Streamed Music Now Counts Toward UK Album Charts


About time!

We’ve been waiting patiently for the Official Charts Company to catch up with the times. The music industry is evolving quickly and relentlessly and, if you close your eyes for a second, you might just find that you’ve been left behind.

Music streaming is nothing new to 2015, people have been streaming music online for well over a decade. (Remember Yahoo! Radio circa 2001? They had a fantastic music-matching algorithm, well beyond its time!) But in 2014, there were a reported 14.8 billion tracks streamed in the UK. Not 14.8 billion plays, but 14.8 BILLION TRACKS! Figures doubled in a year, from 25 million audio streams a day in January 2014 to a whopping 50 million streams a day in January 2015.

Streaming into Albums Chart Figures

It’s crazy to think that all of those plays on all of those 14.8 billion tracks wouldn’t get counted toward the UK album charts. As of 1st March 2015, they do! Although streamed tracks were first incorporated into the Official Albums Chart from 23rd February 2015 (the week of the BRIT Awards), the first Official Albums Chart to include streamed tracks was published on 1st March 2015.

Korda Marshall (Official Charts Company Chairman and founder of Infectious Music) has stated:

“The Official Charts are a UK institution, followed both by music fans and the industry, so we do not make changes to them lightly. But with more and more people listening to albums via streaming services, it is right that we are now going to reflect streaming in the Official Albums Chart.”

The Official UK Album Charts will now include music streamed from services like Spotify, Napster, Deezer, Google Play, 02 Track, Rdio, Rara and Xbox Music who are all members of the Entertainment Retailers Association – co-owner of the Official Charts Company. You may notice that from the services listed, YouTube plays will not be counted toward the UK Album Charts. According to Martin Talbot, the Chief Executive of Official Charts Company, negotiations with YouTube are still ongoing. This is due to an issue with separating user-generated music videos with music videos that have been officially uploaded by record labels. An issue that may be redundant with YouTube’s new music subscription service, Music Key, on the horizon and due for beta release sometime this year. Google’s Music Key is said to potentially rival the likes of Spotify and the new, controversial Tidal.

So why is this taking so long?

Now, you may be thinking “why the long wait? I thought audio streams have been successfully contributing toward the UK Singles Chart since July 2014!” – and you’d be correct in thinking that. But calculating the impact of streamed music in the UK Album Charts requires a seemingly more complex methodology…

Basically (if you can call it that), an algorithm is in place to grab the top 12 most streamed tracks from the album and the top 2 songs will be pushed down to the album’s average. This will minimise the effect of the two most popular songs on the album to prevent any songs that go viral from giving absurdly huge boosts to the album’s rankings, when the album as a whole didn’t do so well. For example, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” is arguably one of the biggest Summer singles of 2013 that maintained its popularity through to Summer 2014, yet the album received considerably less attention (*aherm* despite its brilliance…).

Streaming into Albums Chart Graph

And then the total number of streams is divided by 1000 and added to the actual sales of the album, both physical and digital. Why divide by 1000? This is apparently to “reflect the broad difference in value between a track stream and the price paid for an album”.

The Chief Executive of Official Charts Company, Martin Talbot goes on to add:

“The Official Charts Company’s mission is to compile the most accurate, reliable and up-to-date charts around, and in 2015 that means reflecting the popularity of streaming, alongside downloads, vinyl and – still the most popular album format – the CD.”

The what now? The CD? Okay…. (EDIT: Upon asking colleagues, it seems that the CD is still the most popular choice for listening to music in the car.)

He continues:

“Initial indications are that the impact on actual chart positions will be modest to begin with, but we expect this to grow as streaming becomes increasingly popular.”

(And as in-car music streaming becomes a thing, I suspect.)

According to BPI, music streaming comprises approximately 12.6% of all music consumed in the UK. Meanwhile, CDs experienced an 8% drop in sales last year. If the trend continues, music streaming will double in figures again next year. It’s an exciting time for the music industry and we, soundjack, are excited to be involved with UK businesses who want to keep ahead with the times.

We offer businesses a legal, PPL-licensed alternative to digital music services such as Spotify (which is not PPL-licensed) to use as background music for business.

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