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Billboard won’t change US chart rules over one dollar Gaga

By | Published on Friday 27 May 2011


Billboard’s Editorial Director Bill Werde has responded to chatter on the net-o-sphere in the US this week as to whether all the Lady Gaga albums sold for a mere 99 cents by Amazon should be counted in this week’s American music charts. Some have argued no.

As previously reported, Amazon put the Gaga album on sale for a mere dollar at the start of the week – meaning they’d be making a sizable loss on every sale – seemingly in a bid to create mega-traffic (it certainly did that, even Amazon’s huge servers couldn’t cope) so that it could make the mainstream music audience aware of its new and slightly controversial (in record industry circles) digital locker service.

Existing Billboard chart rules don’t take into account the price a customer pays, so that if retailers take a hit and sell a record as a loss leader, all sales count as standard units. Thus the one dollar Gaga sales will help take the popstress to number one this week. And Werde says that, despite some opposition online, that rule will stand, for this week at least, partly because he doesn’t like the idea of changing the rules at the last minute, and partly because he’s not entirely sure chart bosses should be considering price point in their counting.

Writing on his own magazine’s website, Werde days: “I’m pretty far from certain it makes sense to consider pricing (although I encourage your comments). For starters, market dynamics are shifting so quickly. Who’s to say that in three years or three months or even three weeks that the accepted value of an album won’t be .99 cents? I realise that’s an alarming (and unlikely, at least in weeks or months) thought for many of you, dear readers. But the decline in the perceived value of recorded music is not exactly a secret in 2011”.

He continues: “Further, just looking at current market conditions, should an album that sells for $9.99 count twice as much as an album that sells for $4.99? How about on iTunes: Should a $1.29 track count twice as much as a $.69 track? I’m inclined to say no. As I said, my mind isn’t made up about this as it relates to considering this policy in future weeks. I’m certain I’ll have many conversations with Silvio Pietroluongo, our Director of Charts, about this topic. But I generally regard Billboard’s role as being a market archivist and not a market activist. If we set an arbitrary pricing threshold, we are affecting business and not simply reporting it”.

You can read Werde’s full comment piece here.