Metallica’s album had slumped away from the upper tier of the Billboard Top 200 chart, but due to ticket bundling, it jumped to one of the top spots in a short amount of time. Jack White’s latest release did the same. But the music fan has to ask the question – are these albums actually chart-topping hits if they are involuntary included with concert tickets?
Jack White took the No. 1 spot on this week’s Billboard Top 200, but from sales, rather than streams. Last week, rapper XXXTentacion took the top spot with a huge streaming number of 159 million tracks played, however he only had 20,000 album sales, according to Nielsen Holdings. This week, White did the opposite — his 2018 Boarding House Reach album only had 4.2 million streams, but did well with a staggering 121,000 in album sales. This all boils down to bundling albums with the price of a concert ticket. White’s tour went on sale March 21.
Similarly, Metallica’s most recent record, Hardwired…To Self Destruct, was released on November 18, 2016 and has spent 45 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 Chart. In a single week, the album went from the No. 42 spot all the way to the No. 2 spot, according to the chart last week. This sudden spike is solely generated from ticket bundling for the band’s upcoming tour dates in Canada and the U.S. With the initial red-hot phase of ticket sales over, the album fell back down – to No. 72.
This isn’t the first time ticket bundling has interfered with the top charts; Bon Jovi’s 2016 album, This House Is Not For Sale, opened at No. 1 and then fell to No. 43 on the Billboard Chart. Over a year later, the record stole the top spot yet again, but only after tickets to his tour went on sale and included a code to redeem the CD.
Artists like Kenny Chesney, Katy Perry, Pink, Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem have used this tactic in the past, but it causes concern for chart manipulation. According to the New York Times, David Bakula, a senior analyst at Nielsen, said the practice of ticket-bundling is “legitimate,” since fans must take the actual step to redeem the CD with the code they receive with the ticket. However, even if the buyer decides not to redeem the CD, the ticket will still cost the same amount.
“This is the way that people are getting albums in their hands,” Bakula told the Times. “If I’m going to a Bon Jovi show, I may or may not go out and buy a copy. But if you offer one to me wrapped in the price of my ticket, then yes, absolutely, I want it.”
Artists like Scotty McCreery had to gain a spot on the charts the old fashioned way, selling 37,500 albums, compared to Metallica’s 64,500, Vintage Vinyl News reports. However, streams do have a play in the charts, since 1,500 streams of a song is equivalent to the sale of one record, according to record industry methodology.
As stated in a Billboard article, in order for a bundled album to be eligible for the Billboard 200, the ticket buyer must download or redeem the record.
“It’s just a flat-out scam,” indie concert promoter Seth Hurwitz, who owns and operates Washington, D.C.’s Anthem venue told Billboard. Hurwitz explained that bundling helps these musicians “jack up first-week album sales,” but by doing so, they are ultimately “putting tours on sale way before they ought to.”
Whether the artists’ intent is to sell more records or garner attention on the top charts, ticket-bundling seems to be working in their favor.