Climbing your way to the top of the music charts is a great marker of success for many musicians. How exactly are they calculated, and how do digital streams or even NFT sales enter into the equation? Let’s take a look…
Many countries around the globe have their own music charts. Where you place on these, as an artist, is a solid indicator of how your music is being received. As popularity for music NFTs grows, will sales of tokenised music count towards the final tally?
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How Are Music Charts Calculated?
Firstly, it’s important to keep in mind that different countries have different ways of doing things. That’s why we’re going to be looking primarily at the UK music chart.
Topping this and the US charts is often a sign of pretty widespread global popularity and fame. So much of the (western) world looks to the UK and US music industry, and much of pop culture is influenced by what is going on within it.
In the past, how many physical sales, like vinyl records and CDs, an artist made would determine where they placed in the charts that week. In the UK, chart returning retailers reported (and still do!) sales information to The Official Charts. These retailers include high-street chains, major supermarkets, and internet retailers. In more recent years they’ve also included streaming services. Which leads nicely onto the next section…
In the last decade or so, digital music streaming has reshaped the landscape of the music industry. Besides YouTube videos, or illegal pirate downloads, people could only really get hold of music by buying it outright.
Since not everyone could afford this, many turned to piracy. Obviously, this was bad for the music industry. With so much revenue that would normally be generated by sales being lost, a solution was necessary. Enter, digital music streaming services…
Nowadays, digital streaming makes up 65% of recorded music revenue worldwide. Since it’s such a huge part of how we listen to and enjoy music, official charts companies had to begin taking this into account. The Official Charts Company, which handles things in the UK, began collecting data around digital music streaming as far back as 2008. However, streams didn’t count towards the charts results until 2014.
Now, it’s much easier to stream a song or record than it is to buy it. Since the charts have always been based on sales, some rules had to be put in place to keep things fair and representative.
The record industry agreed that a record earns one “sale” for every 100 streams on a premium streaming service – for instance, Spotify Premium or Tidal. It takes 600 streams on an ad-funded service to equal one sale – the free version of Spotify, for example. The requirements are a bit tougher for older records. Instead, it’s 200 streams on a premium service, or 1,200 on an ad-funded service.
NFT stands for “non-fungible token”, which basically means a token that cannot be simply swapped for another. Something fungible could be currency. For example, if you swapped a pound coin with another pound coin, you’d have the same thing you started with, and its value would be the same.
There are many types of NFT, but fundamentally they are all authentication of ownership, visible forever on the blockchain. What the token itself is linked to can vary. Often, collectible digital art is linked to NFTs – that’s what they’re probably most well-known for in the mainstream media.
A music NFT can be pretty much anything related to music. Tickets for concerts can be sold as NFTs, or limited edition album artwork. Artists have even sold albums as NFTs, with Muse being the first band last week to score the number 1 spot with an album that was released as an NFT.
With interest growing in NFTs, and more and more artists adopting the technology, are NFT sales counted towards the official UK charts?
NFTs & The Charts
NFT sales of music do in fact count towards the official music charts in the UK.
Muse’s latest record, Will of the People sold an impressive 51,500 copies in its first week. The group only made a limited 1000 “digital pressing” NFT versions of the album available. So, whilst the percentage of NFT sales compared to the overall sales was minimal, they certainly contributed.
Manchester rapper Aitch released his debut album, Close to Home partially as an NFT as well, a week prior to Muse’s release. Making chart history of his own, his album was the first NFT project to ever enter the official chart, although it didn’t quite make number 1 but came in at second.
The first Official Chart approved NFT project belongs to The Amazons, and was agreed back in April. This album is set to be released next month. We could be seeing more and more NFT albums in the music charts in the UK, so will it become as common as counting digital streams eventually?
Other Countries’ Music Charts
In the US, Billboard’s Hot 100 is the chart to keep an eye on. If you top the Billboard chart, you’ve well and truly “broken” America (if you’re not native to the country), and you clearly mean business. However, this chart is calculated differently to the UK Official Chart.
Billboard take into account radio airplay audience impressions, as well as data around retail and digital sales, and streaming activity. At the moment, NFTs don’t get counted towards Billboard charts in the US.
No other countries are considering NFT music projects as chart data, but with more high profile acts getting involved, who knows when this might change. It could be sooner than you think.