Every year, Sony releases a list of their best-selling albums to shareholders. But as the very concept of an album mutates to include visual elements, and with the way people imbibe music forever changed by the rise of streaming, downloading, and other forms of digital distribution — which favour single tracks over bodies of work — the old mode of reporting simply doesn’t cut it.
Cue a slight change in language and Sony’s list of “Top 10 best-selling recorded music projects” – the company’s latest musical sales report.
Beyonce’s Lemonade tops the fiscal year ending March 31, an album which was conceived of as a whole, but heavily reliant on an accompanying HBO film to provide context. Sitting in second place is an odd assortment of Chainsmokers releases named Collage EP + New York City – which handily combines the five EP tracks with a previous single to extra boom. Likewise, at #5 sits the lazily named ‘Collection of tracks’ from Calvin Harris – which is exactly as it sounds.
The explanation for the new wording states: “Projects are the aggregation of revenue from albums and digital track exploitation. Revenue within the quarter may also include revenue from individual tracks not associated with an album, or associated with a future album.”
So basically, artists such as The Chainsmokers and Calvin Harris, the latter of whom has stated he may never again release what was traditionally conceived of as an album, are eligible for inclusion in the company’s own chart. It seems like an odd work-around for what is basically an exercise in self-reporting, but it points to a looser future of less-definable art.
These nebulous musical projects are becoming more and more common — where does Frank Ocean’s Endless sit? — and will cause chaos in the chart world; but this has been due for an overhaul for some time. As it stands, streaming counts towards Platinum sales, EPs are landing in the top reaches of Albums charts, and entire albums are clogging the singles chart. We are in a time of major flux.
Sony are taking the lead with this looser definition of what makes up an album, but we’re still some way off this being anything more than a company trying to bolster its annual shareholder reporting.