The new Billboard format also changes how digital-only albums are counted.
The change comes six months after the last rule adjustment in January. At that point, the publication required bundled albums to be available for sale concurrently and individually on the same website. Additionally, the merchandise sold with the album must cost less than the bundle including merchandise and the album.
In its announcement, Billboard announced “those measures have fallen short of the intended goal of accurately reflecting consumer intent.” Thus, the publication will eliminate the practice of counting merchandise bundles and concert tickets towards album and song charts altogether. The metric sparked controversy back in 2018.
Billboard will announce the start date for the rule at a later date. The new plan, however, is to require albums bundled with merchandise or concert tickets to be promoted as an add-on, in order to be counted on the charts. Album bundles that include merchandise or tickets without disclosing the album cost to the customer won’t be counted.
The publication cited artists like Tekashi 6ix9ine, Ariana Grande, and Justin Bieber in another addition to the rules. These artists have sold vinyl, CDs, and other physical releases (to be shipped at a later date), while offering instantly redeemable digital downloads to boost chart positions. “The latest rule changes will render that tactic ineffectual,” they wrote.
“Though the strategy of bundling albums goes back decades, more recently it has been employed to try and boost album sales,” the article reads, “which have been continually falling over the last several years but are worth considerably more than streams on the chart.”