Digital sales numbers remained high for the best-selling songs in 2013, but now the online retailers had competition. A month before Billboard announced the introduction of YouTube data to its marquee songs chart, it also introduced a new chart altogether: Streaming Songs, aggregating data from all relevant streaming services (including Spotify and YouTube) into one easily understood chart listing the most-played songs on the Internet that week. Hot 100 calculations could now essentially be boiled down to three separate component charts: Radio Songs, Digital Song Sales and Streaming Songs.
For most of 2013, Streaming Songs remained the little brother of the three in determining No. 1s, as airplay numbers and digital sales remained robust and "Harlem Shake"-sized anomalies proved rare. But the influence of streaming could be felt in the year's second half, through the pop ascendance of the rebranded former Disney star Miley Cyrus. Adopting more adult lyrical themes and a more hip-hop-influenced sound and style (co-piloted by rap producer of the moment Mike Will Made-It), the new Miley wasn't necessarily as safe a radio bet as she had been with the Dr. Luke-produced "Party in the U.S.A.," and lead single "We Can't Stop" peaked at No. 15 on Radio Songs, while proving unable to unseat Robin Thicke's massive "Blurred Lines" on Digital Song Sales.
But on Streaming Songs, "Stop" was an 11-week No. 1 -- thanks in large part to its edgy Diane Martel-directed party visual, and to its genre-blurring sound, which would soon prove to be streaming catnip -- which helped prop the song up to a No. 2 peak on the Hot 100. Power ballad follow-up "Wrecking Ball," with its headline-capturing, Terry Richardson-helmed video, fared even better. It topped Streaming Songs for 13 weeks, scoring the highest non-Baauer single-week stream total of the year with over 36.5 million plays, which propelled the song to No. 1 on the overall Hot 100, where it reigned for three total weeks. While the overwhelming majority of its streams came from YouTube, 2.8 million of them also came that week from on-demand streaming services like Spotify -- then a single-week record (as reflected on Billboard's On-Demand Streaming Songs chart), and over twice as many as, for instance, the 1.1 million that Carly Rae Jepsen's pop sensation "Call Me Maybe" had in its first week at No. 1 about a year before.
As the calendar turned on 2013, Nielsen Music reported that for the first time since it had started measuring digital downloads in 2003, song sales were down for the year in the U.S., dropping 6% -- while internationally, the IFPI music report in March revealed a 2.1% dip in overall download revenues. However, digital revenues for the year were still up globally, thanks to a tremendous 51% increase in revenues from subscription- and ad-supported streaming services, which in total passed the $1 billion mark for the first time. "The digital revolution in music is moving to the next phase," proclaimed Edgar Berger, then-chairman and CEO International of Sony Music Entertainment, at the report's London launch. "Today we have 28 million paying subscribers on a monthly basis paying for music subscriptions, up from 8 million just three years ago. I don’t see any reason why this won’t be more than 100 million in the near future.”
Time would certainly validate Berger's predictions, as more and more listeners flocked to subscription services in the years to come. In 2013, a credible rival to Spotify was announced in the form of Beats Music, from Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine's Beats Electronics brand -- though just months after its 2014 debut, it was bought by Apple, who would replace it in 2015 with the even more-hyped Apple Music. That same year, a cadre of high-profile artists would memorably declare their allegiance to the lofty new Tidal subscription service, and the streaming wars were officially underway. But no matter who was winning in that fight, the larger music industry was unquestionably profiting, as the decade-plus worth of losses it had experienced with the slow decline of physical media were finally starting to be turned around by streaming subscription and ad-based revenue.
Meanwhile, download sales -- which had never quite been able to turn a flailing music business all the way around as hoped -- continued to slide. In 2013, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop," a 10-week Digital Song Sales No. 1, enjoyed eight consecutive weeks of sales over 300,000, but by 2016, only two songs (Adele's "Hello" and Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling!") had a single top 300,000 for even one week -- and in 2019, a single song even cracking six digits for a week is rare. Digital song sales on the whole were down a whopping 27.2% in 2018, having fallen every year since they first began slipping in 2013, with only three songs selling a million copies total in '18, down from 106 in '13.