Streaming music is the inescapable future and Billboard has embraced it with their new chart calculations.

What's being described as the most significant change in more than two decades to the way Billboard calculates its album chart positions kicked in last week. For the first time, digital streams are to be factored in with the retail sales on which the chart has always been based.

As consumers move in greater numbers to streaming music rather than buying it, Billboard and the Nielsen SoundScan sales monitoring service that gathers the data on which the charts are based are to recognise that shift in determining chart positions.

Under the new plan, 1,500 streams of any song will be treated as the equivalent of one album sold, and counted toward that album’s position on the weekly Billboard 200 album ranking.

“Adding streaming information makes the chart a better representation of music consumption activity,” Billboard’s director of charts, Silvio Pietroluongo, said in a statement.

“While an extremely valuable measurement, album sales would mostly capture the initial impulse only. Someone could listen to the album just once, or listen to one track or a number of tracks 100 times. We are now able to incorporate those plays as part of an album consumption ranking throughout one’s possession of an album.”

The move is expected to manifest in greater longevity at the top of the album charts for musicians whose songs and videos are the most popular on YouTube, Spotify, Rdio and other streaming services. Many of those acts have younger fan bases that favour streaming over purchasing downloads or physical CDs.

Daniel Glass of Glassnote Records label told the New York Times that “with this all-in-one streaming chart, it’s a much truer reflection of how much is being consumed.”

Last year, Billboard began incorporating YouTube views into its computations that determine placement on its Hot 100 singles chart. – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Services