Billboard Makes It a Little Harder to Sneak an Album Into a Merch Bundle

You’ve heard it all before: Nobody buys albums anymore, and definitely not physical ones! Artists have recently figured out a way to game the album charts in response: bundling an album with a piece merch, like this “green slime mask” from Billie Eilish that comes with a free download When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? What a nice gesture, right? Not on Billboard’s watch. The longtime chart authority announced today that if an artist wants such a bundle to count toward their chart position on the Billboard 200 or any other album charts, there’ll be some new rules to follow starting January 3. “The changes come as bundles have been at the center a public debate around the Billboard albums charts, with many arguing these bundled album sales do not reflect customers’ true interest in purchasing the album, but, rather, the merchandise it’s packaged with,” the magazine writes. “The new rules look to address that concern.” And what are those rules?

1. Every item needs to be available separately too (meaning the slime mask, which is currently only available with the album, wouldn’t count).

2. The bundle that includes the album needs to cost at least $3.49 more than the merch would on its own, since that’s the minimum price an album needs to cost on its own to chart.

3. The album actually needs to be claimed: downloaded, if it’s digital, or shipped, if it’s physical.

As for concert ticket-album packages, those are safe for now, so long as buyers claim those albums too. And Billboard couldn’t finish without throwing a bit shade at the artists who hit No. 1 thanks to album bundles this year: “Celine Dion, Luke Combs, Kanye West, SuperM, Post Malone, Taylor Swift, Madonna, NF, Tyler, the Creator, Billie Eilish, Khalid, Jonas Brothers, Vampire Weekend, Ariana Grande, Thomas Rhett, and Backstreet Boys.” Earlier this year, DJ Khaled reportedly planned to sue Billboard for not counting around 100,000 merch bundles he sold for his album Father Asahd that were tied to energy drinks. His album came in second, behind Tyler, the Creator … who also got a boost on the charts thanks to his own merch bundles.