Approximately half the albums that have topped the Billboard album chart since the beginning of 2019 have been made available as part of a bundle, in which it is offered as an add-on sale to a more expensive item, typically an article of clothing or a concert ticket.
As a result, the album itself has been steadily devalued — at times, it can verge on an afterthought. Some artists, like Travis Scott and Taylor Swift, have turned the merchandise bundle into its own art form. And Billboard is constantly playing whack-a-mole with new attempts to game the sanctity of its chart, only to see new tricks emerge.
On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about the history of bundling, and how it has contributed to the reassessment of the album’s value. Plus, a discussion about whether in this era, an album-only chart is even the most useful and revealing way to assess popularity, relevance and success.