is an information and sales tracking system created by Mike Fine and Mike Shalett. Soundscan is the official method of tracking sales of music and music video products throughout the United States and Canada. Data is collected weekly and made available every Wednesday to subscribers, which include executives from all facets of record companies, publishing firms, music retailers, independent promoters, film and TV, and artist management. SoundScan is the sales source for the Billboard
Billboard is a weekly American magazine devoted to the music industry, and is one of the oldest trade magazines in the world. It maintains several internationally recognized music charts that track the most popular songs and albums in various categories on a weekly basis...
music charts, making it the official source of sales records in the music industry.
Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales data for Nielsen
since March 1, 1991. The May 25 issue of Billboard
published Billboard 200
The Billboard 200 is a ranking of the 200 highest-selling music albums and EPs in the United States, published weekly by Billboard magazine. It is frequently used to convey the popularity of an artist or groups of artists...
and Country Music 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.
The Recording Industry Association of America
The Recording Industry Association of America is a trade organization that represents the recording industry distributors in the United States...
also tracks sales (or more specifically, shipments less potential returns) on a long-term basis through the RIAA certification
In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America awards certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets. Other countries have similar awards...
system; it has never used either Nielsen SoundScan or the store-calling method.
How Nielsen SoundScan tracks sales
Sales data from cash register
A cash register or till is a mechanical or electronic device for calculating and recording sales transactions, and an attached cash drawer for storing cash...
s 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 and the U.K.
The requirements for reporting sales to Nielsen SoundScan are that the store has Internet access and a point of sale
Point of sale or checkout is the location where a transaction occurs...
(POS) inventory system. Submission of sales data to Nielsen SoundScan must be in the form of a text file
A text file is a kind of computer file that is structured as a sequence of lines of electronic text. A text file exists within a computer file system...
consisting of all the UPC
The Universal Product Code is a barcode symbology , that is widely used in North America, and in countries including the UK, Australia, and New Zealand for tracking trade items in stores. Its most common form, the UPC-A, consists of 12 numerical digits, which are uniquely assigned to each trade item...
s sold and the quantities per UPC on a weekly basis. Sales collected from Monday-Sunday or Sunday-Saturday are reported to SoundScan every Monday and made available to SoundScan subscribers every Wednesday.
Nielsen SoundScan clients include:
- All major and many independent labels.
- Distribution companies.
- Artist managers and booking agents.
- Concert promoters and venue owners.
- Online retailers and "digital delivery" companies.
Registering a product to be tracked by SoundScan
Anyone selling a music product with its own UPC or ISRC may register that product to be tracked by Nielsen SoundScan. Registration is free at this time and simply requires that one completes either the Title Reigistration
or ISRC Registration
online. Registration takes approximately 3-5 business days, so it is recommended that the form be submitted at least 2 weeks prior to the product's release date.
Viewing SoundScan Data
SoundScan is a subscription based service with many packages available for varying levels of access. Subscriptions must be negotiated with SoundScan. Billboard publishes music charts on a weekly basis which use SoundScan data, but do not give sales figures.
- Music recording sales certification
Music recording sales certification is a system of certifying that a music recording has shipped or sold a certain number of copies, where the threshold quantity varies by type and by nation or territory .Almost all countries follow variations of the RIAA certification categories,...
- Best-selling albums in the United States since Nielsen SoundScan tracking began
DigiListan is a Swedish radio programme in SR P3 airing the top singles sold electronically to computers, mobile phones and other kinds of media players in Sweden . The statistics are created using Nielsen SoundScan....
- Swedish radio programme using Nielsen SoundScan to create its statistics