Charting the popularity of music used to be relatively straightforward as the only two metrics to consider were physical retail sales and radio airplay. These days, things aren’t nearly as clear-cut as listeners consume music across multiple platforms.
Whether analyzing from an access perspective, a user-control perspective, a revenue perspective or from a fraud-protection perspective, a lot has changed.
To better reflect the evolution of modern music delivery, Billboard has decided to implement changes on how it factors streaming music into its charts.
At present, Billboard has two types of streaming “plays” it uses for the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart: on-demand (like Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube) and programmed (think Pandora and Slacker Radio). The former carries a greater weight in the charts.
Starting next year, songs played on paid subscription-based services such as Amazon Music and Apple Music will be given more weight in chart calculations versus plays on purely ad-supported services or tiers.
Billboard notes that streaming, along with all-genre radio airplay and digital songs sales data, make up the three metrics of the Hot 100’s methodology. The Billboard 200, meanwhile, will include two tiers of on-demand audio streams – paid subscription audio streams and ad-supported audio streams.
While I commend Billboard for keeping their chart models fresh, I’m not sure I really grasp why a song listened to with a paid account is somehow more important than the same song heard through, say, Spotify’s free tier. After all, it’s the exact same song. If anything, it gives music labels a valid reason to push companies like Spotify to do away entirely with ad-supported tiers. Maybe that’s the overall, underlying goal here?