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Billboard updates album chart bundling rules following criticism

By | Published on Wednesday 27 November 2019


Billboard has announced yet another update to its chart rules, this time on album bundles. That being when artists and labels sell new records as part of bigger packages that include other products like tickets and merch. The changes, says the company, are an attempt to overcome criticism that current rules too readily allow the counting of bundled packages that “do not reflect customers’ true interest in purchasing the album”.

Set to go into effect on 3 Jan, the new rules place more restrictions one what album-bundling packages can be counted towards the US album chart. Only bundles sold through an artist’s own direct-to-fan channels will be counted and any merchandise included alongside the record must also be available for sale on its own at a lower price. The bundles must cost at least $3.49 more than the merchandise alone, that being the minimum price for an album to count as a sale in the chart.

Album sales will also only be counted when a physical item ships or a download is redeemed by the buyer. All of which should ensure that sales aren’t counted when the fan wasn’t really particularly interested in owning the album at all.

In the case of ticket and album bundles, the price of the album may still be included as part of the ticket price, so long as its inclusion in the package is promoted up front. Again, a sale will only be counted towards the artist’s chart position once the album has been redeemed by the fan.

Billboard says of the rules update: “The changes come as bundles have been at the centre of a public debate around the Billboard albums charts, with many arguing these bundled album sales do not reflect customers’ true interest in purchasing the album, but, rather, the merchandise it’s packaged with. The new rules look to address that concern, by offering customers the option to purchase the merchandise with or without the album”.

One of the most vocal critics of how bundle sales have been counted towards the charts up to now has been Nicki Minaj. In 2018, she said she felt that her ‘Queen’ album had been unfairly denied the number one position due to the way Travis Scott – who beat her to the top with his album ‘Astroworld’ – had been selling his record with other goodies.

“When you have a number two album to someone who’s selling shirts, and merch, and passes for a tour that’s not even announced yet, it feels like you’re being tricked”, she said on the ‘Ellen’ TV show. “It feels like you’re playing a game and someone is beating you at a game, as opposed to selling music”.

Meanwhile, earlier this year DJ Khaled threatened to sue Billboard after his album, ‘Father Of Asahd’, went in at number two, behind Tyler, The Creator’s ‘Igor’. In that case, Billboard apparently decided not to count some sales of Khaled’s album where they were bundled with energy drinks, despite previously indicating that they would be.