Before the digital streaming boom, declaring a number one album was as simple as tallying the number of physical albums sold. In our current age of digital music consumption, it’s a bit more complicated. Determining a “best selling” album is tricky given that a majority of music consumers aren’t “buying” albums anymore. Over recent years, tracking practices have been updated to accommodate the shift in music consumption. Music retailers such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and many more, report their streaming and sales data to Nielsen Music Connect – the music industry’s go-to measurement platform. Music Connect compiles the data from all music retailers into one cohesive unit, with columns and filters available. The collected data is then handed off to Billboard, Billboard categorizes and ranks the data in order of highest selling, and Billboard shares these rankings on their industry standard charts. So when you hear “SO-AND-SO HAS THEIR FIRST NUMBER ONE ALBUM,” now you know how it works.
The most recent change to Billboard chart calculations is the inclusion of YouTube video views in the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. Billboard has included YouTube views on SONG charts since 2013, but the inclusion of YouTube views on the Top 200 ALBUM chart only began the first week of 2020. In upcoming weeks, Billboard will also be counting video views in the following charts: Daily Billboard, Year-To-Date Album Consumption, Song Consumption (Weekly), and Daily Building Song Consumption. The addition of YouTube views could be impactful given that YouTube has about 1.5 billion users on the platform every day. However, that’s not to say that every time a song is used in a YouTube video it will be counted in Music Connect. In fact, there are quite a few rules and restrictions for what Music Connect counts as a “view.” Let’s break it down…
What does Music Connect technically count (and not count) as a YouTube view?
The user must watch a minimum of 30 seconds.
In order for a YouTube view to be counted on Music Connect, the user has to stream the video for at least 30 seconds. If 20 seconds into Ozuna’s song “Danzau” a user exits, then unfortunately for O, that “Danzau” view does not count.
The user must be logged-in for the video stream to count.
That user also has to be directly logged into a YouTube account for the view to count. If [email protected] is watching “Danzau” from an embedded link or is not signed into their YouTube account, sorry again O, but the view doesn’t count. For example, let’s say Latin Nation shared “Danzau” on their official Facebook Page. If OzunaLuvr123 watches Latin Nation’s “Danzau” post on Facebook, the view will not count because the video (even though linked from YouTube) was embedded, and therefore, counts as “logged out.”
There is a ceiling of 50 streams per user per ISRC per day.
If OzunaLuvr123 is signed into their YouTube account and listens to “Danzau” 50 times (for at least 30 seconds) in one day, Music Connect counts all 50 views. However, Music Connect implements a ceiling of 50 views per day per ISRC (specific song recording). While OzunaLuvr123 is free to listen to “Danzau” 100,000 times in one day, Music Connect will only count the first 50 views in their tracking.
There is a minimum of 100 streams for a video to be included in our tracking.
In order for Music Connect to even track the views on their platform, a video must receive at least 100 views. The current minimum is down from the 1000 streams minimum before, which means that more tracks will now be counted towards the overall consumption.
Audio vs Video Stream
Another YouTube data classification Music Connect tracks is Audio vs Video streams. With a YouTube Music Premium subscription, users have the option to make a seamless transition between a song and its music video for uninterrupted listening and watching. Music Connect will track a stream as video or audio based on how the user is listening at the 30 second mark.
If OzunaLuvr123 is watching the music video for “Danzau” on the YouTube Music app, but in the first 30 seconds switches to ‘audio mode’, Music Connect tracks that stream as audio. In background mode (also only available to YouTube Music Premium subscribers), audio continues streaming when the app is minimized or the device screen is off. If OzunaLuver123 is listening to “Danzau” in background mode at the 30 second mark, that stream also counts as ‘audio’.
Aside from the above mentioned cases, all other streams on YouTube count as a video stream. In other words, a video stream is any displayed or moving image on YouTube’s desktop mode or in the app. Desktop mode is anytime a user is on YouTube.com and an image is moving or displayed, and a view is still counted if a user has the video playing in another browser. If OzunaLuvr123 is on the app listening to “Danzau” in audio mode but decides in the first 30 seconds, “Hmm, I actually want to watch Ozuna explore his planet Nibiru” – switching from audio mode to video mode on the YouTube Music app in the first 30 seconds will count as a video stream on Music Connect.
So anytime a song is used in a YouTube video it counts towards Billboard charts?
In short, no. When music of any kind is used in a YouTube video, it falls under one of three content types: Official, Song UGC (User Generated Content), and Non-Song UGC (Non-Song User Generated Content). Billboard ALBUM charts only count ‘Official’ classified videos. Certain Billboard SONG charts only count ‘Official’ and ‘Song UGC’ classified videos. What’s the difference between the three content types? Once again, let’s break it down…
Official videos are classified in two ways:
- The audio or video is uploaded to an official artist channel or a channel associated with the artist (e.g. a record label, management company, etc.).
- The upload contains a single musical recording in which the song is the primary focus of the clip.
The “Danzau” music video uploaded on Ozuna’s artist channel is considered ‘Official.’ The “Danzau“ audio art track uploaded on the Latin Nation YouTube channel also counts as ‘Official.’ If an artist’s official music video, lyric video, or audio art track is uploaded to a third party channel (e.g Latin Nation, WORLDSTARHIPHOP, Lyrical Lemonade) that video is still considered ‘Official’ because the primary focus of the video is the artist’s song. YouTube is able to identify and count an artist’s song, even if uploaded to a third party or user generated content (UGC), through multiple detectors: legal claims, metadata, audio matching length, and more.
UGC (User Generated Content)
User generated content is what makes YouTube one of the most user-friendly and popular platforms in the world. A video is considered “UGC” if uploaded by a non-official company channel; in other words, an everyday person. When it comes to music tracking and monetization, artists can still receive “views” on Music Connect depending on how their music is used in a UGC video. You know the drill, let’s break it down…
Say OzunaLuvr123 uploads an original video of their pet cat synced with the full audio of “Danzau”. Even though this video was released by an individual user and not by Ozuna or an official third party channel, the video’s primary focus is still Ozuna’s song. Content types such as this are considered ‘Song UGC (User Generated Content).’ There are three criteria points that classify a Song UGC:
- The uploaded video includes 90% or more of the associated song recording – and the sound recording makes up 90% or more of the video.
- The associated song has to be claimed by a record label and assigned an ISRC (song identification number).
- The metadata in the user’s upload is consistent with metadata from the associated sound recording (e.g artist name, album name, song title, tags, description).
As mentioned earlier, Song UGC has been included in Billboard song charts since 2013. If OzunaLuvr123 wants to see an Ozuna single higher on the chart, they should create more “user generated content” using Ozuna songs. For more info on Song UGC content check out this blog post.
The main difference between Non-Song UGC and Song UGC is the extent the song is used in a video and the intention of the uploader. With Song UGC, the user often intends to create another version of the recorded audio. Whereas in Non-Song UGC, the song is not intended to be the main focus of the video. If “Danzau” is featured in a YouTube Tik-Tok compilation with 15 other short Tik-Tok clips, “Danzau” is not the primary focus of the video, rather only a small part of the whole video. Music used in a video classified as Non-Song UGC will not be counted in Billboard charts.
And that’s all there is to it! Just kidding, we know it’s a lot to take in. Here are the main takeaways: Billboard now includes YouTube video views on their Top 200 Albums charts and Music Connect made changes to ‘view’ classifications. Now head over to YouTube and start steaming your favorite artists – you might just bump them up on the Billboard charts!