Published Nov 17, 2011With stores closing and record companies floundering, some industry folks have attempted to discourage illegal downloading by offering new albums at insanely cheap prices. Most notably, Lady Gaga scored a massive first week back in the spring with her album Born This Way, many of whose sales came from an Amazon promotion that offered downloads for just 99 cents. Now, Billboard has responded by adding some stipulations to its charts.
Under the new rules, albums priced below $3.49 during the first four weeks of their release will not be eligible for inclusion on the charts. This means that Lady Gaga's LP would not have been included. On the other hand, Arcade Fire's chart-topping The Suburbs fire sale would have still be legitimate since it sold for $3.99.
Billboard also added the stipulation that digital tracks that sell for less than 39 cents within three months of release will not be eligible for the singles chart. EPs now must be sold for no less than an average of 39 cents per song, and holiday albums must be priced at more than $3.49 until after the new year.
Additional stipulations concern reissues, multi-disc albums, digital deluxe editions and store-wide liquidation sales, so familiarize yourself with the new rules here.
These changes are clearly a response to the journalistic furor that surrounded Lady Gaga's chart-topping success. At the time, many critics argued that Born This Way shouldn't have been considered eligible.
Of course, Billboard might need to make more rule changes than this if it truly wants to report accurate sales. Their figures are presented by Nielsen SoundScan, but sales from most indie record stores, as well as merch tables, are not factored into Nielsen's numbers. And now that the many of the major music outlets are closing down, it's likely that an increasing percentage of sales will come from below-the-radar sources.