Billboard magazine is changing the way it ranks songs on its Hot 100 singles chart to take into account online music-streaming services like Spotify and Rhapsody, responding to a major shift in how people are consuming music.
“It’s so important that we are vigilant in recognizing a changing marketplace almost constantly these days,” Bill Werde, Billboard’s editorial director, said on Wednesday. “When you look at these streaming subscription services, even in the last year, you really see how they have come of age and I just think the time is now to do this.”
The chart’s methodology has been changed several times since it was established in the late 1950s. In those days hits were determined by counting jukebox plays, spins by radio disc jockeys and sales at record stores. Since the late 1990s the chart has been based mostly on airplay and digital sales.
But streaming services have been growing rapidly in recent years, and have surged even more in the last few months. The number of streams on six of the biggest services rose to 494 million in the week ending March 4, from 300 million a week at the start of the year, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems.
“The growth we are seeing this year is pretty tremendous,” said Chris Muratore, a vice president in Nielsen’s entertainment division. “The consumption is just enormous.”
On Thursday Billboard will begin to publish a new chart — On-Demand Songs — that ranks singles according to the number of times they were listened to on those six Internet services — Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG, Slacker, Muve Music and Rdio. That data will then be folded into the Hot 100 chart, along with tallies of streams from sites like Yahoo, Myspace, Guvera and Akoo. The chart’s new methodology, first reported in The Wall Street Journal, still gives the greatest weight to sales, followed by radio play, and then online streaming.
Mr. Werde said that on first glance the difference in the new chart would seem subtle, with songs rising and falling a few notches, depending on the listening habits of fans. That is because most online listeners still tend to stream radio hits or top-selling singles.
Still, the new formula will reshuffle the order of most of the Top 10 when it is introduced with Thursday’s chart, he said.
The new system gives more prominence to electronic dance music composers, like Skrillex, Avicii and M-83, whose online fame has yet to translate into airplay.
“There is definitely a class of stars in the on-demand space that are driven more by buzz and word of mouth than radio,” Mr. Werde said. “Skrillex would be the king of this.”
Some hits may stick around longer, too, Mr. Werde added.
“Radio gets the big hit, then winds it down and moves on,” he said. “But if these songs are really beloved in the on-demand streaming space, they continue to have a longer shelf life.”
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