Apparently, Tyler, The Creator stirred the pot up just a little bit much with some comments he made on Twitter recently about just how album streams count towards sales these days. In a since-deleted tweet, Tyler said “DAMN TIDAL GOT ALBUMS PLAYING BEFORE A PAYWALL WHICH MAKES ME THINK N****AS CAN HAVE BOTS SPIKING UP PLAYS FOR BILLBOARD ON FRIDAY HMM.” A tweet later, Tyler admitted he was just upset because he wanted the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 200 albums chart — his album Flower Boy is expected to land at No. 2 behind Lana Del Rey’s Lust For Life when the chart surfaces this weekend — but he’s deleted that now as well.
No. 2 on the chart with a projected 100,000-plus sales debut is quite the week for Tyler, but his comments appeared to have at least got the attention of Billboard, as they came out and released a statement clarifying any confusion about the way streams are counted towards their charts.
“We’re getting questions around whether Billboard is suddenly counting free streams for this coming week’s Billboard 200, seemingly due to some misinformation posted online,” Billboard said in a statement they posted on their website. “We’d like to take a moment to clear up any confusion that misinformation may have caused.” The lengthy statement includes an explanation stating “Billboard does not currently have in place any rule or rules dictating how an approved streaming chart contributor can present or promote content on their services.” The statement also mentions that the current methodology they use to count streams towards sales “was arrived at in partnership with our industry constituents (record labels, distribution companies, etc.).”
According to the statement “on-demand audio streams from approved contributors, whether in front or behind a pay-wall, or via a free, discounted or paid trial, all count equally,” as long as those streams are “consumer initiated.” The message is clear, as long as consumers choose to listen to songs, whether it’s through a free service or something they pay for, Billboard will count it in their equation.
They do, however, admit that the process i fluid, and could always change. “The debate in treating free streams differently than paid/subscription streams is a valid one, as is examining how each streaming provider allows access to its service,” Billboard says in the statement. “Again, no changes were enacted this week, but when and if any adjustments are made on either front in the future, they will be communicated in advance to the industry to allow for proper preparation time.”
Debates over record sales are hardly new, and they will continue on forever, especially as the industry is looking to define just how much a stream matters in the current era.