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Did Ginger Wildheart Cheat By Charting Off Crowdfunded Presales?

100-percentWhen I interviewed PledgeMusic founder Benji Rogers earlier this year, he mentioned that they reported sales to SoundScan but it wasn't till Ginger Wildheart debuted at #27 on the UK album chart that I recognized the full import of this fact. Wildheart made the chart because all the pledges aka presales of his fan-funded album "100%" were registered as one week of sales.

While some may cry fowl, wouldn't this be the case with all album presales from sites like Amazon which help set the stage for top charting albums? And don't majors play all sorts of games with singles, working them to radio before releasing them for sale in order to chart higher? I guess when you get beat at your own game, it's not such a joyous moment!

Ginger Wildheart on ITV NEWS Talking About 100%

In my interview with Benji Rogers, I did not include the note about sales information being reported to SoundScan because there was a lot to talk about. The potential for charting so high didn't hit me just as I wouldn't have reported that there's no limit on the amount raised through Kickstarter campaigns prior to Amanda Palmer's million plus campaign.

The fact that presales were reported at the beginning of the week meant that midway through the week Ginger Wildheart was charting higher than Rihanna and Coldplay because he had bested what they could do in 3 or 4 days. By the end of the week he had dropped from #9 to #27 where it officially debuted.  Subsequently he's dropped out of the Top 100.

Nevertheless, he got a Top 40 album release and a lot of press, especially since press releases went out as soon as the UK Midweek sales were announced. Supportive fans can be proud of the success of 100% and the fact that their pledges reached 588% of the goal. This then became the title of the Triple Album PledgeMusic campaign from which the tracks for 100% were chosen. It's a bit unclear how the triple album played into the 100% sales figures or whether they just gave everybody a digital download of 100% but it was the extended presales that put them over the top.

Billboard's Glenn Peoples discusses the charting by presales approach and seems a bit perturbed, asking such questions as:

"What good is a chart position derived from nearly a year's worth of preorders? Or five months of preorders? Or even three months of preorders?"

However, as Peoples points out without seeming to be swayed, PledgeMusic and Ginger Wildheart followed all the rules and albums are available for preorder on both Amazon and iTunes. In fact, he closes with a brief discussion of Ben Folds' PledgeMusic project and the line:

"current preorders alone will put his album near the top 100 of Billboard's album chart -- only there won't be an asterisk to give people the whole story."

But is there an asterisk after sales figures when a major label releases a superstar's album with presales on Amazon and iTunes and extensive advertising unavailable to acts like Ginger Wildheart? Do such figures mention rumors of copies being purchased by representatives of the artist to boost first week sales?

And isn't part of the reason that Ginger Wildheart's able to do this because he's not on a major label that wouldn't allow such an extended campaign to occur prior to a release? It's not like the little guys made the rules.

Keep in mind that Alex Day hit #4 on the UK single chart partly by releasing multiple versions of one song at the same time. Nobody's stopping major label artists from doing that either.

I should note that another distinctive feature of PledgeMusic's approach is that artists don't raise money and then record an album as on other crowdfunding platforms. They continue the campaign until the album is released. This also increases pledges/preorders and so would also help boost first week sales figures.

So what good is a chart position gained in this manner? Ask Ginger Wildheart. I'd bet he'd tell you it's pretty f*cking great!

More: Forget About It is the first official video off 100%.

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.