The Billboard Hot 100 (singles) and the Billboard 200 (albums) are changing the way they count streams starting this summer, giving more weight to paid streams (such as Apple Music) and less to advertisement supported streams (such as Spotify's free tier.)
The music industry bible announced the changes yesterday.
Beginning with the first week of Nielsen’s third quarter of 2018 (sales and streaming week of June 29 to July 5, which will be reflected on Billboard charts dated July 14), plays on paid subscription-based services (such as Apple Music and Amazon Music) or on the paid subscription tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported platforms (such as Spotify and SoundCloud) will be given more weight in chart calculations than plays on ad-supported services (such as YouTube) or on the non-paid tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported services.
Billboard will have multiple weighted tiers of streaming plays for the Hot 100, which take into account paid subscription streams (representing a full point value per play), ad-supported streams (representing a 2/3-point value per play) and programmed streams (representing a 1/2-point value per play). Those values are then applied to the chart’s formula alongside all-genre radio airplay and digital song sales data. Streaming remains the most dominant factor on the chart, followed by radio airplay and digital sales in descending order of significance.
The Billboard 200 will now include two tiers of on-demand audio streams. TIER 1: paid subscription audio streams (equating 1,250 streams to 1 album unit) and TIER 2: ad-supported audio streams (equating 3,750 streams to 1 album unit). [Presently, 1,500 TIER 1 or TIER 2 streams equal one album unit.]
Streams from trial subscriptions that offer the same access and functionality as a paid tier will be considered TIER 1. At this juncture, the Billboard 200 will continue to not incorporate video streams. The Billboard 200 ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multimetric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (equating 10 sold tracks to 1 album unit), and streaming equivalent albums.
In short, paid streams will now be worth three times ad-supported ones on the all-important album chart after previously being worth the same.
Since younger listeners are more likely to use ad-supported streaming tiers, this change should act to suppress the chart position of younger artists, like XXXTentacion or Migos, and improve it for legacy acts like JAY-Z or Eminem.
Overall, it should reign in some of the chart dominance Hip Hop has seen over the past several years, since the genre's audience tends to skew young and isn't in the habit of paying a monthly fee for music.