Billboard is introducing new rules to its chart formula that will make it harder for artists to score #1s on the Hot 100 and Billboard 200.
On Monday, July 13th, Billboard announced that it will fix how sales are counted in album, merchandise and ticket bundles, as well as how instant digital sales are attached to physical purchases that may take weeks to ship. Bundling methods have become a go-to strategy to boost sales numbers by essentially double-dipping, a major issue that Billboard already attempted to amend in January 2020.
Read Billboard’s explanation:
Under the new rules, which will be implemented at a start date to be announced, all albums bundled with either merchandise or concert tickets must be promoted as an add-on to those purchases in order to be counted on the charts. Those included as part of a baked-in, single-price option (along with the merchandise or ticket), with the album cost undisclosed to the consumer, will no longer be counted. It is Billboard’s belief that the resulting charts will more accurately reflect consumer choice.
In addition, Billboard will no longer allow sales of physical albums or singles that are bundled with digital downloads to be reported as digital sales, thereby eliminating the practice of “spontaneous” non-manufactured items being used to influence first-week chart rankings. Only when the physical item — ostensibly what the consumer is buying — is shipped, will it be counted in Billboard’s official tallies.
Billboard is finally acknowledging that consumers don’t have much of a choice in buying a digital download or album when it’s already baked into the price for merchandise/tickets. Take The Weeknd for example, who scored one of the biggest debuts on the Billboard 200 with ‘After Hours’ thanks to bundling. When fans went to buy tickets for his concert, they were also gifted a copy of his album included with the ticket with instructions to redeem. Fans have complained about this method for years, arguing that artists are essentially giving away free copies of albums and counting them as chart points.
Billboard is also taking aim at artists who try to make “instant digital sales” through physical merchandise bundles that may take weeks to ship upon purchase. An example of this would be selling a cassette, CD, vinyl or other physical release that comes with a digital download fans can redeem instantly. Billboard will only count these digital downloads as sales when the physical release is delivered to the consumer, which is oftentimes weeks or months later.
According to Billboard’s explanation, it appears that artists have been placing merchandise for sale on their site before such items have even been produced. This is a serious issue according to Billboard as the charts only reflect sales/consumption in a one-week period.
“The practice of selling vinyl, CDs and other physical releases that won’t be manufactured and shipped to consumers for weeks or months — while offering a digital download that can be redeemed instantly — has become widespread as of late, with artists including Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and 6ix9ine all recently using the tactic to boost their chart positions,” Billboard writes. “The latest rule changes will render that tactic ineffectual.”
The new changes follow an especially turbulent last couple of months for Billboard, which saw seven songs (“THE SCOTTS,” “Say So,” “Stuck With U,” “Savage,” “Rain On Me,” “ROCKSTAR,” “Trollz”) reach #1 on the Hot 100 in just eight weeks. The outlet was also accused of manipulating numbers by rapper 6ix9ine when his comeback track, “GOOBA” debuted at #2 behind “Stuck With U.”
6ix9ine claims he was robbed of the #1 spot on Hot 100, accuses “Stuck with U” of selling around 30k copies with just “six credit cards”:
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) May 18, 2020
Billboard’s new rules that affect merch and touring bundles will be enforced beginning October 9th.
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