Billboard reports all album releases after Jan. 3 must comply with the new rules, even if the bundles went on sale beforehand. The same also goes for already-released albums and artists who want to count further sales on album charts.
Bundling is the practice of selling merchandise with a download of an album, which is usually free. The method raises sales numbers. After Jan. 3, the merch/album bundle must cost at least $3.49 more than the merchandise alone; albums must cost a minimum price of $3.49 to qualify for the charts. That means a $40 piece of apparel that includes a download, must cost $43.49 to count towards an album sale for charts.
Additionally, bundled items must now “be available for purchase concurrently and individually on the same website,” Billboard writes. The bundle can only be sold via “an artist’s official direct-to-consumer web store and not via third-party sites.”
According to Pitchfork, Kanye, Tyler, the Creator, Post Malone, Ariana Grande, and more have all landed No. 1 albums this year due to bundling.
Tyler and DJ Khaled’s spat from earlier this year caused a good deal of controversy surrounding bundling practices. Khaled was furious when Tyler’s album IGOR debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album in late May, instead of Father of Asahd, which landed at No. 2.
The outcome was a byproduct of bundling: IGOR’s numbers were boosted by sales of clothing, buttons, and “VOTE IGOR” lawn signs. Khaled offered bundles as well, but many of his sales were disqualified due to partnering with a third-party site.
Though Khaled said his issue was with Billboard, he reportedly stormed into the Epic Records office where he caused a scene and even took slick shots at Tyler online. “Here's the thing, I make albums so people can play it,” Khaled said in a since-deleted video. “It's playing everywhere… Not no mysterious shit, and you never hear it."
On June 10, reports then emerged that Khaled was planning on suing Billboard over the chart results. However, that same day, Khaled’s album ascended to No. 1 of the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. “ANOTHER ONE ! SUMMER IS OURS !” he wrote alongside a screenshot of the Billboard chart on Instagram. He then took a moment to subtly diss Tyler again: “I’m in the music bizz not bundle bizz.”