This will affect some major as well as independent artists.
Effective November 21st 2011, any albums priced below $3.49 during their month of release will be refused entry onto the Billboard 200.
In an official statement released by the company it stated:
Free or almost-free albums don’t represent a marketplace.
Whether you work with or are a fan of Madonna or Kenny Chesney, Lady Gaga or Coldplay, it is your faith in our efforts to keep our charts credible that we work to honor every day.
Ultimately, what swayed us to make a rule change now 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.
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.
Allow us break this down for you:
If Artist A released a project which sold 2 million copies in its first week, of which 50% of those copies were sold for less than £3.49, Billboard and Nielsen Sound Scan would only count the sales of copies sold at full price. Completely ignoring those sold at a discount price.
Good news for those in favor of equal playing ground but bad news for the likes ofLady GaGa and Rihanna who in the past have used discounted prices to boost their chances of debuting at #1 in the US.
In May of this year, GaGa’s third album ‘Born This Way’ debuted with sales of 1,108,000 but only because 440,000 copies had been sold by Amazon for an astounding $.099.
Had the project been released after the implementation of this new policy, it still would have been #1 week but would have sold 664,000 as opposed to 1 million copies.
However, all sales generated by Rihanna’s ‘Rated R‘ (including those sold at discount) would still be counted as the lowest available price for that album was $3.99, 50 cents over the newly introduced threshold.