I like it when a company isn't afraid to move with the times, but American Chart compilers Billboard might be going too far to quickly with changes announced to the way they put together their weekly run down of top selling singles.
To reflect the importance of the internet, the company have now included YouTube video streams in their formula for calculating a song's chart position (in addition to its physical/digital sales, radio play and audio streams via certain sites). It's a change that goes somewhat to explaining why the video giant shaved millions of views off of videos last year, as it cleaned up its books in preparation for this new responsibility [read here].
So what's the problem?
The problem most have with this change, is that they want the chart positions to be a reflection of people's willingness to trade currency for product- like in the good ol' days. But in this new century the way music is consumed has changed radically, and to reflect this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Surely it will actually provide a more accurate picture of how well a song is doing, at any given time, than just sales alone would. Besides, money is still being generated from these videos, but instead of it coming from the viewer directly, it's generated from the advertisements that play before a video starts. So there is still some form of currency for product going on.
However, the huge numbers that some artists generate from views alone- See Gaga and Rihanna- leaves me a little cautious about how these changes will play out in reality, and how fair they'll be. A worry that is somewhat tapered by the first artist to benefit from this change being the relatively unknown- in mainstream conciousness, anyway- Harlem Shake, which hit the top spot straight off the bat when the new rules came into effect, this week.
No doubt records set by stars like Mariah Carey, Madonna, and Michael Jackson will now be broken quicker as a result of this change; but considering how the industry has morphed over the years, perhaps it's unfair to expect them to be bested in the same way, today, as they were achieved, yesterday. Just don't expect these accomplishments to hold as much weight when they do eventually pass on, as they did before, because they won't.
I'm going to reserve overall judgement on Billboard's decision until I've had a chance to see what, if any, long-term effects this has on the chart. Whatever the case, I have a feeling it won't be too long before others start to incorporate YouTube views into their own method for putting together their chart figures.
[Abridged version for those having a "tl;dr" moment: Billboard is allowing YouTube video views to count towards chart positions. Do you think that's a good thing or not?]