How Billboard’s Updated Streaming Methodology Will Impact Charts


After announcing potential adjustments to their chart methodology in October 2017, Billboard finalized changes pertaining to how streams are weighted on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard 200 charts, this week.

The key takeaway is that plays on paid subscription-based services (such as Apple Music and Amazon Music) or on hybrid paid/ad-supported services (such as Spotify and SoundCloud) will be given more weight in chart calculations than plays on purely ad-supported services (such as YouTube) or on the non-paid tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported services.

Beginning in Nielsen’s third quarter of 2018 (release week of June 29 – July 5) the following changes will take effect:

The Billboard 200 will now include two tiers of on-demand audio streams:

  • TIER 1: Paid subscription audio streams (1,250 streams = 1 album unit)
  • TIER 2: Ad-Supported streams (3,750 streams = 1 album unit)

The Hot 100 will have multiple weighted tiers of streaming plays:

  • TIER 1: Paid subscription audio streams (1 full point value per play)
  • TIER 2: Ad-Supported streams (2/3 point value per play)
  • TIER 3: Programmed streams (1/2 point value per play)

Image result for music streaming services logo

So what all does this mean?

In the last five years, Billboard has tried to balance recognizing both true popularity from a consumer standpoint and revenue for artists in the streaming era. This has proved to be an increasingly difficult methodology and Billboard even stated that beginning in the fourth quarter of 2018, the ratios for all the streaming tiers will be re-evaluated with any necessary changes to be implemented at the start of 2019.

As things stand for now, the chart position on the Hot 100 of a song that has a lower ratio of paid to unpaid streams will suffer relative to a single with a higher ratio, with all other metrics equal while results on the Billboard 200 may be somewhat less dramatic.

Read the full press release from Billboard here and see our breakdown below of digital services that are included in chart calculations.

Billboard Hot 100 
Includes an undisclosed ratio of digital downloads, airplay, and streaming

  • Amazon OnDemand
  • Apple Music / iTunes (Audio & Video)
  • Google Play
  • MediaNet
  • Napster
  • Pandora (On Demand & Programmed)
  • Slacker
  • SoundCloud
  • Spotify
  • TIDAL (Audio & Video)
  • YouTube
  • Vevo

Billboard 200
Includes physical album sales, digital downloads, and TIER 1 and TIER 2 streams 

  • Amazon (Digital, Physical and On-Demand)
  • Apple Music / iTunes (Audio Only)
  • Google Play
  • MediaNet
  • Napster
  • Pandora (On Demand Only)
  • Slacker
  • SoundCloud
  • Spotify
  • TIDAL (Audio Only)
  • Various Physical Retailers

Stay tuned for any future changes to chart calculations as listening habits continue to evolve.

Image Courtesy of Billboard

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