The Influence of YouTube Views on Music Popularity

The influence of YouTube Views on Music Popularity

With music streaming options more popular now than ever, major players in the industry are taking a second look at how ranking charts weight streaming plays against traditional single and album sales.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) – that is, the organization that hands out the prestigious gold and platinum album certifications, recently decided to start counting YouTube views as a part of their formula with equal weight as streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Vevo, and YouTube Music (formerly Google Play Music All Access). One view counts as one stream, for the sake of comparison.

1,500 streams of a track from an album counts as one total album download, with 150 views counting as a download of a single. Broken down, the algorithm looks like this: 1,500 song streams = 10 single track sales = 1 album sale. 1,500 streams will do the trick for all albums, including ones that have more than 10 songs.

When the RIAA updated their formulas to include YouTube views, a handful of existing albums were propelled to gold and platinum status, including popular Vine-star-turned-musician Shawn Mendes, whose debut album “Handwritten” went platinum thanks to his tens of millions of YouTube views.

Billboard, on the other hand, has been counting streams as a factor into their rankings since early 2013. Billboard also counts views on user-generated content towards their ranking algorithms – that is, whenever a user uploads a video that utilizes a popular song, a Content ID match is (theoretically) all that’s needed to count that video’s views towards Billboard’s Hot 100 rankings. Billboard follows the same weight scale as the RIAA, with 150 views counting as one track sale.

The recent RIAA changes make album certifications easier to achieve for artists that have younger, more technologically-inclined users that heavily use streaming.  Not everyone is happy, however. Record label execs and key industry members have voiced their complaints about the inequality between album downloads and streams, including the founder of Top Dawg Entertainment, the label that popular hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar belongs to.

What do you think – should YouTube views be a factor in album certifications and popularity ranking charts? Share your thoughts in the comments below!