New Billboard Chart Changes Give Another Reason to Pay for Streaming Services


The best way to support your favorite artists and bands is to buy music from them and the independent labels that support them, either via CD or vinyl, or downloads. But since music streaming has become a common part of everyday life and a super convenient way to take music with you on the go, it makes sense to also have a subscription to a streaming service you prefer.

As was presented earlier this week when the NBA’s $400 million-dollar man LeBron James was quoted in an interview saying he was unwilling to pay for his music streaming, paying for a subscription is the more prudent way for music consumers to help support their favorite performing artists, the songwriters who contribute their words to music, and the other principals in the music making process. Though ad-supported free-side accounts do result in some revenue being accrued for your favorite creators, paying the simple $9.99 a month accrues much more, while still offering a very affordable price point for the access the streaming services provide.

Now there is an entirely new reason to consider transitioning from ad-based streaming to a paid account, and it’s based off the greater commitment paid subscribers show to the music they listen to as opposed to the free-siders. Announced on Thursday (10-19), Billboard has made it known they are tweaking the way their charts work in 2018, and one of the biggest changes is that songs streamed through paid accounts will be weighted greater on the charts than songs streamed through ad-supported formats.

“It is our goal at Billboard to accurately portray in an unbiased manner how music performs relative to other music,” Billboard says. “That job has become much more complicated throughout the years. For decades, there were just physical retail sales and radio airplay, whereas today there are many ways to consume and not all are created equal – from an access perspective, from a user-control perspective, from a revenue perspective, from a fraud-protection perspective and so on.”

Currently, Billboard uses different “tiers” to weight the importance of a play through a streaming service on their charts. For example, if a consumer plays a song on-demand, it counts greater than if that song is played for them in a more curated experience like Pandora. The listener is showing a greater interest and preference in an on-demand song. Now, whether a consumer paid for their service, or if it was ad-supported will also factor in.

“Beginning in 2018, plays occurring on paid subscription-based services (such as Amazon Music and Apple Music) or on the paid subscription tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported platforms (such as SoundCloud and Spotify) will be given more weight in chart calculations than those plays on pure ad-supported services (such as YouTube) or on the non-paid tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported services,” Billboard says.

Why would this matter to music consumers who want to support their favorite artists, and want to let their voices be heard about what the best music is in the marketplace at any given time? It’s because other consumers, the industry, booking agents, and potential representatives of artists regularly use Billboard’s charts to measure the appeal of the public for a given song, album, or artist. If most of an artist’s fans only listen via ad-supported streaming services, their voice will now measure less than the listeners who’ve shown that extra level of commitment to their music by ponying up the $9.99 per month.

“It is Billboard’s belief that assigning values to the levels of consumer engagement and access – along with the compensation derived from those options – better reflects the varied user activity occurring on these services,” the company says.

This could also mean a boost in the charts for independent artists, since most independent fans are more likely to pay for their music—streaming or otherwise—than passive mainstream music fans that maybe downloaded a streaming app, but are unwilling to pay for the service.

To simplify it, there are three major tiers: Paid, Programmed, and Ad Supported, with Paid creating the most points for your plays, and Ad Supported the least. This chart from Billboard helps break it down according to service:

Service Audio/Video Data Type
Amazon Music Unlimited Audio Paid
Amazon Prime Audio Paid
Apple Music Audio Paid
Apple Music Video Paid
Google Play Audio Paid
Groove Music Pass (Xbox) Audio Paid
Medianet Audio Paid
Napster Audio Paid
SoundCloud Audio Paid / Ad Supported
Slacker Audio Paid
Spotify Audio Paid / Ad Supported
Tidal Audio Paid
Tidal Video Paid
Vevo on YouTube Video Ad Supported
YouTube Video Ad Supported
AOL Radio (Powered by Slacker) Audio Programmed
Google Radio Audio Programmed
Napster Audio Programmed
Pandora Audio Programmed
Slacker Audio Programmed

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Once again the importance of paying for your streaming service is coming into focus as the most responsible way music consumers can deal with the new streaming paradigm, but make sure their favorite artists are still supported.

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