Chart data collection change will under-report physical sales by 95%, say indie music stores
Indie music stores and labels are sounding the alarm over plans by Luminate, the music data provider for the Billboard charts, to change how it calculates physical sales at independent music outlets.
In recent years, the rise in vinyl and CD sales has been a positive story in the music industry and a boon to indie artists, labels, and stores.
As of December 29, 2023, Luminate will shift from its current “modeled methodology,” which takes sales from a sampling of stores and applies weighting or a multiplier to calculate total indie physical sales and to a direct representation of sales reported by indie retailers.
Billboard hails the change as an “improvement” and part of Luminate’s “continued mission to provide more accurate data to the music industry.”
But indie music stores, labels, and distributors say that it will result in the collapse of indie sales figures, since only 5% or 72 of the estimated 1400 indie stores report sales to Luminate.
“inexplicable but blatant attempt to diminish the importance of the physical market”
Several coalitions of independent stores, and the organziers of Record Store Day say that they have worked for the last eighteen months to increase the number of stores reporting to Luminate “despite the confusion and lack of clarity in that process.” But as of this week less than 5% of the indie record store are reporters.
“We have seen little to indicate that the number of reporting stores necessary to prevent a perceived market share collapse when these changes are implemented is attainable by the end of the year,” according to a joint statment signed by the Alliance of Independent Media Stores, Amoeba Music, Coalition of Independent Music Stores, Dept of Record Stores, and the F.A.M.S. (Forever A Music Store) Coalition.
“Our desire to be true partners in the effort to raise the number of reporting stores, thereby increasing the accuracy of the crucial data provided to labels, artists and management for decisions that will affect the entire industry has not been matched by Luminate.” the statement continues. “The changes laid out for the end of the year, which will affect not only the charts and data, but will directly impact over 1400 independently-owned businesses did not include input or approval from the record stores, from artist managers, or record labels.”
“We call for record labels, vinyl manufacturing plants, distribution companies, and record stores to be aware of this,” the statement concludes, “and to work together against this inexplicable but blatant attempt to diminish the importance of the physical market to the music business ecosystem.”
Stores that want to become Luminate reporters can begin the process here.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.