Yes, streaming now makes a contribution to the Official Top40 Albums Chart. And as you rightly say Russell, it has been an inevitability for a while. The UK, US, Germany, France, Scandanavia (naturally) have all done this. Australia will soon. There’s no getting away from the fact that for a LOT of music fans, streaming is now their primary way of consuming music.
This year so far we (RadioScope) have collated half a million sales for inclusion in the singles chart… and a billion streams for the same period. Now you and I don’t have to like their selections (we can all agree that some *other* people just have awful awful taste in music), but those are still a billion public votes revealing which music New Zealanders have chosen to listen to.
Some of us do still buy albums, of course. That’ll still be reflected in the charts. Some of us stream albums from start to finish. Some skip and surf and cherry-pick. Most of us do some of all of the above. Why wouldn’t we count the lot?
Ben has raised some concerns about the implications of this change. Some of it is bigger-picture stuff that goes deeper than just the chart (or maybe what the chart represents) but I’ll try to add a bit more information that might address a couple of the specifics.
1. Even with these changes, sales are still the primary determinant of the album chart positions. And they are likely to remain so for a while yet, even on the current trends. There were over 3 times more sales in today’s Top40 than equivalent streaming points, for example.
The influence of streaming on the albums chart is significantly more dilute than it is on the singles chart. Which isn’t by accident.
We have adapted the UK model, which does get a bit complicated, but the essence is this… 175 streams equals a single sale… album stream points are earned by the top 10 tracks off your album… so, roughly, you could say that 1750 streams is required to have the same impact as 1 sale would have…. HOWEVER… points earned by the top two tracks off an album are ‘neutralised’ to the average of the remaining eight.
Why? The rationale is that if most (or all) of the listening activity for an album is only really for one or two tracks, it’s not actually the album that is doing well. The streams still show up, un-neutralised, in the Singles Chart – but in the albums calculation, your track average across the whole record is going to be low and you’re going to go nowhere in the chart. The more consistent the listening across all tracks on your album, the higher that track-average is, and the better your album will do.
2. There’s nothing deliberately anti-indie about any of this. I know indie artists can find it difficult to get the attention on a massive platform like Spotify, as do many major label acts, but that wasn’t a problem created at 5pm last Friday when the NZ chart came out. We’ve had a generation of artists ( especially indie ones) being proactive about getting their material onto non-traditional platforms. Mostly that’s a good thing. I struggle to get my head around the argument that because there are challenges out there that the chart ought to ignore streaming and just ride the sales cycle, dominated by the big box retailers, all the way down from here on out.
3. The charts are an institution that some people pay attention to, some don’t. I get that. Some artists / labels choose to use the opportunity they provide, and some don’t. Anika Moa, Mel Parsons, Eb and Sparrow, SWIDT, Jordan Luck, Tami Neilson, Dave Dobbyn, Miller Yule last week, Strahan this week (and / or their managers and labels) are just a few who come to mind from the last couple of weeks who have made the effort to submit their gig sales or their Bandcamp sales or their crowd-funding pledges. Other artists chose not to bother, which is fine too. It’s not that any of the musicians above are what I’d call “chart-driven”… they just like to see the effort they go to, and the fan reception they legitimately receive, be reflected in the chart. Why shouldn’t they?
4. Independent stores still count. Ben, I can guarantee you that 50 sales of Street Chant or Yumi Zouma or Avoid! Avoid at Flying Out (or anywhere else) will absolutely still make a difference to the chart. Just as it has in recent weeks for all those bands. Especially on the NZ Top 20. And the IMNZ chart – which is all based on the same data. It’d be a crying shame if albums like these were no longer in the charts, or appeared lower, just because Flying Out was no longer submitting.
Out of curiosity, has anyone checked out the new charts? NZ Top 40. The change has brought back in a couple of newer / younger acts. It hasn’t got rid of the oldies entirely. It hasn’t changed what would have been #1 in either week so far. But it has bolstered the depth of data behind the whole thing.
You’ll see we added some new Heatseeker charts to the bottom of each chart – including the NZ Top20 albums and singles. We also changed the methodology for the existing singles heatseekers (and added new ‘bullet’ tracks on the chart)… so that these supplementary charts now reflect the fastest-moving titles in their respective spheres.
Robyn, not sure if you have noticed but Six60 have been in the NZ Top20 singles chart for a bit. You may like Six60. You may not. I can’t tell. Either way, some of us looking at that chart each week might find it more interesting if there was a bit more diversity there, a bit more coming and going.
Unfortunately though the chart is based on what the public does. And for whatever reason the public just does not seem to be moving on – the chart is the messenger that gets shot for delivering news over and over, but the issue is part of a much bigger state-of-the-industry discussion to do with diversity, release schedules, funding, promotion, and broadcast support.
But getting back to Robyn and anyone else passionate about Six60. The main reason we wanted to extend the Heatseekers concept was to provide one way to nudge the public move on. At least it’s something.
By its nature, this new form of chart is highly volatile – you need to be fast-rising, but you also need to keep rising in order to stay in. Each week songs will either stop rising and drop out, or keep rising and probably graduate to the main chart. Very little sitting on laurels though.
So each week, even if Six60 are still hogging half the top 20 spots, it’s guaranteed there are going to be a clutch of brand new tracks presented to you as options.
You might like to click on some of them – we include audio, video, buy and stream links on every chart entry – you might even like it enough to listen to it regularly, and if enough other people do the too, the new tracks might replace the old tracks in the top 20.
But unless I’m mistaken, iTunes sales count towards the national charts and Bandcamp sales don’t.
You'd be mistaken Russell. Artists and labels can, and frequently do, submit Bandcamp sales for the national charts (Official Top40 and IMNZ). As @Peace's team have done this week... so expect a pretty good showing on the charts on Monday.
2. beached as
3. lipstick on a pig
Where sport and nerdliness collide...
You might be interested in this guy's medal table analysis:
Not just the four words we New Zealanders cling to - "per head of population" - but also medals based on GDP, medals based on the size of the team sent to compete etc etc...
Hours of nerdly fun.
It must be a phonetic spelling thing.
Yep. Phonetics in a New Zild accent... "I can't get the fush and chups bro, I'm writing this gug review."
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Send me a gug, she said. I'll review it.