Official singles chart to include streaming services
- 23 June 2014
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Songs played on streaming services like Spotify and Deezer will count towards the UK's singles chart from July, the Official Charts Company has announced.
Music streaming doubled in popularity in the UK between 2013 and 2014, from 100 million to 200 million streams a week, currently averaging 260 million.
Bastille's track Pompeii is the UK's most streamed track ever, but only made number two in the singles countdown.
Charts boss Martin Talbot said the move was "about future-proofing the charts".
"So far this year we've seen nine tracks which have been streamed more than one million times in a week. Last year there were only two tracks that had reached that kind of level," said Mr Talbot.
"So we're seeing a huge growth, up 50% in the first half of this year."
He told the BBC the Official Charts Company had been looking into the idea for "some time" but felt now was the right moment, suggesting it echoed how they had already "evolved" over the years in response to the popularity of vinyl, cassettes, CDs and downloads.
Streaming services Spotify, Deezer, Napster, 02 Tracks, Music Unlimited, Rara and Xbox Music - most of which charge subscribers a monthly fee to listen to unlimited music - will now provide compilers with weekly data.
The first chart to include streams will air on BBC Radio 1 on Sunday 6 July, with 100 streams of a song counting as the equivalent of one single purchased.
"This is a far greater shift in emphasis than has ever happened before," music journalist Fraser McAlpine told the BBC.
"No one ever asked pop fans how many times they played the singles they took home.
"In a sense, it's a lot fairer, because the chart becomes a measurement of the genuine excitement around certain songs, and how that changes over time even after people have started to listen privately.
"It's the first time plays would count towards something larger in cultural terms, rather than just being the most-played track on a single service."
However, it is unlikely to make much difference at the top of the chart.
Daft Punk's Get Lucky was the UK's most streamed track last year and the second biggest-selling single of the year.
"By and large the most streamed tracks are the same as the most sold tracks," said Talbot.
"The changes you see are towards the bottom end of the top 10 and further down the chart."
It is artists such as Alt-J who stand to benefit. The Mercury Prize-winners are 14th most-streamed act in the UK, but their highest-charting single to date is Breezeblocks, which only reached number 75 in 2012.
"It's nice for bands who maybe don't make much impact on the singles charts, like us," Gus Unger-Hamilton from Alt-J told Radio 4's Today programme.
"If people listen to a band's album a lot [on a streaming service] it will gradually contribute to each of those song's performance in the singles chart."
He added: "If young people are going to think the charts are relevant to them and the music they listen to then this has got to be a step."
Mark Goodier, a former host of the Radio 1 chart show, said the countdown was still "incredibly important" for both bands and the music business.
"It's also really important for the fans, if they like One Direction or Pharrell Williams, to know where that is relative to everybody else.
"We like lists, it's very important that they're credible. [Streaming] is how the kids are choosing to consume their music, so this is a very positive move."
Analysis by Rebecca Jones, BBC arts correspondent
This change is significant, but not just because it breaks the 62-year link between buying a piece of music and its position in the charts.
It will give a more accurate representation of what people are listening to. But by incorporating only audio streams, and omitting the billions of video views on sites like YouTube, the picture will still not be complete.
The move does represent a coming of age for streaming services and a deeper acceptance of them by the music industry.
But there is little to suggest the change will actually have much impact on which song goes to the top of the charts.
In tests carried out by the Official Charts Company over the last 18 months, the inclusion of streaming services made a difference to the Number One single only once, and the top five songs remained largely the same.
Other countries including Sweden, Germany and the US have already started including streaming in their sales charts, with America's Billboard chart announcing its changes in October 2012.
The Official Charts Company said the change would reflect a wider range of music listeners.
"We looked at the records that benefitted and it was a real broad range from the Arctic Monkeys to will.i.am, from Aviici to Imagine Dragons," said Mr Talbot.
YouTube video streams will not be included in the countdown, although the Official Charts Company has said it will regularly review the situation.
"A video stream is not the same as an audio stream - some people watch a video for different reasons from the reasons they'd listen to an audio track," said Mr Talbot.
'Coming of age'
Each track will have to be played for 30 seconds before it counts as one stream.
To avoid fans "gaming" the system, only 10 plays will be counted per user, per day.
A new Official Breakers Chart is also being launched to reflect the ten fastest growing new tracks according to sales and streams.
"This a significant moment in the history of the official singles chart, and as a result it's also a very significant moment in the music industry as well," said Mr Talbot.
"It is a coming of age for streaming services, an indication that the industry accepts and understands streaming is here to stay."
The first Official Singles Chart to include streams will air on BBC Radio 1 on Sunday 6 July, between 16:00-19:00 BST.