Effective November 21, Billboard has instituted a new policy regarding singles and album sales, setting a price threshold for which releases will count towards music industry publication’s charts. Under the change, albums priced under $3.49 during their first four weeks will not be eligible for inclusion on the Billboard 200 album charts and will not count towards sales data presented by Nielsen SoundScan. On the digital side, mp3s priced below $0.39 during their first three months of release will not be eligible for inclusion on the digital songs charts. According to Billboard’s editor, Bill Werde, it was outcry from critics and consumers which spurred the change.
“Ultimately, what swayed us to make a rule change now – removed from any pressure connected to any particular album – was the fact that we wouldn’t want an album that sold for one penny to count on our charts. Our charts are meant to indicate consumer intent. And once you accept that you don’t want to count penny albums, the only remaining question is simply where a threshold should be.
“We ultimately chose $3.49 for two reasons. One, it’s roughly half of wholesale in the digital world, where albums cost retailers about $7.50 on average. And two, this price point wouldn’t interfere with any regular or semi-regular pricing currently in effect at any of the five biggest retailers – Walmart, Amazon, iTunes, Best Buy and Target. As I noted in my earlier essay, Billboard doesn’t want to control the marketplace. We just want to count it. But free or almost-free albums don’t represent a marketplace.”
What does it all mean? Artists won’t be able to game the system like Lada Gaga did with the release of Born This Way, which racked up 400K+ sales on her way to first week platinum through her $0.99 arrangement with Amazon earlier this year.