Streaming will finally count towards the ARIA Album Charts: here’s how it will work
The ARIA album charts will begin taking streaming into account, starting with the chart dated Monday May 15.
That album chart, which will be available on ARIA’s website from 5pm on Saturday May 13, will incorporate streams on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and Deezer. (Here’s why these are the only services included, at least for the moment.)
The streaming numbers will be weighted to make sure the album charts reflects actual engagement with the whole album – this is to avoid one or two runaway-hit singles artificially boosting an album up the chart on the strength of massive streaming stats.
“The ARIA Charts are an Australian institution, followed by the music industry and fans alike so it is essential that we continue to reflect how Australians are consuming music,” said ARIA CEO Dan Rosen in a statement.
“With streaming now the primary method of music consumption in Australia, ARIA can ensure that the ARIA Albums Chart will continue to be the most accurate indication of the nation’s favourite music each and every week.”
The change will also affect genre album charts, including Country, Urban and Classical, and will see eligible streaming activity taken into account for ARIA Gold and Platinum album accreditation from tomorrow onwards.
Here’s how it will work
Sometimes one or two massive singles on an album will be racking up streams in their tens or hundreds of thousands, but people aren’t really engaging with the rest of the album – you wouldn’t want to rank those raw numbers against whole albums actually getting solid listens.
So to avoid distortion from runaway hits, streaming’s contribution to an album’s position on the chart will be calculated using the Streaming Equivalent Album Value.
To calculate the SEA, the two album tracks with the most streams will have their numbers reduced down to the average of the eight next most-streamed tracks. (For albums with ten or fewer tracks, all the tracks will be counted.)
Once that’s been worked out, the top ten tracks on the album are aggregated and then divided by the same Streaming Conversion Factor (SCF) used for the singles chart. The streaming conversion rate is currently 1:175; that is, 175 streams is basically equivalent to one sale.
(The SCF rate is revised as needed, according to the ARIA Code Of Practice – “in consultation with the ARIA Finance and Chart & Marketing Committees based on the relative average income of streams to digital track sales” – but is not widely publicised. An ARIA spokesperson confirmed it had been adjusted since its introduction in 2014.)
How much will this change the charts?
If we take Ed Sheeran’s Divide as an example, this methodology might see raw streaming numbers for its current biggest hits, Shape Of You and Galway Girl, reduced down to the average of the album’s next eight most streamed songs – including the week’s streams for slightly fading but still massive Castle On The Hill, slow-burn favourite Perfect, and so on with the next six most streamed.
The averaged figure for those ten tracks would still be pretty high – Sheeran currently has those four songs in the Top 50 Singles and the album has smashed plenty of streaming records – so he’d still do fine despite the two biggest numbers being shaved down.
And, of course, the Sheerans of the world – ie. major label artists with broad appeal – are still going to sell physical and digital copies of the album in significant numbers as well.
Where this change might really make a difference is for smaller acts. A few weeks ago, on the April 17 lists, The Smith Street Band’s More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me (pictured right) debuted at #3 on the ARIA Albums chart, behind Tina Arena’s new Greatest Hits & Interpretations.
It’s not a stretch to wonder, given their somewhat different audience demographics and Arena’s publicly available Spotify streaming numbers (for songs that don’t rhyme with “schmains”), if Smith Street could possibly have been able to make their ARIA Albums top ten debut one place higher if streaming had been counted that week.
Streaming figures have been included on the ARIA Singles chart since late 2014, a year in which streaming made up just over 10% of total market value; for the preceding two years, there was a separate streaming chart.
The UK’s Official Charts also rolled streaming figures into singles chart calculations in 2014, and into album charts calculations in February 2015. They were the first to use the weighting methodology adapted by ARIA in order to reflect the performance of whole albums, not just dominant singles, which is also used by several European markets.
The UK-based company announced in December last year that they had revised their conversion rate upwards in response to the growth in streaming from 100 stream = 1 sale to 150:1.
The announcement from ARIA comes not long after the recent announcement of 2016 global revenue figures by IFPI, showing that digital growth is up, clearly driven by the 60% growth in revenues from subscriber and ad-supported streaming platforms last year.
As of mid-2016, France, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK and the US were all incorporate streaming data into their albums charts, and more markets are expected to make the move this year.