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Apple Music and other paid streaming services getting more weight on Billboard charts

Music magazine Billboard is changing the way it handles streams from Apple Music and other streaming services in its charts, with the publication advising it will be giving greater emphasis to paid subscription streams in its Billboard Hot 100 and other charts in 2018.

From 2018, paid subscription-based services, including Apple Music, as well as paid subscription tiers of services that offer advertising-supported listening, such as Spotify, will be given more weight in the calculations of charts, Billboard advises. These paid services will have more of an impact on charts compared to streams from ad-based tiers of services and entirely ad-supported services, like YouTube.

Currently, Billboard has two different defined streaming play types it uses in its Hot 100 and hybrid song charts, where on-demand streaming services have a greater weight on calculations than "programmed" services, such as Pandora and Slacker Radio. For the album-based Billboard 200 and consumption-ranked album charts, there is only a single tier of on-demand audio streams counted, both from paid and ad-supported services, but video streams are not counted.

As part of the change next year, the Billboard 200 will include two tiers of on-demand audio streams in its calculations, separating out the paid subscription and ad-supported streams, but still excluding video streams.

Streaming will continue to be measured alongside other metrics for the charts. For the Hot 100, streaming data is combined with all-genre radio airplay figures and digital song sales data, while the Billboard 200 incorporates traditional album sales, "track-equivalent albums," and "streaming equivalent albums" to compile the chart.

"The shift to a multi-level streaming approach to Billboard's chart methodology is a reflection of how music is now being consumed on streaming services, migrating from a pure on-demand experience to a more diverse selection of listening preferences (including playlists and radio), and the various options in which a consumer can access music based on their subscription commitment," the post from Billboard Staff advises.

Billboard also acknowledges that the changes put more of an emphasis on services that can provide record labels and artists with more revenue. "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."

In March, Recording Industry Association of America chairman and CEO Cary Sherman declared free services like YouTube "wrongly exploits legal loopholes to pay creators at rates well below the true value of music." Sherman also noted that paid subscription services continue to be the most beneficial in the longterm in terms of revenue, with Apple Music paying the highest royalties, followed by Spotify.