All Things Considered: Here Comes YouTube

‘Billboard’ To Change How It Calculates Top Albums

The question of how Billboard determines the most popular music in the country has gotten a lot harder in the digital age. It used to be a simple question of which album sold the most physical copies, but now Billboard needs to consider things like Spotify plays and mp3 downloads. Starting Jan. 3, it will also include YouTube streams.

NPR’s Ailsa Chang talks to Chris Molanphy, a chart analyst and pop critic at Slate, about the significance of this change. Listen at the audio link and read on for an edited version of their conversation.

Why is Billboard making this change?

It’s part of a long-term evolution of the album chart away from pure sales to a consumption model. Now, rather than simple tracking you at the moment you buy an album, they’re tracking how much you’re consuming an album in the weeks to come. 

How big of a deal is YouTube in the music industry?

Depending on the audience, it may account for up to half of the consumption of any given genre … hip-hop is very strong on YouTube, Latin music is very strong on YouTube. If you’re going to get a full and accurate representation of the way music is being consumed — not just at the song level, but at the full-artist level, which is what the album chart aims to measure — you kind of eventually need to bake YouTube into the album chart.