In the past, or actually not in the past but basically right now, album charts are measured by sales of albums only. This means that a lot of artists popular on streaming services (we've got to come up with a better way to refer to them than this stale old pairing) do not really get a look in. 'Cause, you know, even though the internet's been around for a while people still approach it as if it is wholly unofficial. Personally, I think it's because, at least to the untrained eyes, it's more "difficult" to measure stuff on the internet; album sales, well it's easy to count that shit. 1, 2, skip a few, 99, 100… receipts and that. Probably.

So it's nice to know that Billboard is going to count streaming and downloads of singles (singular songs, rather) towards album sales. But how have they gone about this?

  • 1,500 streams of songs (on one album) = 1 album sale.
  • 10 downloads of songs (on one album) = 1 album sale.

This is puzzling. What? I mean, not so much the downloads – 10 is about a "normal" number of songs on an album now, but the streaming situation… How does that work? I'd love to know the actual reasoning behind this. Here is some conflated reasoning from Silvio Pietroluongo, a mini-boss of Billboard, I mean its Vice President of Charts and Data Development:

"Adding streaming information makes the chart a better representation of music consumption activity. While an extremely valuable measurement, album sales would mostly capture the initial impulse only, without indicating the depth of consumption thereafter. Someone could listen to the album just once, or listen to one track or a number of tracks 100 times. We are now able to incorporate those plays as part of an album consumption ranking throughout one's possession of an album, extending beyond the initial purchase or listen."

But, ok, so, wait, hang on, um, what? That doesn't explain why it's 1,500. Streaming is still being undervalued. Yes, they're counting stuff from every major streaming service (Beats Music, Google Play, Rdio, Rhapsody, Spotify and Xbox Music, to name some) but that feels smokescreen-ish. Once again it seems as if it's all about dat P, which means money in some circles. So I did some mathematics.

$0.007 (Spotify per-stream fee) X 1,500 = $10.50.

That is about the price of an album, wouldn't you say?

Now what's weird well not weird about this is that surely those 1,500 streams have a lot more value in them than one singular individual purchasing one singular album (but as you can see it's about MONEY). Assuming optimistically that those 1,500 are from 1,500 different people – that's the size of a decent-sized gig! That's exposing your music to 1,499 more people than the one person that's bought an album. Even 10 different people downloading tracks from the same album is better than one person buying one album. And if it's not the case that it is 1,500 different people, then we could go lower, with like 400 or something – even that is more valuable than one person buying an album.

What's the point? The point is that Billboard are still equating streaming and downloads to an album, when really these things are quite different. There are people on SoundCloud, for instance, with thousands and thousands of followers who probably hold a lot of sway in their community, but I might have never heard of them. Meaning that the whole of the chart thing, worldwide, should be something more comprehensive than these little IRL-biased toe-dippings into the digital world.

Streaming should count for a lot more: think of it in terms of people in a room – would you rather see multiple people or just one lonely person reading the cover sleeve of an album they've just bought wondering why there's nobody else there?

Speaking of which: "Streaming's the future, whether people like it or not," claims Adele's manager.