A fly in every ointment

One thing I should have also pointed out in re SoundScan and road sales when I was talking about them a few days back is this: groups of any genre can’t count sales in churches. SoundScan doesn’t recognize a church as a qualified venue. Needless to say, a big drawback for artists considering whether or not to record sales with SoundScan. However, if you’re in an auditorium (say, the NQC exhibition hall), those sales are kosher. Which brings us again to the genius of Gaither’s old friends roadshow: all road sales from the Homecoming extravaganzas take place in metropolitan arenas. Sales can be calculated the night of the show, and an affidavit turned in to SoundScan the next morning, thus keeping the Wednesday sales report fresh with recent sales from the road. Of course, if you’re not Gaither, work a lot of church dates, and you’re shadily enterprising, there are ways (unethical, dishonest, and probably illegal, but ways all the same) around the SoundScan strictures. For instance, an artist might rename Community Megafaith Church on the SoundScan affidavit as Community Megafaith Auditorium and report sales from that gig as qualified transactions. Another loophole: artists are supposed to have a concert venue representative (the promoter of the event, for example) physically count the starting and ending product quantities with the a group representative and the match sales against the product tally at the end of the evening. That’s the ideal. The real can, as you might imagine, but much less pristine. Between not taking time to do the official starting count and too many promoters treating the talent like untouchable demigods - well, the dynamic can be conducive to less than stringent adherence to SoundScan guidelines. The realer reality is that if a group wants to, it can simply supply the sales total to the venue representative, who signs off in good faith. In many cases, the figures in question probably don’t vary appreciably from what would have resulted from the more official process. But there’s also nothing to stop someone from inflating the number, especially in the days and weeks after a project is first released, when strong SoundScan showings means better Billboard position. Still, all that being the case, I don’t think these compromises make the SoundScan/Billboard process inferior to or as equally flawed as the current sg system. While it probably isn’t the exact way sg needs to go, it is a model worth pursuing because - warts and all - it links chart position to sales, and sales is about the best measure we have of what is working.

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