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November 20, 2011 • Music Diary, News

Music Diary Notes: Billboard Revamps Rules in Attempt to Stop Lady Gaga-esque ‘Gaming’ of Charts

Earlier this year Lady Gaga released an album that sold over a million copies in the first week, then plummeted by a historic 84% in the second week before fading into nowheresville.

As I noted, nearly HALF of her first week sales were generated by the ‘giveaway’ at Amazon (99 cent full album) and other freebie pack-in deals that were counted as sales. It was a rather obvious ploy set up to falsely generate an impression of a larger event than happened – and considering how terrible the album is, perhaps that was the ONLY way to get people to buy!

Apparently the folks at Billboard didn’t take kindly to the ‘gaming the system’, saying “free or almost-free albums don’t represent a marketplace.” Today they implemented new rules:

Unit sales for Albums priced below $3.49 during their first four weeks of release will not be eligible for inclusion on the Billboard album charts and will not count towards sales data presented by Nielsen SoundScan.
The rule also applies to reissued titles.
New Holiday/Seasonal titles must meet the minimum threshold through the final week of the calendar year.
Unit sales for albums or EPs with 8 or less tracks will not be eligible for charting if the retail price is less than the sum of the tracks on the release, multiplied by $0.39.
Minimum pricing for a multi-disc album (not a single disc with extra tracks), where the extra disc is audio content, will be $3.49 times the amount of discs being made available.
For digital-only deluxe editions, any extra content exceeding nine tracks would be considered the equivalent of an extra disc. Each additional 10 tracks thereafter would be the equivalent of an additional disc.

At first glance that seems great – it removes the incentive to do ‘gimmick’ deals like the Amazon-Lady Gaga giveaway, which means that a record will have to go through the normal channels of label buyoffs and payouts and secured placement like everyone else and have a more level playing field.

On the other hand, it removes the incentive to ever have a great deal like the Lady Gaga promo. Fortunately the pricing doesn’t preclude the Amazon $4 first-day deals we’ve seen on many new albums!

What are your thoughts on these new rules?

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