The U.K.-based Official Charts Company (OCC) is relaxing its rules to boost album sales.

It wants to enable a greater variety of special-edition albums, including reissues and those packaged with related merchandise, to qualify for the same chart position.

The move, which is scheduled to come into effect on a trial basis from Sept. 29, will be reviewed early 2009. But the OCC says it has been launched in time for the year's important fourth quarter period, including the Christmas sales.

There are two key changes: one for reissues and another for albums sold with artist-branded merchandise.

Currently, the sales of a Deluxe reissue is eligible for the chart only if the 80% cross-over rule applies.

This means an alternative version of the standard album or the reissue must have at least 80% of the content on the original to qualify. For example, at least eight of the 10 original tracks must be on the reissue for it to count towards the same chart position.

The second change applies to albums packaged with artist-branded merchandise, ranging from small items like badges and keyrings to larger product such as T-shirts and drinking mugs.

For albums packaged with small items or offered with a parallel downloadable version, the minimum PPD (published price to dealer) or wholesale price must be at least 20% more than the PPD for a standard album.

For albums sold and packaged with much larger merchandise, the minimum PPD must be 80% higher than the wholesale price for a standard album.

As long as they meet these new criteria, sales of these alternative versions of the album will be added to standard releases to count towards one chart position.

During the trial period in the first six months, the OCC is encouraging all labels to make inquiries in advance of any releases to ensure their albums qualify.

"These changes, which were driven by retailers' demand, are designed to encourage greater experimentation in the packaging of albums through the creation of more enhanced value packages for consumers. We hope it will help support sales," said Martin Talbot, the OCC's managing director.