The Battle Over Venue Sales Reports To Nielson Soundscan & Billboard

image from www.google.com Earlier this month, Billboard and Nielson Soundscan issued a new set of guidelines for reporting music sales at venues and ticket/album bundles. Documented venue sales are combined with other sources to determine position on a many Soundscan and Billboard charts. Most controversial, was a new requirement that fans buying a CD at a venue must sign a sheet to be submitted to Nielson along with others forms. In addition to privacy issues, many found the additional reporting requirement onerous. This week Billboard and Nielson Soundscan backed off, at least for now.

In a letter distributed by Billboard’s Director of Charts, Silvio Pietroluongo, the two companies signaled the latest shift. "After much consideration, and following some very productive feedback, Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan have decided to hold off on the implementation of the Venue Sales policy requiring the submission of consumer signature sheets," wrote Pietroluongo. 

Signatures Could Make A Comeback

"Processing accurate sales data is very important to both Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan, and Nielsen will continue to verify venue sales to the best of their abilities under the processes that were already in place," continued the Billboard chart editor who did not rule out requiring signatures in the future. "Any questionable submissions may ultimately lead to more stringent requirements for the parties involved going forward, including the use of signature sheets."

The Rules

Along with each change, came a new set of rules and paperwork that must be filled out and submitted along with a $500 annual fee and "delivered on Thursday thru Friday 12:00 pm EST" to be considered for chart inclusion.You and grab a pdf of the new rules along with highlights of my personal favorites like the fact that sales at most non-traditional venues don't count.

MORE: Get New Soundscan Forms To Report CD Sales At Venues & Album/Ticket Bundles

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  1. Artists have been gaming this system for years. Typically, though, it’s some band on a van tour reporting they sold 50 CDs when they only sold 35. Unless Adele and Taylor Swift are juking the stats on their venue sales, I don’t know what Billboard/Nielsen are so up in arms about.
    Beyond that, Soundscan is becoming less relevant by the day as is Billboard’s Top 200 chart. Most real career artists who make money touring are typically not on major labels (even if they once were) and operate in an ecosystem in which ticket and merch sales count much more than CD sales in the struggle for sustainability, audience share and financial gain.
    If this fan signature policy is implemented, it’ll guarantee fewer CDs are sold and fewer fans are made and maintained. If I’m in band, I’d forgo venue Soundscan entirely rather than make my fans jump through ridiculous hoops like this.

  2. Why would anyone pay $500 (that only lasts for the year) so they can be told what medium their music has to be sold in to count, that even though they’re selling music (which is extremely hard nowadays) it only counts if it was sold somewhere only Billboard permits? These are all factors that hinder musicians being successful and NOT helping them. It’s pretty much a bad deal all around. It’s obvious that these rule and paperwork changes were designed with smaller, indie artists in mind, but I don’t see any benefits except that Billboard hopes to pull in a little extra from these yearly fees. All in all, this actually seems pretty selfish AND backwards thinking by Billboard. It smells of DES-PER-A-TION.
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  3. In the new era of the music biz, it more important than ever that we capture venue sales. After al, Soundscan was designed to give us a true picture of what’s actually selling. Remember how country artists took over the charts & received recognition they deserved when Soundscan was introduced? We might be surprised by the top selling artists at venues. Maybe Soundscan should introduce a venue sales chart?
    Surely Soundcan could find a partner like, Square, Cardreader or Bump to create an app to easily capture customer info!