For as long as the site has been alive, YouTube play counts have served as a measure of any given song or video’s overall popularity among viewers. While metrics from streaming services are regarded as metrics of a track’s success with the public, somehow plays on the video platform have not been granted the same credibility.
Yet, if the rumors are true, YouTube play counts might soon become recognized as influential within the world of chart rankings. Billboard is expected to implement YouTube plays in its Top 200 albums list in the months to come, an action that has yet to be confirmed by the media brand. The company’s Hot 100 singles chart already takes YouTube views into account, and the platform’s play counts are also evaluated by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) when awarding gold and platinum statuses, a testament to play counts’ general pull.
Some are in favor of the weight given to the number of YouTube play counts that a given record amasses, interpreting the inclusion of the counts in the determination of chart rankings and gold/platinum statuses to be reflective of the evolving digital landscape of music production.
RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman expressed his support for the acknowledgment of the counts in a 2016 statement: “We know that music listening—for both albums and songs—is skyrocketing, yet that trend has not been reflected in our album certifications. Modernizing our Album Award to include music streaming is the next logical step in the continued evolution of Gold and Platinum Awards, and doing so enables RIAA to fully reward the success of artists’ albums today.”
Others rather candidly contend that the departure from traditional evaluation standards in gold/platinum award status is simply “BD.” Top Dawg Entertainment CEO, Anthony Tiffith represented the opposition to Sherman’s next “logical step,” remarking “We [Top Dawg Entertainment] don’t stand behind this RIAA BS. Ole [school] rules apply. One million albums sold is platinum. Until we reach that [number], save all the congrats. No cheat codes [to] platinum.”
If Billboard does indeed factor YouTube play counts into its Top 200 albums chart, the counts could render chart-topping album success less of a feat, and more of an obtainable goal, as music streaming pushes forward as an increasingly preferred and accessible manner to listen to music, new and old.