Billboard has announced new rules for its “Billboard 200” and “Hot 100” charts as part of an ongoing effort to ensure fair rankings that are “accurately reflecting consumer intent.”
These changes are the latest in a series of rules that were instituted to rectify sales for the Billboard Charts, specifically regarding bundles. Billboard defines “bundles” as digitals sales that are bundled with physical album sales, and albums that are bundled with concert tickets and/or merchandise. The first set of rule changes, implemented in January, allowed bundles to count for Billboard‘s song and album charts, so long as they adhered to Billboard‘s restrictions.
The new rules are as follows:
- Merch and tickets must now be promoted as add-ons for the albums they are bundled with. If not, the album’s sales in that bundle won’t count for the charts.
- If the bundles are single-priced, meaning that the individual costs of the album, merch, and tickets are disclosed, the sales won’t count. If albums are priced separately within the bundles, the sales will count.
- Sales of physical albums and singles that are bundled with digital downloads will no longer count as digital sales for the digital song/album charts.
Will these new rules affect K-Pop? Since Billboard has not yet announced a start date for their new rules, the restrictions could affect any group that releases previously planned bundles (as defined by Billboard) after the new rules are instated.
Since many K-Pop albums come with photo cards, photo books, and other bonuses, some fans have expressed concerns about the changes. These items, however, are included with an album as extras. Merch and ticket bundles are essentially the other way around; they include an album as a bonus to the merch/tickets. This means that K-Pop albums will not be affected.
Some K-Pop albums do, however, come with digital downloads. Previously, physical albums that came with digital downloads as a bonus were allowed to be counted for digital sales in the first week even if the physical albums weren’t set to be shipped until later.
These particular bundles are used by artists around the world–including Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber–to boost their chart rankings. Under the new rules, only the physical albums will count for the charts, and only after the album has been shipped. If a K-Pop album bundled with digital downloads ships on the day of its release, its physical sales should count for the first week.
When it comes to physical album sales, K-Pop artists have an advantage over many western artists. In the west, digital bundles have been increasingly used to compensate for the decline of physical album sales. Meanwhile, physical albums sales for K-Pop music are on the rise, meaning that K-Pop groups’ chart rankings will probably be less affected by Billboard‘s changes.