Billboard just announced that it will change the way it counts streams on its charts beginning in 2018. Next year, streams from paid subscription services like Apple Music and “hybrid paid/ad-supported platforms” like Spotify will be given more weight on the charts than streams from purely ad-based platforms like YouTube. Currently, Billboard weighs all of these streams equally, under the umbrella of “on-demand” streams.
The Billboard Hot 100, which charts singles, will continue to take several metrics into account, including subscription streams, ad-supported streams, and “programmed streams” from platforms like Pandora, plus radio play, video streams, and digital sales. The Billboard 200, which tracks albums, will also divide on-demand streams into paid and ad-supported categories. Video streams still do not count toward the Billboard 200, although Billboard says it considered making that change this year.
In the announcement post, the Billboard staff notes that although they frequently meet to discuss adjusting the chart methodology, constant changes in the way listeners consume music has made adapting to those changes increasingly difficult. “This has been an especially challenging year for these deliberations, as we are seeing rapid adoption of new streaming and distribution models that are changing user experience and behavior at an unprecedented pace,” the post reads.
The shift to a multi-level streaming approach to Billboard’s chart methodology is a reflection of how music is now being consumed on streaming services, 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 based on their subscription commitment.
Even though it seems like the majority of listeners don’t particularly care about chart position (unless it’s for “Bodak Yellow”), artists and their labels still care. These changes will give a nice advantage to Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon, which means labels might spend more time encouraging fans to listen on those platforms over YouTube. Fan campaigns dedicated to boosting a certain album or single to the No. 1 slot might also benefit from focusing their attention on paid streaming services.
The Verge has reached out to Billboard for comment and will update with any new information.