New Charts - New Rules

As you may have heard - Rolling Stone just launched a brand new set of official music charts for the US and Canada. While Billboard has been an authoritative source on music rankings for many years, RS has a new vision on “what it means to be popular”.

The Rolling Stone Charts are an interactive set of music charts that update on a daily basis and offer an impartial, in-depth and in-the-moment view of the biggest songs, albums and artists in music.

RS will offer an alternative to the “black-box” charts we know today by allowing fans to see more information surrounding why an artist or album is charting.

At Single, we knew these charts would be launching - so we’ve already built out our integration. In fact, Single sent reports to be included in the very first chart week. While the Billboard and Rolling Stone Charts are similar, there are enough differences to make artists tweak their overall strategies. We’ve included some excerpts below, but please check out their “General Methodology” article for the full published rules.

Weighted Formats

The largest and most obvious difference between the Billboard and RS charts stems from the definition of an album unit. Nielsen treats each format (CD, Digital, Vinyl etc.) as one charting album sale. On the RS charts, one vinyl counts as two charting albums. Yes, you heard it right. Two.

In the past (for the Billboard Charts), we’ve recommended that our artists and labels choose to report the digital album if they’re selling a bundle that includes multiple formats. This is because digital is reported upon delivery, which happens automatically on midnight before the release date. So if there are delays in physical manufacturing, reporting digital is the best way to ensure they don’t miss out on scans.

Take a look at the official weights below. Next, we’ll talk about what “deluxe” means.

Each Album Unit total is calculated as follows: (Digital Standard Album Sales*1.0) + (Digital Deluxe Album Sales*1.3) + (CD Standard Album Sales*1.0) + (CD Deluxe Album Sales*1.3) + (Vinyl Standard Album Sales*2.0) + (Vinyl Deluxe Album Sales*2.5) + (Cassette Album Sales*1.0) + (Digital Song Sales/10) + (On-Demand Audio Subscription Streams/1,200) + (On-Demand Audio Ad-Supported Streams)/3,600).

Deluxe Versions

In addition to the physical format weight change, RS also uses a special weight for deluxe versions of albums. In their posted FAQ, RS didn’t define exactly what qualified as a “deluxe” version. But they did provide some clues:

4. All versions of an album or music video count toward that title’s sales, providing that the core content of that title’s standard album version remains included and that the bonus audio content on deluxe offerings does not exceed the running time of the standard album. In cases where multiple versions of an album are available, the one deemed to be the standard version must be generally available. A retailer-exclusive version can be counted as a deluxe, but not as the standard version.

From this paragraph, we can assume that a “deluxe” version is simply an album that has additional tracks - music or commentary - to the standard version.

There is one more related rule that sheds light on how artists could modify their album release strategy to be better positioned to land on the RS charts:

7. A deluxe version may precede that of the standard release by three months (12 weeks). In these cases, the label or distributor will notify Alpha Data in advance that the later version will be this title’s standard version. However, if a shorter version of that first release releases more than 12 weeks later, it will be treated as a separate album.

So there we go... If an artist chooses to have just the “deluxe” version available in the 3 months following release date, they could potentially earn 33% more scans from selling the same amount of albums. As long as they release a “standard” version after those 3 months are over, this doesn’t appear to be breaking any rules.

Minimum Pricing

The last piece we’ll touch on is minimum pricing. Per Nielsen’s rules, albums must be priced at $3.49 to count towards the charts. For the Rolling Stone Charts, the minimum price to be counted towards that chart week is $3.75.

Throughout the next few weeks, we’ll be updating our docs to help our artists and labels determine the best strategy for appearing on both official charts. Just like before, reporting still happens completely behind the scenes. Quickly tag your physical records inside Single, and never worry about submitting a report again.