The Billboard R&B/hip-hop sales charts are experiencing a notable upgrade, as Nielsen SoundScan’s panel of core stores has undergone its first significant revision in six years.

The Billboard R&B/hip-hop sales charts are experiencing a notable upgrade, as Nielsen SoundScan’s panel of core stores has undergone its first significant revision in six years.

The revamp roughly doubles the size of the subset panel that determines rankings for Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales and billboard.com’s Top Rap Albums chart. It also removes stores that have closed since the last revision. The panel now includes 966 outlets.

The criteria for the new panel are the same as when the first panel was installed in 1992.
Stores with a higher-than-average volume of R&B/hip-hop sales and a broader selection of titles from those genres are identified. Additionally, each individual location must reside in a market that hosts at least one radio station that plays current hip-hop and R&B music. Those filters help steer the Billboard R&B and rap sales lists to reflect airplay at stations dedicated to those genres, rather than the influence of songs migrating to other formats.

The revision adds independent and chain shops to the mix, as well as a swath of mass-merchant locations, including -- for the first time -- stores racked by Handleman Co. and Anderson Merchandisers. The number of Target stores has also increased significantly.

“On paper, the previous panel comprised 516 locations,” says Billboard director of charts Geoff Mayfield, “but many of the chain and independent stores on that list had closed over time. Now, with more than 900 stores in place, the chart can more accurately reflect the vibrant sales of the R&B and rap categories.”

The year-long process of upgrading the panel was orchestrated by Billboard R&B/hip-hop charts manager Minal Patel, with assistance from Mayfield and Chris Muratore, Nielsen Entertainment director of retail relations and research services.