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Billboard to add video streams to album chart for some reason

By | Published on Monday 16 December 2019


Having announced some new chart rules that seemed pretty smart and sensible last month, Billboard has announced another update that seems really stupid. From next year, video streams will be included in the official US albums chart.

Yes, the albums chart. And we’re not talking about Beyonce-style visual albums here. From 3 Jan, plays of individual videos on Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal, and even YouTube and Vevo, will be counted towards the tally for the album on which the original track appears within the Billboard 200 albums chart. Even though video plays are between zero and absolutely no indication of an album’s popularity.

YouTube plays were incorporated into the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 2013, where it kind of makes sense (given that Billboard was already counting radio play, as well as sales and audio-streams, as an indicator of popularity). Though while even user-generated content that features music on YouTube has an impact on the US singles chart, for the album chart only official uploads will be counted.

“As the steward of the definitive charts that uphold the industry’s measurement of music consumption, our goal is to continually respond and accurately reflect the changing landscape of the music”, says the President of the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group, Deanna Brown. “Our decision to add YouTube and other video streaming data to our album charts reflects the continuing evolution of the music consumption market and the ways in which consumers connect to album-related content”.

The company’s SVP Charts & Data Development, Silvio Pietroluongo, adds that “with video representing an increasingly large proportion of music consumption on some of the world’s largest platforms, the inclusion of YouTube and video overall to the Billboard 200 as well as other genre rankings is the next natural advancement for our album charts”.

Is it though? Trying to mash together individual track plays in order to imagine how successful an album might be is already pretty confusing. Adding in cursory viewings of pop promo videos seems like a step too far. But not everyone thinks this latest development is silly. Albeit mainly Lyor Cohen of off the YouTubes. He thinks the new rule is great and will see some genres receive a boost in recognition of their popularity.

“[This is a] very important moment in making the chart a more accurate representation of what people are listening to”, says Cohen. “Genres like Latin, hip hop and electronic, which consistently dominate the YouTube charts, will now be properly recognised for their popularity. This is another great step in bringing YouTube and the industry together and we’re so grateful to Billboard and the music business at large for making this addition”.

Billboard also reckons country music will have better representation in the album chart as a result. Though whether or not the popularity of each artist’s album will really be recognised – rather than an album chart placing instead suggesting said artist had one track or video that went viral – is something you can just go and debate with yourself all afternoon.

Chart counters around the world have struggled to combine sales and streaming data together satisfactorily. Currently they’re all still in the rule-tweaking stage, having not yet accepted that there’s no point and that the best way to “continually respond and accurately reflect the changing landscape of the music” is to just move on from the old world idea of weekly music charts.