Streaming and the Official Singles Chart: Everything you need to know!

Streaming data will be counted towards the UK’s Official Singles Chart from next month (July 2014) for the first time. Here’s everything you need to know!

Streaming data will be counted towards the UK’s Official Singles Chart from next month (July 2014) for the first time. Here’s everything you need to know!

What changes are you making to the Official Singles Chart?

To date the Official Singles Chart has always been based purely on sales of singles, whether downloads, CD singles, cassette singles, 7 or 12" vinyl. From the middle of 2014, audio streams will count towards a chart placing for the first time.

When will this change happen?

The Official Singles Chart is compiled from midnight on Sunday morning to midnight on Saturday evening every week. Streams will be counted for the first time in the chart measuring the period from Sunday June 29 2014 through to Saturday July 5 (week 27), leading to the unveiling of the first “new formula” Official Singles Chart on Sunday July 6 2014. As usual, the Top 40 will be counted down on BBC Radio 1 from 4pm until 7pm, with the full Top 100 published on OfficialCharts.com at 7pm.

Where does the streaming data come from?

The streaming data which will now count towards the Official Singles Chart represents on demand plays via services such as Spotify, Deezer, Napster, O2 Tracks (Musicqubed), rara, Sony’s Music Unlimited and Xbox Music, all members of the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), co-owner of the Official Charts Company. ERA already supplies data from physical and digital stores to the Official Charts including specialist chains such as HMV, internet retailers like Amazon, the UK’s big four supermarkets and hundreds of independent retailers.

Why are you making this change?

The Official Singles Chart has always been the music industry’s most trusted and definitive measure of music popularity – the Top 10 singles are the most popular singles of every week. In the past that has meant polling sales, but we want to ensure that the new generation of music consumption is also reflected – and streaming is in rapid growth in the UK.

Since the beginning of 2013, the number of audio streams delivered to music fans in the UK every week has grown from 100 million to more than 250 million today. While the first track to achieve 1 million streams in a week was Daft Punk’s Get Lucky last spring, January saw Clean Bandit’s Rather Be become the first to exceed 1.5 million streams in a week in January 2014.

This growth in streaming has taken place in parallel with a decline in single track sales. Although 2013 was the second biggest year on record for singles sales (after 2012) with 182.2miliion sold, the market was down 3.4% overall. In 2014, the market continues to be in decline (12.4% to the end of May 2014).

What streams are now contributing to the Official Singles Chart?

The streams which will count are on-demand premium (ie; paid for within a subscription) and ad-funded (ie free to the user, but with royalties paid through advertising) delivered by services such as Spotify, Deezer, Napster, O2 Tracks (Musicqubed), rara, Music Unlimited and Xbox Music.

Will one stream count as one sale in the Official Singles Chart?

No – 100 streams will be equivalent to 1 single purchase (whether download, CD or vinyl) for chart purposes.

We recognised the need for a logical conversion rate, to reflect the substantial difference between streaming a track once and purchasing/owning a single forever. And we have used value (in terms of royalties paid to the rights owners) to calculate this average rate – although we are also aware that there is no need for it to be slavishly pure, given that we also count a £6 7" single to be equivalent to a download which can be purchased for any price from 29p up to £2.29.

This broad methodology is the same as that used in other markets which have added streams to their singles charts. The 100 ratio specifically has been agreed following extensive investigation of royalty rates paid and sense-checked in consultation with independent and major labels, digital retailers and streaming services.

Will this change the way the Official Singles Chart looks?

Yes and no. At the moment, while audio streams overall are accounting for 41.5%of the overall singles market in the UK (equating streams to singles, using the 100:1 ratio), they contribute just over 12% to singles in the Top 10 and 17% in the Top 40, on average (percentages all based on streaming volumes so far this year). But as streaming grows, so will its influence on the Official Singles Chart.

Having said that, the most streamed tracks of the year to date and the weekly Official Singles Chart have many of the same tracks in common.

Up to a couple of weeks ago, the three best-selling singles and most-streamed tracks of 2014 were directly comparable, as follows:

2014 YEAR TO DATE

OFFICIAL SINGLES CHART
(SALES ONLY
)
  OFFICIAL STREAMING CHART
(AUDIO STREAMS ONLY)
HAPPY BY PHARRELL WILLIAMS 1 RATHER BE BY CLEAN BANDIT FT JESS GLYNNE
RATHER BE BY CLEAN BANDIT FT JESS GLYNN 2 HAPPY BY PHARRELL WILLIAMS
TIMBER BY PITBULL FT KE$HA 3 TIMBER BY PITBULL FT KESHA

© 2014 Official Charts Company. All rights reserved.

Will any types of artists or genres particularly benefit from this move?

Not particularly, no. We have conducted many many weeks of test charts and what we have seen is that there appears to be no blanket impact on specific genres or types of artist. Individually, some artists naturally perform better on streaming services than through sales, just as some artists sell more music through independent record shops than supermarkets.

Is this change supported by the industry?

Yes – it has broad support from across the industry, spanning independent and major labels, physical and digital retailers, managers, artists, as well as our key media partners such as BBC Radio 1, MTV, Music Week and many more.

Over the past six months, the Official Charts Company have conducted a comprehensive consultation process to ensure that everyone understands the reason for this change and supports the method, and also to take on as many views as possible. We have done everything possible to ensure that all opinions are listened to and everyone is as prepared as is possible.

Is the UK the first market to make this change?

No. Sweden (the home of Spotify) was the first market to accommodate streaming into their singles chart and it has since been followed by Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany and Netherlands.

Why has it taken so long in the UK?

Naturally, each market evolves at its own rate – and the UK market has only recently seen the kind of growth in streaming that other markets have seen in the previous year or two.

In addition, the UK’s Official Singles Chart is arguably the most influential and highly regarded chart in the world, with a huge amount of history and heritage attached. For this reason, there are a larger number of interested parties and stakeholders with a view on this change – we have spent a lot of time taking views from across the industry because we wanted to ensure that this change was made with the broadest possible support and without any key issues being overlooked.

All of that is particularly important for a chart with the cultural standing of the UK’s Official Singles Chart – arguably, the greatest and most influential singles chart in the world.