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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. Often, a recording act will be remembered by its "number ones", those of their albums that outsold all others during at least one week.

The chart is based solely on sales (both at retail and digitally) in the United States. The sales tracking week begins on Monday and ends on Sunday. A new chart is published the following Thursday with an issue date of the following Saturday.

Example:
Monday 1 January — sales tracking week begins
Sunday 7 January — sales tracking week ends
Thursday 11 January — new chart published, with issue date of Saturday 20 January.

Normally new product is released to the American market on Tuesdays. Digital downloads are included in Billboard 200 tabulation, as long as the entire album is purchased as a whole. Albums that are not licensed for retail sale in the United States (yet purchased in the U.S. as imports) are not eligible to chart. A long-standing policy which made ineligible titles that are sold exclusively by specific retail outlets, such as Wal-Mart or Starbucks, was reversed on November 7, 2007, and took effect in the issue dated November 17.

The current number-one album (as of the issue dated October 18 2008) on the Billboard 200 is Paper Trail by T.I.

History

Billboard began publishing an album chart in 1945. Initially only five positions long, the album chart was not published on a weekly basis, sometimes three to seven weeks passing before it was updated. A biweekly (though with a few gaps), 15-position Best-Selling Popular Albums chart appeared in 1955. With the explosion of rock and roll music, Billboard premiered a weekly Best-Selling Popular Albums chart on March 24, 1956. The position count varied anywhere from ten to thirty albums. The first number-one album on the new weekly list was Belafonte by Harry Belafonte. The chart was renamed to Best-Selling Pop Albums later in 1956, and then to Best-Selling Pop LPs in 1957.

Beginning on May 25, 1959, Billboard split the ranking into two charts, Best-Selling Stereophonic LPs for stereo albums (thirty positions) and Best-Selling Monophonic LPs for mono albums (fifty positions). These were renamed to Stereo Action Charts (thirty positions) and Mono Action Charts (forty positions) in 1960. In January 1961, they became Action Albums—Stereophonic (15 positions) and Action Albums—Monophonic (25 positions). Three months later, they became Top LPs—Stereo (50 positions) and Top LPs—Monaural (150 positions).

On August 17, 1963 the stereo and mono charts were combined into a 150-position chart called Top LPs. On April 1, 1967, the chart was expanded to 175 positions, then finally to 200 positions on May 13, 1967. In 1972 the album chart's title was changed to Top LPs & Tapes; in 1984 it was retitled Top 200 Albums; in 1985 it was retitled again to Top Pop Albums; in 1991 it became The Billboard 200 Top Albums; and it was given its current title of The Billboard 200 on March 14, 1992.

Catalog albums

In 1960, Billboard began concurrently publishing album charts which ranked sales of older or mid-priced titles. These Essential Inventory charts were divided by stereo and mono albums, and featured titles that had already appeared on the main stereo and mono album charts. Mono albums were moved to the Essential Inventory—Mono chart (25 positions) after spending forty weeks on the Mono Action Chart, and stereo albums were moved to the Essential Inventory—Stereo chart (20 positions) after twenty weeks on the Stereo Action Chart.

In January 1961, the Action Charts became Action Albums—Monophonic (24 positions), and Action Albums—Stereophonic (15 positions). Albums appeared on either chart for up to nine weeks, then were moved to an Essential Inventory list of approximately 200 titles, with no numerical ranking. This list continued to be published until the consolidated Top LPs chart debuted in 1963.

In 1982, Billboard began publishing a Midline Albums chart which ranked older or mid-priced titles. The chart held fifty positions and was published on a bi-weekly (and later tri-weekly) basis.

On March 25, 1991 Billboard premiered the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart. Current criteria for this chart are albums that are more than eighteen months old and have fallen below position 100 on the Billboard 200. An album need not have charted on the Billboard 200 at all to qualify for catalog status.

Holiday albums

Billboard has adjusted its policies for holiday albums several times. Holiday albums were eligible for the main album charts until 1963, when a Christmas Albums list was created. Albums appearing here were not listed on the Top LPs chart. In 1974 this rule was reverted and holiday albums again appeared within the main list.

In 1982 the Christmas Albums chart was resurrected, but a title's appearance here did not disqualify it from appearing on the Top Pop Albums chart. In 1994 the chart was retitled Top Holiday Albums. As of 2006 the chart holds fifty positions and is run for several weeks during the end-of-calendar-year holiday season. Its current policy allows holiday albums to concurrently chart on the Top Holiday Albums list and the Billboard 200, but only during the album's first year of release. After a holiday album's first year, it can return to Top Holiday Albums in future years but then is only eligible to concurrently appear on the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart.

Nielsen SoundScan

Since May 26, 1991, the Billboard 200's positions have been derived from Nielsen SoundScan sales data, as of 2008 contributed by approximately 14,000 music sellers. Because these numbers are supplied by a subset of sellers rather than record labels, it is common for these numbers to be substantially lower than those reported by the Recording Industry Association of America when Gold, Platinum and Diamond album awards are announced (RIAA awards reflect wholesale shipments, not retail sales).

Year-end charts

Billboard’s "chart year" runs from the first week of December to the final week in November. This altered calendar allows for Billboard to calculate year-end charts and release them in time for its final print issue on the last week of December. Prior to Nielsen SoundScan, year-end charts were calculated by an inverse-point system based solely on an album's performance on the Billboard 200 (for example, an album would be given one point for a week spent at position 200, two points for a week spent at position 199… up to 200 points for each week spent at number one). Other factors including the total weeks on the chart and at its peak position were calculated into an album's year-end total.

After Billboard began obtaining sales information from Nielsen SoundScan, the year-end charts are now calculated by a very straightforward cumulative total of yearlong sales. This gives a more accurate picture of any given year’s best-selling albums, as a title that hypothetically spent nine weeks at number one in March could possibly have sold fewer copies than one spending six weeks at number three in January. Interestingly, albums at the peak of their popularity at the time of the November/December chart-year cutoff many times end up ranked lower than one would expect on a year-end tally, yet are ranked on the following year's chart as well, as their cumulative points are split between the two chart-years.

Uses

The Billboard 200 can be helpful to radio stations as an indication of the types of music listeners are interested in hearing. Retailers can also find it useful as a way to determine which recordings should be given the most prominent display in a store. Other outlets, such as airline music services, also employ the Billboard charts to determine their programming.

Limitations

The chart omits unit sales for listed albums and total recorded sales, making it impossible to determine, for example, if the number one album this week sold as well as the number one from the same period in the prior year. It is also impossible to determine the relative success of albums on a single chart; there is no indication of whether the number one album sold thousands more copies than number fifty, or only dozens more. All music genres are combined, but there are separate Billboard charts for individual market segments. The complete sales data broken down by location is made available, but only in the form of separate SoundScan subscriptions. Declining CD sales and the widespread sale of singles via the internet further reduce the relevance of the Billboard 200.

Artist milestones

Most charted albums

Most top-ten albums

Most number-one albums

Most cumulative weeks at number one

Album milestones

Most weeks at number-one

Most weeks on the chart

''Note that totals are for the main albums chart only, catalog chart totals are not factored in.

Additional milestones

Sources

  • Joel Whitburn Presents the Billboard Albums, 6th edition, ISBN 0-89820-166-7
  • Additional information obtained can be verified within Billboard's online archive services and print editions of the magazine.

References

See also

External links

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