The Billboard charts have been around for decades, proving to artists and fans which records are the hottest-selling in the industry. However, album bundles have tarnished the charts’ reputation, making insiders question: who really hit No. 1?
Album bundling has become more and more popular over the past few years. We’ve seen Metallica do it; Hardwired…To Self Destruct jumped from No. 42 all the way to the No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in one week due to ticket bundling, along with Jack White’s Boarding House Reach, which only had 4.2 million streams, but reached 121,000 in album sales with bundling. Top acts like Kenny Chesney, Pink, Katy Perry, and Arcade Fire have also used this tactic, as well as Bon Jovi – whose record soared to the No. 1 spot a year after its release after bundling the LP with concert tickets.
How can a song really be judged when almost all of its sales have to do with albums bundled with other merchandise, and not directly bought or streamed? All eyes are on Billboard to remedy the situation. Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group’s president Deanna Brown told the New York Times that Billboard, a division of Valence Media, plans on tightening the rules on merchandise bundling. She noted that both artists and others in the music industry tell the company “week after week, month after month, that they want us to occasionally throw a flag on the field when necessary.”
Artists have been pitted against each other. Two weeks ago, Tyler, The Creator’s new record Igor faced DJ Khaled’s new project Father of Asahd. While both artists received a similar amount of streams, it came down to the album bundles. Even though Tyler offered clothing and lawn-style campaign signs along with his album, Khaled’s album was included with energy drinks on the e-commerce site, Shop.com, which was actively promoting “Push DJ Khaled and Market America to No. 1.” Brown told the Times that in this instance, a line was crossed.
Khaled’s management company, Roc Nation, said the decision had blindsided them and they actually denounce the practice. Roc Nation’s chief operating officer Desiree Perez told The Times that “we dispute their decision on behalf of DJ Khaled and frankly, every artist who is forced to navigate bundling an album download with an inexpensive item that still effectively represents their brand, noting that “it’s confusing and demeaning to the art.”
“We’re obviously not fans of bundling, nor should anyone who cares about artists making music. But our hands are being forced by Billboard’s desperate, last-ditch effort to keep streaming from eliminating what’s left of music downloads,” she said.
While Billboard told The Times that it has been revising its bundling rules, and have held numerous industry meetings in recent months to discuss the matter, artists are still continuing to partake in album bundling. Taylor Swift hasn’t released any news of her seventh studio record yet, but fans can already buy merchandise which includes a copy of the record. Additionally, ahead of her intimate Madame X concert tour, Madonna has announced that ticket buyers will receive a copy of her album with each ticket purchase.
The charts, meanwhile, will continue to be affected until more rules are put in place.