On Monday’s Billboard Top 200 album count, the Apple Music-released “Blonde” debuted at No. 1, with a first-week tally of over 275,000 “equivalent album units” sold — note the wording in quotes.

So, what, exactly, is an equivalent album? It’s a complicated mash-up of streaming and sales data, where 10 digital-track downloads sold and 1,500 songs streamed are equal to one album. 

Hrm. I'm not sure that this is a great idea, as it gives some misplaced incentive to chase streams rather than sell albums.

I'd bet some trivial amount of money that streams on Amazon Prime count towards this number, as two albums from bands I like, Who You Selling For by The Pretty Reckless and Strange Little Birds by Garbage, hit Amazon Prime's streaming the day they were released. For a streaming service that costs me zero dollars a month (after the sunk cost of Prime), having release-day access from reasonably major bands was surprising.

Why is that bad? Well, I've gotten to try (and I mean fully try; I can put them on constant replay for hours if I want, and even download them to my phone so that I'm not using cell data) before I buy. And neither album is as great as my favorites by either band. Playing what I already own whenever I want, supplementing with Amazon Prime's streams of the new stuff, is plenty for now -- for me.

Usually, though, those are both bands where I'd strongly consider running by the record store or hitting iTunes/Amazon to buy a CD or AAC's of the album on release. (The local store has a store-wide 20% off sale today, and I was planning to grab Who You Selling until I listened a few times.)

What's wrong with Who You Selling? The really short story is that it's not straight rock like Going to Hell, and has enough different styles on it to not deliver on my expectations. I'm not saying they have to hit my expectations, but when I'm looking for steak and you serve seafood, well, I'm not as eager to eat dinner.

Take exhibit Back To the River with Warren Hayes. It immediately sounds like a Gov't Mule/Allman Bros/jam band track. I like it, I'll probably buy it if I don't get the album, and I look forward to the Chris Robinson/Taylor Momsen duet, but it sure ain't Absolution.

Which, speaking of duets, actually isn't a bad idea at all. If you want to get this "creative" and diverge from the sound your fans expect, it's probably better to do a duets or covers album (like Halestorm's Reanimate: The Covers). I like Who, but I'm not sold yet. Thanks to Amazon Prime Streaming, I'm not sure if I ever will be.

I did test drive a little on Spotify before Amazon Prime added limited music streaming, but the ads made things annoying enough that I usually wouldn't listen but once or twice.

I get making the album as universally available as possible, but let's just say I haven't streamed songs from either album 1500 times. That means both bands...

  1. Lost money because I could take the albums with me (via Amazon Music) and play as much as I want.
  2. Lost "equivalent albums" because I'm not streaming these things 1500 times.
    • I'd have to listen to them nearly for over 100 hours, if my math's right, to get to an "album's worth".
    • Who You Selling For is 51 minutes for 12 songs, so 51/12 == 4.25 mins each. 1500 * 4.25 == 6375 minutes, which is 106 and a quarter hours. That's a lot.
    • Does anyone listen to all of all [sic] their albums 125 times? Not sure I do except for a few particular favorites, and that's over years and years...

I'm not sure if chasing stream counts like this is great for business. I like that I get this stuff on Prime, but if we're so cheap we're listening to Prime and not paying to stream, we're probably also cheap enough that we'll buy music we really like. Strangely, that's the cheapskate way to listen to commercial-free music these days.

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