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The album-equivalent unit is a measurement unit in
music industry The music industry consists of the individuals and organizations that earn money by Musical composition, writing songs and musical compositions, creating and selling Sound recording and reproduction, recorded music and sheet music, presenting l ...
to define the consumption of music that equals the purchase of one
album packaged in book form, like a photograph album An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on compact disc (CD), Phonograph record, vinyl, audio tape, or another medium. Albums of recorded sound were developed in the ...

album
copy. This consumption includes
streaming Streaming media is multimedia Multimedia is a form of communication that combines different content forms such as text, audio, images, animations, or video into a single presentation, in contrast to traditional mass media, such as printed ...
and song downloads in addition to traditional
album sales Record sales or music sales are activities related to selling music recordings (album packaged in book form, like a photograph album An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on compact disc (CD), Phonograph recor ...
. The album-equivalent unit was introduced in the mid-
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as an answer to the drop of album sales in the 21st century. Album sales more than halved from 1999 to 2009, declining from a $14.6 to $6.3 billion industry. For instance, the only albums that went platinum in the United States in 2014 were the '' Frozen'' soundtrack and
Taylor Swift Taylor Alison Swift (born December 13, 1989) is an American singer-songwriter. Her Taylor Swift albums discography, discography spans multiple genres, and her narrative songwriting, which is often inspired by her personal life, has received ...

Taylor Swift
's ''1989'', whereas several artists' works had in 2013. The usage of the album-equivalent units revolutionized the charts from the "best-selling albums" ranking into the "most popular albums" ranking. The
International Federation of the Phonographic Industry International is an adjective (also used as a noun) meaning "between nations". International may also refer to: Music Albums * ''International'' (Kevin Michael album), 2011 * ''International'' (New Order album), 2002 * ''International'' (The Th ...
(IFPI) have used album-equivalent unit to measure their
Global Recording Artist of the Year The Global Recording Artist of the Year is an award presented by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) to honor the best-performing recording artist based on a total of album-equivalent unit The album-equivalent unit i ...
since 2013.


Terminology

The term ''album-equivalent unit'' had been used by the
International Federation of the Phonographic Industry International is an adjective (also used as a noun) meaning "between nations". International may also refer to: Music Albums * ''International'' (Kevin Michael album), 2011 * ''International'' (New Order album), 2002 * ''International'' (The Th ...
(IFPI) long before the streaming era began. Between 1994 and 2005, the IFPI counted three physical singles as an equivalent of one album unit in their annual ''Recording Industry in Numbers'' (RIN) report. The term was reintroduced by the IFPI in 2013 to measure their
Global Recording Artist of the Year The Global Recording Artist of the Year is an award presented by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) to honor the best-performing recording artist based on a total of album-equivalent unit The album-equivalent unit i ...
. By this point, the album-equivalent units had already included music downloads and streams. Alternative term of album equivalent unit is ''sales plus streaming'' (SPS) unit, which was introduced by '' Hits'' magazine.


Uses on record charts and certifications


United States

Beginning with the December 13, 2014, issue, the ''Billboard'' 200 albums chart revised its ranking methodology with album-equivalent unit instead of pure album sales. With this overhaul, the ''Billboard'' 200 includes on-demand streaming and digital track sales (as measured by
Nielsen SoundScan MRC Data (formerly Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen Music Products) is a provider of music sales data. Established by Mike Fine and Mike Shalett in 1991, data is collected weekly and made available every Sunday (for albums sales) and every Monday (f ...
) by way of a new algorithm, utilizing data from all of the major on-demand audio subscription services including
Spotify Spotify (Help:IPA/English, /ˈspɒtɪfaɪ/; Swedish: Help:IPA/Swedish, spɔ̂tːɪfaj, is a Sweden, Swedish Streaming media, audio streaming and media services provider, founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek. Spotify is incorporated in Luxembourg a ...

Spotify
,
Apple Music Apple Music is a music and video streaming Streaming media is multimedia Multimedia is a form of communication that combines different content forms such as text, audio, images, animations, or video into a single presentation, in con ...
,
Google Play Google Play Store, formerly Android Market, is a digital distribution Digital distribution (also referred to as content delivery, online distribution, or electronic software distribution (ESD), among others) is the delivery or distribution o ...

Google Play
,
YouTube YouTube is an American online video sharing and social media platform owned by Google. It was launched on February 14, 2005 by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim. It is the second most visited website, right after Google itself. You ...

YouTube
and formerly
Xbox Music Groove Music (formerly Xbox Music or just Zune Music Pass) is an audio player software application included with Windows 8 Windows 8 is an operating system that was produced by Microsoft, released as part of the Windows NT family of opera ...
. Known as TEA (track equivalent album) and SEA (streaming equivalent album) when originally implemented, 10 song sales or 1,500 song streams from an album were treated as equivalent to one purchase of the album. ''Billboard'' continues to publish a pure album sales chart, called
Top Album Sales The ''Billboard'' 200 is a record chart A record chart, also called a music chart, is a ranking of Sound recording and reproduction, recorded music according to certain criteria during a given period. Many different criteria are used in wor ...
, that maintains the traditional ''Billboard'' 200 methodology, based exclusively on Nielsen SoundScan's sales data. Taylor Swift's ''1989'' was the first album to top the chart with this methodology, generating 339,000 album-equivalent units (281,000 units came from pure album sales). In ''Billboard's'' February 8, 2015, issue, '' Now That's What I Call Music! 53'' became the first album in history to miss the top position of the ''Billboard'' 200 despite being the best-selling album of the week. Similarly the
Recording Industry Association of America The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization A trade association, also known as an industry trade group, business association, sector association or industry body, is an organization founded and funded by busine ...
, which had previously certified albums based on units sold to retail stores, began factoring streaming for their certifications in February 2016. In July 2018, Billboard and Nielsen revised the ratios used for streaming equivalent album units to account for the relative value of streams on paid music services like Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited versus ad-supported music and video platforms such as Spotify's free tier and YouTube. Under the updated album equivalent ratios, 1,250 premium audio streams, 3,750 ad-supported streams, or 3,750 video streams are equal to one album unit.


United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the
Official Charts Company The Official Charts Company (previously known as the Chart Information Network (CIN) and The Official UK Charts Company) is a British inter-professional organisation that compiles various "official" record chart A record chart, also called a ...
has included streaming into the
UK Albums Chart The Official Albums Chart is a list of albums ranked by physical and digital sales and (from March 2015) audio streaming in the United Kingdom. It was published for the first time on 22 July 1956 and is compiled every week by the Official Charts Co ...
since March 2015. The change was decided after the massive growth of streaming; the number of tracks streamed in the UK in a year doubled from 7.5 billion in 2013 to just under 15 billion in 2014. Under the new methodology, Official Charts Company takes the 12 most-streamed tracks from an album, with the top two songs being given lesser weight so that the figure will reflect the popularity of the album as a whole rather than of one or two successful
singlesSingles may refer to: * Single persons and associated businesses and discussions Film and television * Singles (miniseries), ''Singles'' (miniseries), a 1984 Australian television series * Singles (1992 film), ''Singles'' (1992 film), written and ...
. The adjusted total is divided by 1000 and added to the album sales figure.
Sam Smith Samuel Frederick Smith (born 19 May 1992) is an English singer and songwriter. They rose to prominence in October 2012 after being featured on Disclosure's breakthrough single " Latch", which peaked at number eleven on the UK Singles Chart ...
's ''
In the Lonely Hour ''In the Lonely Hour'' is the debut studio album by English singer Sam Smith. It was released in the United Kingdom on 26 May 2014, via Capitol UK and Method Records. In the United States, it was released on 17 June 2014 through Capitol Recor ...
'' was the first album to top the chart with this rule. Out of its 41,000 album-equivalent units, 2,900 units came from streaming and the rest were pure sales. By 2017, streaming had accounted more than half of album-equivalent units in the UK, according to
British Phonographic Industry The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) Ltd is the British recorded music industry's trade association A trade association, also known as an industry trade group, business association, sector association or industry body, is an organization f ...
(BPI).


Germany

In Germany, streaming began to be included on the albums chart since February 2016. Nevertheless, the
German Albums Chart The GfK Entertainment charts are the official music charts in Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , langua ...
is used to rank the albums based on weekly
revenue In accounting, revenue is the income or increase in net assets that an entity has from its normal activities (in the case of a business, usually from the sale of product (business) , goods and services to customers). Commercial revenue may also be ...
, instead of units. Hence, only paid streaming is counted and must be played at least 30 seconds. At least 6 tracks of one album have to be streamed to make streams count for the album, with 12 tracks being the maximum counted. Similar to the UK chart rule, the actual streams of the top-two songs are not counted, but instead the average of the following tracks.


Responses

In ''
Forbes ''Forbes'' () is an American business magazine owned by Integrated Whale Media Investments and the Forbes family (publishers), Forbes family. Published eight times a year, it features articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing to ...
'', Hugh McIntyre noted that the usage of album equivalent units has made artists release albums with excessive track lists. Brian Josephs from ''
Spin Spin or spinning may refer to: Businesses * SPIN (cable system) or South Pacific Island Network * Spin (company), an American scooter-sharing system * SPiN, a chain of table tennis lounges Computing * SPIN model checker, Gerard Holzmann's tool fo ...
'' said: "If you're a thirsty (eager for fame or notoriety) pop artist of note, you can theoretically game the system by packing as many as 20 tracks into an album, in the process rolling up more album-equivalent units—and thus album "sales"—as listeners check the album out." He also criticized
Chris Brown Christopher Maurice Brown (born May 5, 1989) is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, record producer, actor and graffiti artist. According to ''Billboard (magazine), Billboard'', Brown is one of the most influential and successful Contempor ...

Chris Brown
's album '' Heartbreak on a Full Moon'' which contains over 40 songs. ''
Rolling Stone ''Rolling Stone'' is an American monthly magazine that focuses on music, politics, and popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California, in 1967 by Jann Wenner, and the music critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was first known for its c ...
'' columnist Tim Ingham observed the figures of
Drake Drake may refer to: Animals * A male duck People and fictional characters * Drake (surname), a list of people and fictional characters with the family name * Drake (given name), a list of people and fictional characters with the given name * ...
's ''
Scorpion Scorpions are predatory arachnids of the Order (biology), order Scorpiones. They have eight legs, and are easily recognized by a pair of Chela (organ), grasping pincers and a narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve ...
'' and found that 63% of the album's streams on Spotify came from just three songs off the 25-track album. Additionally, only six songs accounted for 82% of the album's total stream, meaning that only a quarter of the songs determining the overall success of the album in terms of album-equivalent unit. Cherie Hu from
NPR National Public Radio (NPR, stylized in all lowercase, npr) is an American privately and publicly funded non-profit media organization based in Washington, D.C. NPR is based in two locations: main NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. (often re ...

NPR
felt that album equivalent units often don't reflect actual album, because they put further weight on an album's biggest single(s) rather than on all the project's tracks as a whole.


See also

*
Album sales Record sales or music sales are activities related to selling music recordings (album packaged in book form, like a photograph album An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on compact disc (CD), Phonograph recor ...


References

{{Music industry Albums Music industry Equivalent units Units of amount of substance