Billboard have looked at the way they count album sales and changed the rules for how a sale is counted for merchandise bundles.

Merchandise bundles have been causing a bit of a fuss in recent years. People have argued that album sales have been manipulated using merchandise to place artists higher in the charts than they should have been based on people actually buying the album.

As the current system stands, it’s possible to throw in an album on the side of a bundle and that will count as a sale. This has meant in some cases albums have been added to pieces of merch for the sake of it, so that when someone buys a t-shirt or a poster (looking at you Nicki Minaj) they get the album regardless and boom there’s another sale.

Billboard have recognised the potential for manipulation and announced new rules for how bundles will count. They’ve stated: “Many [argue] these bundled album sales do not reflect customers’ true interest in purchasing the album, but, rather, the merchandise it’s packaged with. The new rules look to address that concern, by offering customers the option to purchase the merchandise with or without the album.”

The new rules will take effect on January 3rd, 2020 and will require features of the bundle to be sold on their own as well as in the bundle. The merch/content must also be at least $3.49 more when it comes with an album than it costs on its own.

Billboard have stated that from the 3rd of January all album releases will need to adhere to these rules to be counted. That includes bundles that were on sale before the change. Billboard have clarified that their new policy won’t affect albums included in concert ticket offer bundles.

Billboard said: “The sales strategy of album bundles is decades-old, but in recent years the practice has become increasingly popular as the industry tries to find new ways to sell album – as customers are buying fewer albums in favour of streaming their favourite new releases.”