- Independent music retailers are fabricating numbers reported to Nielsen Soundscan, inflating the number of albums sold by music labels such as white-hot Island Def Jam, The Post has learned.
It's not clear who is behind the scheme, which involves shipping boxes of albums for free to some independent retailers, according to well-placed sources.
The retailers reap all the profits from the sale of the extra albums, and in exchange report bogus figures to Nielsen Soundscan, the standard reporting agency for the record industry, the sources say.
The record labels do not receive any income from the sale of the albums shipped free, nor do they profit directly from the bogus figures reported to Soundscan.
Labels could benefit from the bogus numbers, however, if they served to propel a record up the charts, boosting radio play and sales. Industry sources say Nielsen Soundscan numbers are typically factored into bonuses. But a spokesperson for Universal, the parent of Island Def Jam, said its executive compensation is not linked to the numbers and never has been.
This sounds like a darn fine deal for the retailers: free goods for overreporting - why not?
- In one example of the sales inflation, an indie retailer in the Southeast recently reported to Nielsen Soundscan that it had sold roughly 3,000 percent more copies of Jay-Z's new album, "Blueprint 2" - an Island Def Jam release - than it actually did, according to sources both at the retail level and close to Universal.
The scheme was verified by another indie retailer in the Southeast, which typically reports to Nielsen Soundscan triple the amount actually sold. For example, this store sold roughly 50 copies of Jay-Z's album recently, but scanned 150 for Nielsen Soundscan.
This source says the practice has been ongoing for about three years, and is not limited to Island Def Jam releases.
Someone somewhere is gaining something concrete we aren't hearing about here. Something is missing for the picture - we don't know the whole motive yet.
Fine reporting by by Tom Arango in the NY Post nonetheless.