Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Billboard Issues New Rules For Merchandise/Album Bundles

Following a year in which artists gunning for a No. 1 album hawked hoodies, lawn signs and nutritional supplements together with CDs and digital-download codes to boost their sales numbers, Billboard is seeking to bring order back to its flagship albums chart, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The sale of branded merchandise—from sweatshirts and T-shirts to fanny packs and beanies—has become an increasingly popular and lucrative business for many artists, particularly rappers. In recent years, with rising demand for such novelty items, artists have been tying the sale of a CD or digital download to those items. Those so-called bundles have led to what some in the industry call skewed chart results by reflecting fans’ desire for memorabilia rather than for an album.

Many in the music business have questioned the legitimacy of such sales counting toward an artist’s ranking on the charts, as a fan who bought various merchandise items may not have otherwise purchased multiple copies of an album. And, with third-party sellers snapping up merchandise bundles from an artist and listing them for sale on other sites, the process of tracking sales to fans has become clouded.

Under the new rules, for the sale of an album contained in a bundle to count, all of the items in the bundle must also be available at the same time individually for purchase on the same site. That, Billboard says, will help better gauge whether a fan intends to purchase the music or not. Further, the merchandise-album bundle must be priced at least $3.49—the minimum price of an album to qualify for the charts—more than the merchandise item alone. As such, if a sweatshirt is listed for $40 alone, a bundle with an album must cost at least $43.49.

Additionally, only merch bundles sold through an artist’s direct-to-consumer website will count.

The attempts to sell more copies of albums through merchandise bundles come as actual sales of music continue to decline. Streaming music on services such as Spotify and Apple Music accounts for more than 80% of consumption, according to Nielsen Music. (Billboard’s albums chart measures consumption as a mix of sales and streams.)

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