When Billboard releases its list of the week’s top-selling 200 albums Thursday, for the first time the rankings will factor in how often songs have been streamed and downloaded.
That will be welcome news for Richard Laing, head of sales for the record label Sub Pop. He says many of the label’s artists, including bands like The Album Leaf, may sell few albums, but do well online. The Album Leaf, for instance, has millions of plays on streaming services like Spotify.
Laing says Billboard’s new formula could bring more recognition to bands like The Album Leaf. Billboard is creating a new industry standard that “reflects people’s behavior a little more closely,” he says, and better captures “how people are consuming music.”
More people than ever are streaming music. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), steaming audio brought in 27 percent of music industry revenue during the first half of the year. During that same period, physical album sales declined 14 percent and downloads dropped 12 percent.
Paul Resnikoff runs the blog Digital Music News. He says Billboard’s new metrics probably won’t change album rankings too much. Major artists get traction across almost every platform, he says, so if you were a superstar before streaming was counted, you’ll be a superstar after it’s counted, too.
In fact, says Resnikoff, top albums may stay at the top a little longer because of the changes. Right now, he says, records typically get a big bump directly after the album release date. With streaming in the mix, they could get another bump if people keep listening online.