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.

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  1. Crowdfunding presales does of course make the music charts concept pretty much nonsense going forward into this century. Selling something before it is released is also selling, you can’t consider something ‘cheating’ if the rules don’t make sense anyway. The idea that timescale is relevant now is rubbish.
    As one musician wisely reminded me, “There is no music industry really, one a number of music economies”.
    So who makes the rules? Why should art have any rules? That would defy common sense.

  2. It’s a catchy title there Clyde but the answer is no! There was no cheating. We had meetings with the OCC in the UK, many meetings to make sure that all was as it should be to ensure chart eligibility.
    They make the rules and we follow them.
    I think that it would be unfair and a real shame for all artists if a third party defined/limited the time length that a pre-order could exist for. Do we need more rules?

  3. All of this is funny…
    Whether they’re breaking the rules or not, they’re still gaming the system.
    Imagine if Sony Pictures had a film showing for a month, or a year, and set some arbitrary ‘release date’ a month/year down the line, and then ran ads claiming “#1 at the box office!” Everyone would get a laugh, and if a dozen more films did the same thing, no one would even consider the validity of the claim.
    Same with this – the music industry (Pledge and Kicstarter included) are just watering down the importance / newsworthiness of “first week’s sales” and “debut chart positions”.
    It might still be impressive to people not ‘in the know’, but everyone worth their salt knows what’s up.

  4. I totally agree, Benji. The title was to draw people in but I hope my post is clear on my position.
    People acting like the charts weren’t being gamed all along and that SoundScan’s choice of retail venues doesn’t already sway things to particular populations are just being naive or disingenuous.
    I think what you’re doing is great and I love to see the armchair analysts getting worked up!

  5. To clarify, pledges for Ginger Wildheart’s triple album (titled ‘555%’, not ‘588%’ as stated above) did not count towards the chart placing, neither was it the case that pledgers were given a free download of ‘100%’.
    The chart placing was achieved solely through pre-sales of the ‘100%’ album itself, which became available to pre-order through Pledgemusic as an additional incentive later in the campaign (after pledges for the triple album had already reached 555% of the original target).
    A little more research would have been of great benefit in making this article appear less sensationalist.

  6. I think it is sensationalist to call this article sensationalist but Ginger tweeted about it and gave it more exposure it received plenty of comments. I’ll probably never listen to this record but I read the article because of the headline. Mr Wildheart should thank you for spelling his name right and giving him an extra minute of fame.

  7. Hey, I wasn’t going to comment more here cause of aholes but I really appreciate that. This whole incident has really shaken my faith in supporting indie artists. I needed a kind word today from somebody who knows what’s up.

  8. Hey Clyde, some artists (and other people for that matter) react first and think later – that’s why social media can be a double edged sword! I’m very glad you’ve covered this though, Ginger’s Twitter outburst not withstanding, and with the integrity that I’ve come to expect as a daily reader of Hypebot. Plus I think the headline is apt in the face of the new music business and the potential future of indie artists cracking major charts through crowd funding. DJP

  9. I think this was important and the headline was inspired by the Billboard piece that I dismantled on behalf of indie artists uprooting the old system.
    Thanks for your support. So much of my writing gets attacked by people with unrealistic expectations or just plain old meanness it’s hard to stay motivated.

  10. I think most people would cry foul rather than fowl but then again they would both be wrong. Pre-sales from Amazon and any store count towards sales in first week….

  11. By the way Clyde love your work and don’t worry about what Ginger has to say, he is a great character and mad as a bag of ferrets…. i don’t expect he remembers tweeting anything by now.

  12. I hear you. Unfortunately the damage has been done. I guess I’d be more forgiving if I thought he was a musical genius but I’ve known enough drunken crazy guys to not really give them a pass for being abusive.
    Thanks for your comments.

  13. Hi, as a long standing Ginger supporter let me assure you that he is a great guy in general and has his heart in the right place, but might be a bit hot blooded sometimes. You know the artistic types… Don’t let it bring you down. Ginger went through a lot of shit and values his integrity highly, I guess the “cheat” just really irked him and the article couldn’t turn him around.

  14. Since I’ve been attacked by both Wildheart and his fans over the headline, I’ve spent more time looking at his situation and it’s really interesting. In the long run it might be good that all that nonsense happened because it caused me to take a deeper look than is normally possible for one blog post.
    Wildheart has a fairly limited social media base, the video for the first or only single off this album got less than 8k views on YouTube and he rarely tours outside the UK with only a handful of NY and LA shows listed since 2006 on his site.
    That means his following is largely based in England or the UK (the site doesn’t list countries, only cities and I’d have to look them up to see if he ever leaves England) and he was able to chart in the top 40 for only one week on the UK charts.
    So it’s interesting to see what can happen with crowdfunding but with that base he could never have done it in the States. Of course, even when he was beating Rihanna & whoever else at midweek, a full week’s sales of American artists easily pushed him down the charts and he certainly couldn’t compete on overall album sales.
    That’s not to take away from his achievement but it’s also to keep in mind that doing something in a relatively small country won’t necessarily translate elsewhere.
    It seems to be somewhat the equivalent of being big in Japan. I’d love to be big in Japan but it ain’t a world stage, that’s for sure. Nevertheless, a big moment for Ginger Wildheart and supporters. I’m sorry he had to ruin it for me but that’s the way it goes and a reminder of why I generally don’t try to get close to artists and mostly interview business people.

  15. Is chart position really an issue anyway? Surely it’s only a publicity route to get more people to hear your music. Rihanna, coldplay etc get number one albums because of the high level of promotion they receive from radio stations, written press etc. With no airplay and without the financial clout of a major label behind him I think Ginger’s achievement is totally remarkable.
    Besides, what I have not seen mentioned on this post is just how excellent an album Ginger has made here!

  16. Apparently it’s an issue for Wildheart. He became quite abusive over the title of this post even though I basically defended him in my discussion.
    I haven’t heard his album. Some people will love it, others won’t. Some will hate it, etc.
    I don’t write music reviews. I don’t read music reviews. I don’t trust reviewers. I think they’re mostly a parasitic form of life.
    I write about business not aesthetics.
    Clear enough for you, son?

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