s calculations, but are incorporated into the Hot 100.
Beginning with the first week of Nielsen’s third quarter of 2018 (sales and streaming week of June 29 to July 5, which will be reflected on Billboard charts dated July 14), plays on paid subscription-based services (such as Apple Music and Amazon Music) or on the paid subscription tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported platforms (such as Spotify and SoundCloud) will be given more weight in chart calculations than plays on ad-supported services (such as YouTube) or on the non-paid tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported services.
Billboard will have multiple weighted tiers of streaming plays for the Hot 100, which take into account paid subscription streams (representing a full point value per play), ad-supported streams (representing a 2/3-point value per play) and programmed streams (representing a 1/2-point value per play). Those values are then applied to the chart’s formula alongside all-genre radio airplay and digital song sales data. Streaming remains the most dominant factor on the chart, followed by radio airplay and digital sales in descending order of significance.
The Billboard 200 will now include two tiers of on-demand audio streams. TIER 1: paid subscription audio streams (equating 1,250 streams to 1 album unit) and TIER 2: ad-supported audio streams (equating 3,750 streams to 1 album unit).
Streams from trial subscriptions that offer the same access and functionality as a paid tier will be considered TIER 1. At this juncture, the Billboard 200 will continue to not incorporate video streams. The Billboard 200 ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multimetric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (equating 10 sold tracks to 1 album unit), and streaming equivalent albums.
The shift to a multi-level streaming approach to Billboard’s chart methodology is reflective of a global push to measure streams in a revenue-reflective and access-based manner. Music is now being consumed on streaming services in more diverse ways, migrating from a pure on-demand experience to a more diverse selection of listening preferences (including playlists and radio) and the various options in which a consumer can access music differs based on their subscription commitment.
Beginning in 2019, the Billboard 200 will further separate paid subscription audio streams into two distinctive tiers, with the higher tier including paid subscriptions that provide full music library access and no restrictions on on-demand functionality and a secondary tier that reflects paid subscriptions that provide a partial music library and/or limited on-demand functionality. Beginning in the fourth quarter of 2018, the ratios for all the streaming tiers will be re-evaluated, with any changes implemented at the start of 2019.