Billboard has announced that it is changing the rules to the Billboard 200, Hot 100, and other album and song charts by eliminating the practice of counting albums bundled with merchandise and concert tickets, as well as instant digital sales attached to purchases for physical albums delivered at a later date.
In their announcement, Billboard acknowledged that the current practice has “fallen short of the intended goal of accurately reflecting consumer intent.”
Under the new rules, all albums bundled with either merch 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, with the album cost undisclosed to the consumer, will no longer be counted. Billboard believes that this change will more accurately reflect consumer choice.
Additionally, Billboard will no longer allow sales of physical albums or singles that are bundled with digital downloads to be reported as digital sales, which will eliminate the practice of non-manufactured items being used to inflate first-week chart rankings. Only when the physical item is shipped will it be counted by Billboard.
Artists including Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, and 6ix9ine have all sold vinyl, CDs, and other physical releases that won’t be delivered until weeks later while offering instant digital downloads. The tactic has helped boost their chart positions, resulting in No. 1 debuts, but the rule changes will render that tactic ineffective.
“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,” says the company. “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.”
The new rules will go into effect at a later date to be announced.