THE BIBLE’S POWER FAILURE

On today's HITS Top 50, Lorde's Solar Power (Republic) will debut with a total larger than what it’s expected to open with on the Billboard 200. That's because the artist is offering a disc-free box set containing a download card linked to a digital copy of the album. She chose to release this eco-friendly package instead of the traditional CD and jewel case as plastic fills the world’s oceans. Under a long-standing Billboard rule, however, box sets must contain a physical copy of the album. As such, the Bible is refusing to even count redemptions of this set on its chart.

In evaluating a special package, Billboard often considers consumer intent when deciding whether to include that package in a release's total chart activity. What could be more "intentional" than walking into a Target, purchasing the box set, then taking the step of downloading the corresponding content?

Solar Power contains the aforementioned download card, a 32-page booklet, a poster and some limited-edition goodies. This is nothing out of the ordinary for a deluxe package, and Billboard has counted many like it before. The only difference is that those packages contained physical product.

Another reason Billboard may disallow a configuration is the likelihood of chart manipulation. It’s unclear, though, how sales of this box set could be used to monkey with Solar Power's chart total. It certainly wouldn't come close to the juking of the Hot 100 week after week by artist stans. Does Billboard look the other way when such shenanigans up their clicks?

The music industry and its customers are part of an overwhelmingly digital world (one that has contributed mightily to the biz's weathering of the pandemic). There is simply no reason for download cards in box sets—or redemptions thereof—to go uncounted. Holding steadfastly to archaic rules governing a format that makes up less than 5% of the current market is a formula for irrelevancy. Billboard should take note.

THE VIEW FROM
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NEAR TRUTHS: MIDYEAR MOMENTUM
The score at the half (7/19a)
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