Examining the music question nobody can answer: how many streams equal a sale?

Recently the UK-based office of the Official Charts Company (OCC) decreed that they were bringing together streaming and traditional album sales for the first time, inducting artists like Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeren into the prestigious ‘million sellers club’. ‘

To do this they needed to dictate their Stream Equivalent Album (SEA) numeral, plainly the amount of streams they believe is equal to one traditional album sale. The problem is that their SEA value is different to everyone else’s.

how many streams equal one sale?

As the music world’s governing bodies attempt to stay relevant in the digital market it seems nobody will answer the question; how many streams equal one sale?

The figure the OCC came up with roughly equates to 100 streams per one song sale, after a process of averaging out the streams in an album (which we should say, everybody else does).

Here’s where things get convoluted.

According to the Record Industry Association of America (the US body who dictates silver, gold and platinum sellers), one album unit equates to 1,500 streams from said album. Billboard uses the same figure, which is nice of them.

In May this year the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) also hopped on the boat, incorporating numbers from Spotify and other streaming services into their charts. They came up with the ratio of 1:175, meaning one song sale equals 175 streams.

German charts take a different approach, basing their rankings on total revenue rather than a seemingly wishy-washy definition of ‘units’. This does however lend massive weight towards paid services like Youtube Red or Spotify Premium, which obviously remunerate artists at a higher dividend.

Confused? So are we. For now, it seems like what consists a sale is up in the air. Until the digital landscape graduates into something far more streamlined and equivalent that it is today, this big question may never be answered.

We’re just glad the governing bodies are finally trying to accomodate the new world, instead of running away from it.