Billboard is set to tighten the rules that determine US chart positions over widespread concerns as to how music, ticket and merchandise bundles are impacting sales accuracy.

The New York Times newspaper reports that the media company has held a series of industry meetings in recent months as it looks to change how sales are calculated.

A Billboard No. 1 album is a widely sought-after accolade, which has driven artists to methods such as offering free downloads of new albums with concert ticket sales, as well as clothing or other merchandise to boost their numbers.

Deanna Brown, the president of the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group, a division of Valence Media, told the NYT that it plans to “throw a flag on the field” later this year by tightening the rules on merchandise bundling and their impact on the charts. She cited complaints that some artists are trying to game the system to achieve higher chart places.

The NYT calculates that in 2018 at least 18 of the 39 titles that hit the No.1 spot were sold as part of ticket or merchandise deals. For example, rapper Travis Scott (pictured) hit the top position by selling key chains, hats and access to concert tickets with his Astroworld album, while a year-old Bon Jovi album shot to No.1 following a ticketing promotion drive.

The widespread use of album bundles in recent years has been linked to the growth of streaming and downward trend in album sales. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, between 2015 and 2018 revenue from album downloads fell by 53 per cent in the US and CD sales fell by 52 per cent. Over the same period, streaming revenue more than tripled.

Image: Brandon Dull