There have been a few artists this past year that have been breaking some records on the Billboard album charts. Record sales actually increased last year! It's hard to find a reason why, but many have been calling attention to the Billboard charts and how they need to keep comparisons consistent. For example, when Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" sold 1.1 million copies it had the best selling debut sales figure since 2005. However, 440,000 of these were sold on Amazon.com for 99¢. The number she was being compared to likely didn't discount their record as deeply.
That has been changed as of last month. Billboard has decided that any record sold at $3.49, or roughly half the retail cost of an album, will not be counted as a sale in the Billboard 200. This policy is only in effect during the first four weeks of an album cycle, so it will not stop artists from discounting their record to reach total album sales records.
This poses a major problem for young artists that often use deep discounts to convince all their fans to pull the trigger on a sale during a short period of time. That spike in chart position is often what music directors at radio stations use as an indicator, and can influence adds. Now it will be more difficult for young artists to break through the clutter.
Billboard is coming under fire from multiple directions, but I'm glad they see a need for a change. At the end of the day, especially in our world, record sales are not a reliable indicator as to how popular an artist is. If only radio would catch up…