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Album-equivalent unit

The meaning of «album-equivalent unit»

The album-equivalent unit is a measurement unit in music industry to define the consumption of music that equals the purchase of one album copy.[1][2] This consumption includes streaming and song downloads in addition to traditional album sales. The album-equivalent unit was introduced in the mid-2010s 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.[3] For instance, the only albums that went platinum in the United States in 2014 were the Frozen soundtrack and Taylor Swift's 1989, whereas several artists' works had in 2013.[4][5]

The usage of the album-equivalent units revolutionized the charts from the "best-selling albums" ranking into the "most popular albums" ranking.[6] The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) have used album-equivalent unit to measure their Global Recording Artist of the Year since 2013.[7]

The term album-equivalent unit had been used by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (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.[8] The term was reintroduced by the IFPI in 2013 to measure their Global Recording Artist of the Year.[7] By this point, the album-equivalent units had already included music downloads and streams.[9] An alternative term of album equivalent unit is sales plus streaming (SPS) unit, which was introduced by Hits magazine.[10]

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) by way of a new algorithm, utilizing data from all of the major on-demand audio subscription services including Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, YouTube and formerly Xbox Music. 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, that maintains the traditional Billboard 200 methodology, based exclusively on Nielsen SoundScan's sales data.[2] 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).[1][11] 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.[12]

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