If you listen ever so closely you might just hear the refrain, that symbolic moment when the old guard—music downloads—began switching places with the new guard—music streaming. And it was Chance the Rapper who played the sound track of that moment, his album Coloring Book.
Chance the Rapper
Coloring Book debuted in Billboard's Top 200 at #8 for Billboard's June 4th chart, which will be published on Tuesday, May 24th. What makes this such a symbolic moment is that it's the first time a streaming-exclusive has debuted in the Top 10, and Coloring Book is exclusively on Apple Music (streaming only) until May 27th. It was released on Apple Music on May 13th.
According to Billboard, the magazine counts 1,500 streams of an album as a "equivalent album unit." Coloring Book was credited with 38,000 such equivalent album units, which translates into roughly 57.3 million streams.
It's a significant achievement for Apple, which landed the Apple Music exclusive to promote the service, but it's also a significant moment for the music industry. Music downloads are on the decline, while music streaming is on the rise. Apple itself is rumored to be working towards the day when it cuts off the option of buying music downloads from iTunes at all.
That's some major upheaval for the music industry, with not the least of which how to measure the success of music that's being streamed. We humans love to rank things and make lists and see who's doing better than whom, and nowhere is this more true than when it comes to popular music.
The takeaway is that streaming has grown to have enough of a footprint to be measured alongside CD sales, Vinyl sales, and music downloads. Even more importantly for Apple, Apple Music itself has grown enough to be measured alongside those other formats, which makes this event a symbolic changing of the guard between iTunes and Apple Music, too.
For now, music sales are still king, but that's changing so very fast now, and we will look back at his particular moment as the when-it-happened point.