The Soundscan Chart Will No Longer Be Published

As you may have noticed, the Soundscan chart has not been posted since the chart for the week of 10/26 – 11/1 was released. I have been checking the chart multiple times a day since November 9 to see when it would update, since it normally updates on Monday nights around 11 PM my time (Eastern Standard Time). I was concerned after it didn’t update one week, and then another. There was finally a resolution on November 19. Phile-web, the site that publishes the Soundscan chart, announced that they would no longer publish the chart as of November 1. No official cause has been given.

This news came as a surprise, not only to myself, but to other chart watchers as well, including Japanese netizens. Soundscan was noted for breaking down cd sales based on the edition, rather than the title like Oricon. Readers of the chart were able to see how much certain editions were selling individually. The chart was also known for not including sales from company stores, due to it wanting to measure sales made by conventional methods. This lead to differences in the figures between Soundscan and Oricon. AKB48, for example, didn’t have their theater editions counted, which would create a difference of about 80% between their Soundscan figures and their Oricon figures. Soundscan also counted some stores that Oricon didn’t, which benefited some acts, specifically acts from Johnny & Associates. Johnny’s acts were known to have Soundscan sales that were at times tens of thousands higher than those of Oricon’s. A recent example would be Arashi’s album “Japonism.” Oricon reported that the album sold 820,208 copies in its first week, while Soundscan reported the album’s first week sales as 862,586.

Soundscan gave a different perspective on the Japanese music industry and its chart system, a perspective that is no longer available publicly. The Soundscan figures will continue to be used by Billboard as part of their charts though, as well as by Nikkei. There is speculation that Soundscan figures being available to the public wasn’t in the best interest of the Japanese music industry. Soundscan was known for being a chart that was less gimmick-heavy, in contrast to Oricon. Some took Soundscan’s numbers to be a better representation of sales than Oricon because they cut out more gimmicks and included more stores. Some acts, management companies, and labels were exposed via Soundscan as being heavily reliant on gimmicks. This is not something that they would want the public to know, so there is a train of thought that this cessation of releasing the chart publicly was a power play.

The ending of the public release of the Soundscan chart brings to mind the demise of the Recording Industry Association of Japan Digital Track Chart. That chart ran from 2009 – 2012. When it debuted, it collected sales information from 5 digital stores, including Recochoku, the largest digital music service at the time. In 2010, they added sales from 9 more digital music stores to their figures. The chart met its demise in 2012. It was originally going to be retooled, but in the end was killed off. The speculation around the demise of the RIAJ Digital Track Chart is similar to that of the speculation around the ending of the publication of the Soundscan chart. Both were seen as a challenge to the status quo. Now when it comes to digital sales, the most we have to measure are individual store charts and RIAJ digital certifications.

The cessation of the publication of the Soundscan chart is another example of an industry that is trying to keep people on the outside from seeing things that they don’t want them to see.