Luminate, the architect behind the data shaping Billboard’s music charts, stands firm on a contentious strategy to revolutionize its approach to gauging US physical music sales, a move causing concern among some industry players who fear it may lead to the under-reporting of indie music store sales.

In a letter dispatched to indie retailers and music entities last Wednesday (December 13), Luminate communicated that, following consultations with “all facets of the music industry,” the consensus dictates that the current weighted modeling should be retired. Presently, Luminate calculates physical music sales (vinyl, CDs, and cassettes), wherein it adjusts sales figures from reporting stores to compensate for non-reporting establishments.

Last October, Luminate declared its intention to phase out this system, favoring a model where it directly reports numbers supplied by record stores. The company asserts that this shift will enhance data accuracy and quality, addressing concerns about “organized efforts” to manipulate the data.

Despite Luminate’s assurance, some in the indie music domain worry that this alteration may result in the underreporting of physical music sales.

In a letter to the company, Richard James Burgess, President and CEO of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), expressed that only a “small fraction” of physical music retailers, constituting 5% to 12% of all stores, are actively reporting their sales. “Unless/until at least 75% of Luminate’s 642 identified shops are onboarded and reporting – repeatedly, durably, and with troubleshooting behind them – the weighted data modeling must continue,” the letter emphasized.

Contrary to this estimate, Luminate claims a significantly higher sales coverage in its statement, asserting “93% coverage of the total US physical music market, including independent retail stores.” The company also revealed plans to incentivize indie retailers to report their numbers by sharing weekly physical sales data. The data-sharing initiative is set to commence in the first chart week of 2024, coinciding with the implementation of Luminate’s new direct measuring system for physical music sales.

Luminate is optimistic about the switch to direct reporting, stating, “The goal of this change is for us to present the most accurate data possible to the industry, which is always our primary goal.” The company aims to collaborate with the music industry to find solutions that benefit all parties involved.