Monday, August 24, 2020

Popcast: How Merchandise Bundles Undid Billboard's Album Chart

Approximately half the albums that have topped the Billboard album chart since the beginning of 2019 have been made available as part of a bundle, in which it is offered as an add-on sale to a more expensive item, typically an article of clothing or a concert ticket.

As a result, the album itself has been steadily devalued — at times, it can verge on an afterthought. Some artists, like Travis Scott and Taylor Swift, have turned the merchandise bundle into its own art form. And Billboard is constantly playing whack-a-mole with new attempts to game the sanctity of its chart, only to see new tricks emerge.

On this week’s NY Times Popcast, a conversation about the history of bundling, and how it has contributed to the reassessment of the album’s value. Plus, a discussion about whether in this era, an album-only chart is even the most useful and revealing way to assess popularity, relevance and success.

Guest:  Ben Sisario, The New York Times’s music business reporter

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