While U2 surprised the music world by releasing its new album, Songs of Innocence, today as a free download to iTunes Store account holders and for streaming on Beats Music, you won’t see it on the Billboard 200 albums chart for another month and a half.
Why not? Free or giveaway albums are not eligible for inclusion on Billboard’s album charts and do not count toward sales tracked by Nielsen SoundScan (which supplies data for Billboard’s sales-driven charts). The same sort of scenario played out in 2013 with Jay Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail album, which was given away to Samsung users, and, on occasion, when Google Play offers free downloads of select albums.
Once Songs of Innocence goes on sale beginning Oct. 14, it will then set its sights on Billboard’s sales charts. On that date, the album will be available in both standard and deluxe editions to physical and digital retailers, as well as on streaming services other than Beats. Until then, only current or new iTunes or Beats account holders will have access to the album.
Still, songs from the band’s new album, which is also being streamed through iTunes’ sister on-demand service Beats Music, could impact certain Billboard charts in the coming week. The set could see some of its tracks debut on the Streaming Songs or Hot Rock Songs charts, while the band itself could make a splash on the Social 50 tally (which tracks the most popular music artists across social networks).
In addition, the album’s lead single, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” could arrive on various airplay charts, including Alternative Songs, where U2 has notched a record 39 hits.
U2 has earned seven No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200, including its last two studio releases: No Line on the Horizon (issued in 2009) and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004).