As how people consume music shifts, Billboard has adjusted how it calculates the charts. Bowing to pressure from the recorded music industry, the latest set of changes give more weight to paid streams vs ad-supported streams including YouTube.
Beginning next year, plays occurring on paid services and tiers on Apple Music, Spotify Premium and others will be given more weight in chart calculations than plays on ad-supported services, such as YouTube or Spotify's free tier.
Starting in 2018, there will be multiple weighted tiers of streaming plays for Billboard's Hot 100, along with all-genre radio airplay and digital songs sales data. The Billboard 200 will now include two tiers of on-demand audio streams: paid subscription and ad-supported audio streams. But bowing to label pressure, that chart will continue to not incorporate YouTube and other video streams. The Billboard 200 ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums, and streaming equivalent albums.
Recently a rumor surfaced that some in the US music industry were discussing the creation of an alternative to the Billboard charts that would mirror an effort in the UK. The Official Charts Company was originally created in 1997 because the music industry there felt that existing charts from NME and others were totaled from incomplete data. In the US, there are also alternatives to the Billboard charts, particularly a series of regular tallies by BuzzAngle Music.
"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," the magazine said in a statement. "It is Billboard’s belief that assigning values to the levels of consumer engagement and access - along with the compensation derived from those options - better reflects the varied user activity occurring on these services."