From Rolling Stone:
“There are now dozens of ways to tally listeners’ music consumption, and streaming services have changed the game forever. And yet traditional once-a-week metrics remain relatively static. Today, we’re proud to introduce the Rolling Stone Charts, an interactive set of music charts that update on a daily basis and offer an impartial, in-depth and in-the-moment view of the biggest songs, albums and artists in music.”
In my recent article about Billboard’s album bundles, I suggested that another competitor would come along with a better solution to fix the ongoing problems. I focused primarily on the imbalanced weight given to albums in the streaming era, but Rolling Stone focused on the weekly vs. daily metrics. Rolling Stone’s reporting will include daily charts with the Top 100 songs, Top 200 albums, 500 most in-demand albums, 25 trending songs, and 25 breakthrough artists.
Their charts will provide an instantaneous perspective of the music landscape, but it still doesn’t address the devaluation of streaming.
Here’s a breakdown of the Rolling Stone chart rules:
Each Album Unit total is calculated as follows:
(Digital Standard Album Sales*1.0) + (Digital Deluxe Album Sales*1.3) + (CD Standard Album Sales*1.0) + (CD Deluxe Album Sales*1.3) + (Vinyl Standard Album Sales*2.0) + (Vinyl Deluxe Album Sales*2.5) + (Cassette Album Sales*1.0) + (Digital Song Sales/10) + (On-Demand Audio Subscription Streams/1,200) + (On-Demand Audio Ad-Supported Streams)/3,600).
There are some slight differences, (1,200 streams = 1 album, where Billboard’s is 1,250. 3,600 streams on ad-supported DSPs (YouTube) compared to 3,750 on Billboard, but it still follows the same logic.
Here an excerpt from the Billboard rules (as of May 2018):
The Billboard 200 will now include two tiers of on-demand audio streams. TIER 1: paid subscription audio streams (equating 1,250 streams to 1 album unit) and TIER 2: ad-supported audio streams (equating 3,750 streams to 1 album unit).
Rolling Stone’s new charts are interesting take at the instantaneous nature of popularity, but it’s not a problem that needed solving. In fact, it makes measurement harder. Society likes reporting on static metric more than it lets on. Despite the flaws, static reporting is far easier to consume.
It’s how we evaluate other forms of media and culture too:
- Which movie had the biggest opening weekend?
- Which season of The Wire is the best?
- Which Golden State Warriors championship season was the best?
By solving the wrong problem (static measurements) and avoiding a real issue (the devaluation of streaming), Rolling Stone reinforces the faulty situation that Billboard needs to improve. It was a great opportunity to put a stake in the road and set precedence. But instead, it merely kicks the can down the road. I guess we’ll just wait for Billboard AND Rolling Stone to face pressure from the next artist who tries to game the faulty system and falls short.