The Billboard 200
is a ranking of the 200 highest-selling music albums
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.
- 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.
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
premiered a weekly Best-Selling Popular Albums chart on March 24
. 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.
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.
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.
Since May 26
, 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
"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.
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.
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.
Most charted albums
Most top-ten albums
Most number-one albums
Most cumulative weeks at number one
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.
- The first number one album of the SoundScan era (1991 to present) is Time, Love & Tenderness by Michael Bolton.
- The only album to attain the pole position before and after the May 25, 1991 introduction of SoundScan is R.E.M.'s album Out of Time.
- The first album to debut at number one was Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy by Elton John. John repeated the same feat with the album Rock of the Westies - the second album to debut at number one - making John the first artist to have two consecutive studio albums debut at number one. Whitney Houston's second album Whitney was the first album by a female artist to debut at number one.
- In the early 1960s, Bob Newhart had the accomplishment of having the number one and number two albums simultaneously on the Billboard 200, with The Button-Down Mind and The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back! This feat was equaled in 1991, with Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, and in 2004, with Nelly's Suit and Sweat.
- As of 2008, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon has been on the charts for over 1,600 weeks, or about thirty-one years. The album spent 741 of those weeks on the Billboard 200. The other weeks were spent on the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart. Its closest rival is Bob Marley's Legend, checking in at over 900 weeks (Billboard 200 and Top Pop Catalog Albums combined).
- Forever Your Girl by Paula Abdul spent sixty-four consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200 before hitting number one, making it the longest time for an album to reach the number one spot.
- At one point in early 1980s, all nine albums released to that date by Led Zeppelin were on the Billboard 200 chart, at the time it was the most albums by a single artist to chart at the same time. The record was beaten by Pearl Jam when they began releasing the majority of their concerts to the public.
- Skid Row's Slave to the Grind was the first heavy metal album to ever debut at #1.
- The only EP's to reach number one on the chart are Alice in Chains's Jar of Flies in 1994 and Linkin Park and Jay-Z's collaboration EP, Collision Course in 2004.
- The first Rap/Hip-Hop album to hit number one on the Billboard 200 was Licensed to Ill by The Beastie Boys in 1987.
- The only artists to have two different albums hit number one in the same year are The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jay-Z, Garth Brooks, 2Pac, and System of a Down.
- Only seven bands have achieved three consecutive number one debuts' with studio albums on the Billboard 200; Van Halen, U2, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Staind, and most recently Disturbed.
- The only band to have five consecutive albums debut at number one is heavy metal band Metallica.
- 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.