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Luminate (formerly Nielsen SoundScan, Nielsen Music Products, and MRC Data) is a provider of music sales
data In the pursuit of knowledge, data (; ) is a collection of discrete values that convey information, describing quantity, quality, fact, statistics, other basic units of meaning, or simply sequences of symbols that may be further interp ...
. Established by Mike Fine and Mike Shalett in 1991, data is collected weekly and made available every Sunday (for albums sales) and every Monday (for songs sales) to subscribers, which include record companies, publishing firms, music retailers, independent promoters, film and TV companies, and artist managers. It is the source of sales information for the ''Billboard'' music charts. It is owned by PMRC, a joint venture between
Eldridge Industries Eldridge Industries LLC is an American holding company headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, with offices in New York City, London, and Beverly Hills. Eldridge makes investments in various industries including insurance, asset management, techn ...
(publisher of ''Billboard'') and
Penske Media Corporation Penske Media Corporation (PMC) () is an American digital media, publishing, and information services company based in Los Angeles and New York City. It publishes more than 20 digital and print brands, including ''Variety (magazine), Variety'', ' ...
. The company operates the analytics platform Music Connect, Broadcast Data Systems (which tracks airplay of music), and Music 360.


History

Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales data for Nielsen on March 1, 1991. The May 25 issue of ''
Billboard A billboard (also called a hoarding in the UK and many other parts of the world) is a large outdoor advertising structure (a billing board), typically found in high-traffic areas such as alongside busy roads. Billboards present large advertis ...
'' published ''Billboard'' 200 and Country Album charts based on SoundScan "piece count data," and the first Hot 100 chart to debut with the system was released on November 30, 1991. Previously, ''Billboard'' tracked sales by calling stores across the U.S. and asking about sales—a method that was inherently error-prone and open to outright fraud. Indeed, while transitioning from the calling to tracking methods, the airplay and sales charts (already monitored by Nielsen) and the Hot 100 (then still using the calling system) often did not match (for instance
Paula Abdul Paula Julie Abdul (born June 19, 1962) is an American singer, dancer, choreographer, actress, and television personality. She began her career as a National Basketball Association Cheerleading, cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers at the ag ...
's " Promise of a New Day" and Roxette's " Fading Like a Flower" reached much higher Hot 100 peaks than their actual sales and airplay would have allowed them to). Although most record company executives conceded that the new method was far more accurate than the old, the chart's volatility and its geographical balance initially caused deep concern, before the change and the market shifts it brought about were accepted across the industry. Tower Records, the country's second-largest retail chain, was originally not included in the sample because its stores were equipped with different technology to measure sales. At first, some industry executives complained that the new system—which relied on high-tech sales measurement rather than store employee estimates—was based on an inadequate sample, one that favored established and mainstream acts over newcomers. The
Recording Industry Association of America The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a Trade association, trade organization that represents the music industry, music recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors that the RIA ...
also tracks sales (or more specifically, shipments minus potential returns) on a long-term basis through the
RIAA certification In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) awards certification based on the number of albums and single (music), singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets.Set Adrift on Memory Bliss" by P.M. Dawn. Other changes would also largely impact the Hot 100 in the future, consisting of radio-only songs being able to chart in 1998, and YouTube views playing part of how a Hot 100 is decided in 2013. In December 2019,
Eldridge Industries Eldridge Industries LLC is an American holding company headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, with offices in New York City, London, and Beverly Hills. Eldridge makes investments in various industries including insurance, asset management, techn ...
' Valence Media, the current parent company of ''Billboard'', acquired Nielsen's music data business, reuniting it with ''Billboard'' for the first time since its spin-off to E5 Global Media from Nielsen Business Media. It was renamed MRC Data in 2020 after
Eldridge Industries Eldridge Industries LLC is an American holding company headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, with offices in New York City, London, and Beverly Hills. Eldridge makes investments in various industries including insurance, asset management, techn ...
merged Valence with the film and television studio MRC. and was then brought under its PMRC joint venture with
Penske Media Corporation Penske Media Corporation (PMC) () is an American digital media, publishing, and information services company based in Los Angeles and New York City. It publishes more than 20 digital and print brands, including ''Variety (magazine), Variety'', ' ...
as P-MRC Data. It was renamed once more to Luminate Data in March 2022. In August 2022, the MRC merger was unwound, with Eldridge Industries taking sole ownership of its stake in PMRC.


Tracking

Sales data from cash registers is collected from 14,000 retail, mass merchant, and non-traditional (on-line stores, venues, digital music services, etc.) outlets in the United States, Canada, UK and Japan. The requirements for reporting sales to Nielsen Music are that the store has Internet access and a
point of sale The point of sale (POS) or point of purchase (POP) is the time and place at which a retail transaction is completed. At the point of sale, the merchant calculates the amount owed by the customer, indicates that amount, may prepare an invoice f ...
(POS) inventory system. Submission of sales data must be in the form of a
text file A text file (sometimes spelled textfile; an old alternative name is flatfile) is a kind of computer file that is structured as a sequence of line (text file), lines of electronic text. A text file exists Data storage, stored as data within a com ...
consisting of all the UPCs sold and the quantities per UPC on a weekly basis. Sales collected from Monday-Sunday or Sunday-Saturday are reported every Monday and made available to subscribers every Wednesday. Anyone selling a music product with its own UPC or ISRC may register that product to be tracked by Luminate.


Sales calculation

Not all retailers participate in the SoundScan program, so total CD sales are projected from the collected data using a statistical calculation called " weighting". This assigns a multiplier to each category of stores, to compensate for the number of similar stores not covered by the sampling program. Sales in each category are multiplied accordingly. Such a system is vulnerable to exploitation if it is known which stores are included in the sampling program. To inflate their reported chart sales, some indie labels were reported to purposefully target stores in the program for on-site sales promotions. Also, other labels were found shipping boxes of their CDs to be scanned by complicit retailers in the program.


Impact

The incorporation of SoundScan tracking by the ''Billboard'' charting system was cited by the industry as a possible cause of the early '90s popularization of alternative music in the United States. An explanation floated was that the previous call system under-represented marginal genres. Under SoundScan, more accurate data on alternative music sales allowed these acts to appear higher in the ''Billboard'' charts than before, and their chart success helped increase the genre's popularity. In addition, SoundScan sales data quickly found use in the promotion departments at major record labels, to persuade radio station music directors to play tracks by high-selling alternative artists such as
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.


See also

*
Album era The album era was a period in English-language popular music from the mid-1960s to the mid-2000s in which the album An album is a collection of audio recordings issued on compact disc (CD), Phonograph record, vinyl, audio tape, or ano ...
*
Music recording certification Music recording certification is a system of certifying that a music Sound recording, recording has shipped, sold, or streamed a certain number of units. The threshold quantity varies by type (such as album, single, music video) and by nation o ...
* List of best-selling albums in the United States of the Nielsen SoundScan era * DigiListan – Swedish radio programme using Nielsen SoundScan to create its statistics


References


External links


Nielsen Music Sales Measurement (formerly SoundScan)
{{Nielsen Distribution (marketing) Market research organizations Telecommunications-related introductions in 1991 American music industry