Billboard will make a huge change beginning with next week's sales chart, incorporating streaming data and track sales into its formula for determining rankings. So an album like Maroon 5's V, which has been languishing for two weeks at Number 24 might have surged up the charts this week given the massive Spotify streams of recent hits "Maps," "Animals" and "It Was Always You."
The change reflects the record industry's transition in recent years – album sales have dropped by 13 percent this year, but streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube, Beats Music and Rhapsody generate more revenue every year. The new charts, to be revealed on December 4th, will more accurately reflect the popularity of an album, Billboard charts editor Silvio Pietroluongo told the New York Times. "We were always limited to the initial impulse, when somebody purchased an album," he said. "Now we have the ability to look at that engagement and gauge the popularity of an album over time."
Billboard's new formula will include data from 1,500 Nielsen SoundScan streaming sources in addition to "track equivalent albums," a formula for counting 10 total song downloads as an album sale. The charts should help solve a problem plaguing the record business throughout 2014 and much of 2013 – hit albums by once-reliable hit makers such as Coldplay, Linkin Park and Rick Ross have sold well in their debut weeks, hitting Number One or Number Two on the charts, then plunging in sales and abruptly dropping off. One beneficiary this week might have been Pink Floyd's new The Endless River – which sold 170,000 copies to debut at Number Three – since the record streamed more than 3.15 million times, according to Nielsen Soundscan.
Billboard has been adjusting its chart formulae in recent years to keep up with transitions in the record business. When it added YouTube streaming data to its Hot 100 singles last year, Baauer's "Harlem Shake" surged up the charts despite a lack of CD or download sales. But in the end, the same albums that tend to draw the most sales also draw the most streaming activity. One Direction's Four was Number One on Spotify this week and Number Two via iTunes – Taylor Swift would have been Number One on Spotify, as well, but she has not released the album to the popular streaming service.
The newly concentrated data stands to help artists market albums to radio stations and other outlets. "It's been very difficult over the last two or three years to communicate the charts to radio stations," Daniel Glass, founder of Glassnote Records, home of Mumford and Sons, Phoenix and Chvrches, told the Times. "I've been Scotch taping and Band-Aiding Shazam and Spotify, bringing in all this data for them. Now with this all-in-one streaming chart, it's a much truer reflection of how much is being consumed."