Records sold at such nontraditional record outlets as supermarkets and gift shops also fail to appear on Soundscan. When the Beatles’ double album “Anthology 1” was released in November, for example, Capitol Records sent out a press release stating that the album had sold 200,000 more copies than Soundscan’s figure of 855,000. (Capitol said it based the figure on oral reports from retailers.)
As Soundscan enters its sixth year of compiling the pop charts, is it facing a future of even more schemes and more sophisticated schemes aimed at manipulating its sales figures? Perhaps, but for now the company and music industry officials agree that behind-the-scenes tinkering will only get a record so far.
“One thing that Soundscan has proven is that you can fake it some of the way up the chart but you can’t fake it all the way,” said a record label executive who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Ultimately, if the record doesn’t work with people, no matter how much you pervert the figures it doesn’t matter. What these things can only do is help expose a record. From that point on, it’s up to the public to decide.”