In Billboard‘s Dec. 13 issue, the Billboard 200 albums chart will premiere its most significant upgrade in more than 23 years. That edition of the chart, which currently tracks the top 200 albums of the week by sales alone, will be the first to include on-demand streaming and digital track sales (as measured by Nielsen Music), by way of a new algorithm. It’s the most substantial methodology update since May 1991, when Billboard first used Nielsen’s point-of-sale data — SoundScan — to measure album sales.
The chart, which will post on Billboard.com on Dec. 4, debuts with data from Thanksgiving week (ending Nov. 30), one of the most active music-release periods of the year. The new methodology aims to provide a better sense of an album’s popularity by reflecting not just sales, but consumption activity.
The updated Billboard 200 will utilize industry standards for digital and streaming data, equating 10 digital track sales from an album to one equivalent album sale, and 1,500 song streams from an album to one equivalent album sale. All of the major on-demand audio subscription services are considered, including Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play and Xbox Music. Current artists likely to benefit from this change in methodology include heavily streamed acts like Ariana Grande, Tove Lo and Maroon 5.
“With current on-demand audio play counts exceeding 100 billion so far this year, this method of consumption has redefined the way success is measured in the music industry,” says David Bakula, senior vp industry insights at Nielsen Entertainment. Nearly 80 percent of music fans reported they have streamed music in the last six months, he adds.
Sales mostly capture initial buying, says Silvio Pietroluongo, vp charts at Billboard, but consumption extends into ownership. “Someone could listen to the album just once, or listen to one track or a number of tracks 100 times.”