In a last-minute decision Bilboard magazine revised its chart policy to allow the Eagles to debut at #1 over Britney Spears’ new album. Without this change, the Eagles wouldn’t have charted at all because their album is only for sale at Wal-Mart.
In consultation with Nielsen SoundScan, Billboard will now allow exclusive album titles that are only available through one retailer to appear on The Billboard 200 and other charts, effective with this week’s charts. Prior to this, proprietary titles were not eligible to appear on most Billboard charts.
It’s notable that Eagles manager Irving Azoff had been vying for this change for the entire week leading up to the decision. “If the Eagles were SoundScanning this week, even though it’s only available at one retailer, Britney wouldn’t be No. 1,” Azoff told Billboard on Wednesday, October 31.
In explaining the change, senior analyst and director of charts Geoff Mayfield said, “We know that some retailers will be uncomfortable with this policy, but it was inevitable that Billboard‘s charts would ultimately widen the parameters to reflect changes that are unfolding in music distribution. We would have preferred to make this decision earlier, but only became aware within the last 24 hours that Wal-Mart would be willing to share the data for this title with Nielsen SoundScan.”
Although the Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden is a double album, that does not mean the 711,000 sales figure represents 355,500 actual sales (counted twice). It is true that the RIAA counts shipments of double albums twice when calculating its Gold and Platinum certifications, but SoundScan numbers represent actual sales. So 711,000 means 711,000 (as long as you can trust Wal-Mart). Britney Spears’ Blackout sold 290,000 copies.