Billboard has announced new album chart rules, which will change the way merchandising bundles affect counted sales.
Starting on Jan. 3, 2020, all album bundle items must be available for fans to purchase together and individually on the artist’s website or they will not be counted toward album sales. Additionally, merchandising items that are sold individually will have to be priced lower than full bundles that include both merchandise and the album.
The news arrives after several public debates, particularly in hip hop, surrounding bundled album sales and their success on the Billboard charts. For years, artists have used bundles to spike their album sales, which Billboard reports are at an all-time low, due to listeners favoring streaming services.
Album bundles also came under fire over Nicki Minaj’s Queen and Travis Scott’s Astroworld. Travis surpassed Nicki to No. 1, which she blamed on his album bundled packages, which included passes for his Astroworld tour.
“Travis sold over 50K of these,” she tweeted at the time. “With no requirement of redeeming the album! With no dates for a tour, etc. I spoke to him. He knows he doesn’t have the #1 album this week.”
The new rules will offer customers the option to purchase the merchandise with or without the album, in an effort to prevent these bundle advantages from occurring. In regard to concert ticket / album bundles, the price of an album must be a part of the cost of a ticket, therefore these bundles will include a download to the album, and only redeemed downloads will be counted toward Billboard’s charts.
All album releases after Jan. 3 will be obligated to adhere to the new policy, even if their bundles went on-sale before that date. For already released albums, further sales on the album charts will also be determined by the new rule.
Additionally, all merchandise-album bundles must be priced at least $3.49 more than the individual merchandise.