How are album sales calculated
In today’s fast-paced and digital world, music consumption has changed dramatically from the days when the only way to buy an album was by heading to a local music store. But how does the record industry keep track of album sales in this new age of music streaming services and digital downloads? Understanding how these sales are calculated requires an exploration of various factors that contribute to an album’s success.
Traditional Album Sales
Traditionally, album sales were determined by the number of physical copies sold at record stores or other retail outlets. Sales were tracked by companies using barcode-based systems, which scanned each sold copy. This information would then be sent to official chart compilers like Billboard, who aggregate the data and publish weekly charts based on these figures.
However, as physical media has declined in popularity, other factors have been incorporated into these calculations.
The growth of digital stores such as iTunes and Amazon has introduced a new avenue for fans to purchase music. Just like traditional sales, digital sales also contribute to an album’s overall performance. These numbers are collected from online retailers and added to the calculation of album sales.
To account for the immense popularity of music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal, the concept of “streaming equivalent albums” was introduced. Essentially, this translates stream counts into unit sales for albums.
Companies like Nielsen SoundScan use a formula that equates a specific number of streams (typically around 1,500) to one album sale. This allows them to factor streaming consumption into total album performance data.
Track Equivalent Albums (TEA)
Another method that factors into more modern album sale calculations is TEA. This concept acknowledges that many listeners now prefer purchasing individual songs rather than a whole album. Here too, a pre-determined number of individual track sales (usually around 10) count as one unit sale of the corresponding album.
Combining Metrics for Album Performance Rankings
As various factors contribute to an album’s sales success, data must be combined to form a cohesive picture. Official chart compilers aggregate these different metrics to determine an album’s total performance in sales equivalents.
For example, let’s say an album has sold 5,000 physical and digital copies and racked up 10 million streams while an additional 25,000 individual tracks have been purchased. By calculating the quantity of streaming equivalent albums (10 million streams / 1500) and TEA (25,000 tracks / 10), we will arrive at a total sales equivalent figure that will reflect the album’s ranking on weekly charts.
The rapidly evolving landscape of music consumption has necessitated a more adaptive approach to calculating album sales. By incorporating multiple metrics in their calculations, the music industry acknowledges that artists’ success should not be measured solely by physical sales. Today, we have a multifaceted view of an album’s performance that helps provide a fair representation of an artist’s achievement in the marketplace.