Billboard announced today it will eliminate the consideration of album and merchandise bundles when calculating its Billboard 200 and Hot 100 chart scores, according to the company.
Bundling, a common marketing practice among many bands and musicians, essentially offers merchandise bundled with a download of an album, usually free, to help boost album sales. According to Billboard, the chart magnate “decided to eliminate the practice of counting albums bundled with merchandise and concert tickets on its album and song charts altogether.”
While Billboard has yet to announce specifically when the new changes will come into effect, the new guidelines require all albums bundled with concert tickets or merchandise to be promoted as an added-value offering in order for the sale to be counted on the official charts. Additionally, the sale of physical records or singles sold as bundles with digital downloads will no longer count as digital sales. Those sales will only be counted for the charts once the physical album is shipped to the consumer.
In its report released today, Billboard explains the new revisions were largely put in place to “level the playing field for all artists,” while addressing concerns that the current chart rules were not aligned with the intent of many consumers’ purchases.
As mentioned, while bundling has long been an album sales strategy, more record labels and artists have adopted the practice in response to declining album sales across the industry in recent years. Last year saw album sales, which are far more profitable than streams, drop 19.7 percent, marking the fourth consecutive year of a decrease by at least 10 percent, according to Billboard.
Earlier this year Billboard implemented new chart rules that required merchandise and album bundles to cost at least $3.49 more than the merchandise per the $3.49 minimum price tag of an album to qualify for the charts. With today’s announcement, Billboard acknowledged those revisions fell short of the “intended goal of accurately reflecting consumer intent.”
Back in December Billboard also announced YouTube plays would begin impacting album charts beginning in January of this year.