In late 2014, Nielsen and Billboard announced that they would start to integrate streams and digital downloads into the album chart. This change was long overdue because streaming subscriptions exploded around that time. It made sense. Then in 2016, the RIAA followed suit by integrating streaming numbers to their album certification.
To clarify, this meant that streams from platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL and others could count towards an artist’s album sales. To go deeper, every 1,500 streams or 10 track purchases are the equivalents of one album sale. Streams from DatPiff, AudioMack, MyMixtapez aren’t counted by Nielsen Soundscan.
In 2016 SoundCloud launched Soundcloud GO, which would be their attempt to be a subscription streaming service. Late in the 4th quarter of 2016, SoundCloud started to report streaming numbers to Nielsen but there was something I wasn’t clear about. Are all songs being reported or only a select few? So I reached out to my contact at Nielsen to find out and this is what they said.
“SoundCloud is sending [Nielsen] streaming data for all content that is licensed from content owners, so this includes all of the streaming data from their SoundCloud Go service as well as any free streams for content that is licensed. They are not sending us streaming data for content that is user uploaded and unlicensed.” – (Nielsen)
This answered half of my question. What characterizes “licensed content”? So I asked SoundCloud. They told me:
“If you’re on the SoundCloud monetization program, this should be happening if you enter your ISRC in track metadata.” – Soundcloud
Ah, so I figured it out. The only artists and labels that are having their streams counted are the ones that are on the monetization program or Soundcloud Premier, and this program is “invite only”. Our label currently doesn’t add full albums to SoundCloud. We will once we’re added to this premier tier. Until then, we’ll be putting our focus on where our streams are counted. I do want to also point out that Bandcamp reports sales to Nielsen as well.
In this day and age, every stream you earn should go towards your sales, so my advice to anyone in music, make sure you’re promoting your music on platforms where your streams count.