Over the past 62 years, the official UK singles charts have been based on the sales of music, such as pre-recorded CDs, cassettes, records and downloads. In recent years, there has been a huge growth of streaming services such as Spotify, with music streaming doubling from 100 to 200 million streams a week between 2013 and 2014. This figure now averages 260 million a week.
The problem with just relying on sales is that what songs people buy is not necessarily the most popular songs people are actually playing. For example, Bastille’s track Pompeii is currently the UK’s most streamed track ever, but never reached the number one spot in the UK singles charts.
To include streaming in the charts, each 100 streams for a given song will be counted as the equivalent of one sale. Each stream must be played for at least 30 seconds before it counts, subject to a limit of 10 plays per user per day. The first official countdown to include streams will be aired on BBC Radio 1 on the 6th July, making it the first time plays are counted towards the charts.
According to the music journalist Fraser McAlpine, it will be a lot fairer as the chart becomes a measure of the excitement around certain songs and how this changes over time as people listen to songs privately. No one has ever asked a music fan how many times they played a song they purchased.
This change is not expected to have much of an impact at the very top of the charts as the most streamed songs rank much the same as the best-selling songs over a given period, particularly for the top 5. However, from the bottom end of the top 10 and lower, the changes are likely to be quite drastic. For example, the Mercury Prize-winners Alt-J were the 14th most streamed act in the UK, but their highest selling single only reached #75. This means that including streams will potentially help bands that otherwise don’t do as well with sales of their music.
Weekly data will be collected by the streaming services Spotify, Xbox Music, Rara, Deezer, O2 Tracks, Napster and Music Unlimited. YouTube video streams will not count as the Charts boss Martin Talbot said that some people watch music videos for different reasons than they’d listen to audio tracks. He said that this move was “about future-proofing the charts”.
Further info in this BBC News article.