Artists and labels will no longer be able to (for lack of a better word) game the Billboard charts by bundling their albums and singles with merchandise or concert tickets.
Billboard announced the new rules yesterday (July 13), stating that they would “supersede” previous changes that were announced last year and implemented in January.
The practice of bundling albums with merch has been a bone of contention in the industry for some time.
Last year, for example, a report suggested that DJ Khaled was planning to hit Billboard with a “monster lawsuit” in retaliation for missing out on a No.1 album to Tyler, The Creator’s Igor, after bundle sales of Khaled’s Father Of Asahd were reportedly disqualified.
And back in 2018, Nicki Minaj fired off a series of furious tweets after missing out on the Billboard 200 top spot with her album, Queen, as Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD hit No.1, boosted by bundled merch and ticket sales.
The previous rule change, which went to effect on January 3, required bundles to be sold via an artist’s official website and for merch items to made “available for purchase concurrently and individually” on the same website where the album is being sold.
Separate items of merch also had to cost less than the price of the album/merch/ticket bundle.
According to Billboard, it has now “decided to eliminate the practice” altogether, “in an acknowledgement that those measures have fallen short of the intended goal of accurately reflecting consumer intent”.
“Billboard is implementing these changes to address widespread concerns that an accurate measure of consumer intent – which has been the basis of the Billboard charts since their inception — is being undermined by increasingly-common bundling practices.”
Added the new announcement: “Billboard is implementing these changes to address widespread concerns that an accurate measure of consumer intent – which has been the basis of the Billboard charts since their inception – is being undermined by increasingly-common bundling practices.
“The new guidelines will better ensure that Billboard chart rankings more accurately reflect the conscious purchasing decisions of consumers and level the playing field for all artists.
“Though the sales strategy of bundling albums goes back decades, more recently it has been employed by artists and labels to try and boost album sales, which have been continually falling over the last several years but are worth considerably more than streams on the charts.”Music Business Worldwide