A2IM demands 75% adoption before Luminate shifts Billboard indie chart data collections

Echoing the concerns of indie music stores and labels over plans by Luminate to change how it calculates physical sales reported to Billboard, A2iM (American Association of Independent Music) calling for a pause until store adoption exceeds 75%.

Limunate’s plan centers on moving from the current reporting – which takes sales from a sampling of stores and applies weighting to calculate total indie physical sales – to actual sales reported by approved indie retailers.

95% of Indie Music Sales Unreported

Many observers believe that if the new Billboard charts are launched with the current 5% -12% store adoption, as much as 95% of indie retail sales will go unreported.

“Unless/until at least 75% of Luminate’s 642  identified shops are onboarded and reporting – repeatedly, durably, and with troubleshooting behind them – the weighted data modeling must continue,” wrote Dr. Richard James Burgess MBE, A2IM President and CEO.

Full text of the A2IM letter to Luminate


Attn: Stephen Blackwell 

Dear Stephen,  

After months of discussion and despite clear feedback and guidance from the independent sector, Luminate has elected to proceed with an Indie Strata Adjustment plan that aligns with an arbitrary calendar deadline rather than a level of compliance/adoption. This contradicts Luminate’s own data standards, ignores the resultant manipulation to market share, and is patently unacceptable.  

Comprehensive, accurate data is our preference and Luminate’s responsibility. We agree that weighted data has never been optimal and that the evolution toward direct data and hundreds more retailers in-system is the right path forward. But with such a  small fraction of shops on-boarded and reporting – less than 12% by their own math,  less than 5% by some coalitions’ count – weighting remains a necessary stopgap.  

Our assertion: 

The only acceptable Adjustment plan is one which relies on robust and transparent data as the foundation for ending data modeling. Unless/until at least 75% of Luminate’s 642  identified shops are onboarded and reporting – repeatedly, durably, and with troubleshooting behind them – the weighted data modeling must continue.  

Anything less undermines Luminate’s stated commitment to objective and trustworthy information. It compromises their product and disenfranchises independent labels and shops alike.  

This is the baseline. A truly thorough process would, in our view, also include the  following: 

  1. A transparent and publicly available rubric for what constitutes eligibility for a  shop to report.  
  2. Support / Knowledge Base resources for shops that are thorough, transparent,  easily accessible and proactively provided to retailers without an account or paywall obstacle. 
  3. Meaningful reciprocal resources for shops. This recognizes that retailers are provided no compensation despite the time and labor costs required to onboard and report, and in recognition that this work supports Luminate’s bottom line. We feel strongly this should be brokered between Luminate and the stores’ coalitions.  

There is much more work to be done here. Luminate identifies what we understand to  be 642 stores (72 current reporters plus 570 for onboarding) while coalitions estimate  that number at 1100, 1400 or even 1600. These numbers should be scrutinized and,  again, a clear rubric for qualification should be determined. But that concern sits beside  the one in front of us. Unless/until the adoption level is sufficiently high that it renders  data modeling demonstrably obsolete, weighted data modeling must continue.  

Yours Sincerely, 

Dr. Richard James Burgess MBE (he/him) 

President and CEO 

A2IM (American Association of Independent Music) 

MORE: Chart data collection change will under-report physical sales by 95%, say indie music stores

Bruce Houghton is the Founder and Editor of Hypebot, a Senior Advisor at Bandsintown, President of the Skyline Artists Agency, and a Berklee College Of Music professor.

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