Understanding: Music Clubs #1 – Janet Jackson, Celine Dion


II) Understanding

A) Clubs treatment on charts & certifications

Now that we know Club sales represented roughly 10% of US sales during four consecutive decades from the 60s to the 90s, we must understand how that impacts charts and sales as we know them.

Charts-wise, it is quite simple – Club sales have always been fully excluded from Billboard Charts. They are completely excluded from Soundscan figures as well, the automatic tracking system in place in the US since 1991.

What about certifications? Technically speaking, Club sales have always been allowed into certifications. In reality, it was pretty much impossible to certify them until January 1st 1994. To understand why, you must consider there was three distinct naming of a sale on Clubs:

A – Membership agreement offer
B – Bonus / gifted albums
C – Regular sales

The first two category of sales were excluded from RIAA certifications until 1994 rules change. The point is that those sales represented the large majority of Columbia House and BMG Music Club sales. As shown in 1977 Columbia House commercial at the top of the page such induction offers have been on place from the first day to the last one of those two clubs history. Those famous “12 albums for $1” offers led many people to register in the Club, wait for special bonuses to pick their mandatory 4 to 8 regular priced albums and then stopped the enrollment to start a new one, benefiting again from the induction offer. This is how Joseph Parvin collected 26,554 albums for almost nothing, over 2,417 different customer accounts, then selling them illegally.

One may say there is still regular sales eligible for certification purpose. While this is in theory true, Clubs royalties payments weren’t allowing it. Indeed, those payments were done on a monthly basis as per sales of each album. Membership agreement offer sales weren’t reported at all as Clubs weren’t paying royalties on them while both bonus and regular sales were reported together, making it impossible to certify just one category of sales. As a result, from 1994 to 1996 many historical strong sellers enjoyed huge jumps in certifications thanks to the retrospective addition of copies sold through Clubs over years.

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