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The Billboard 200 is a record chart ranking the 200 most popular music albums and EPs in the United States. It is 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 outperformed all others during at least one week. The chart grew from a weekly top 10 list in 1956 to become a top 200 in May 1967, and acquired its present title in March 1992. Its previous names include the Billboard Top LPs (1961–72), Billboard Top LPs & Tape (1972–84), Billboard Top 200 Albums (1984–85) and Billboard Top Pop Albums.

The chart is based mostly on sales (both at retail and digital) of albums in the United States. The weekly sales period was originally Monday to Sunday when Nielsen started tracking sales in 1991, but since July 2015, tracking week begins on Friday (to coincide with the Global Release Date of the music industry) and ends on Thursday. A new chart is published the following Tuesday with an issue post-dated to the Saturday of that week, four days later.[1] The chart's streaming schedule is also tracked from Friday to Thursday.[2]

Example:
Friday January 1 – sales tracking week begins
Thursday January 7 – sales tracking week ends
Tuesday January 12 – new chart published, with issue date of Saturday January 16.

New product is released to the American market on Fridays. Digital downloads of albums are also included in Billboard 200 tabulation. 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 titles that are sold exclusively by specific retail outlets (such as Walmart and Starbucks) ineligible for charting, was reversed on November 7, 2007, and took effect in the issue dated November 17.[3]

Beginning with the December 13, 2014 issue, Billboard updated the methodology of their album chart to also include on-demand streaming and digital track sales (as measured by Nielsen SoundScan) by way of a new algorithm, utilizing data from all of the major on-demand audio subscription and online music sales services in the United States.[4]

As of the issue dated September 21, 2019, the current number-one album on the Billboard 200 is Hollywood's Bleeding by Post Malone.[5]

History

Billboard began 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 increase in album sales as the early 1950s format wars stabilized into market dominance by 45 RPM singles and long-playing twelve-inch albums, with 78 RPM record and long-playing ten-inch album sales decreasing dramatically, Billboard premiered a weekly Best-Selling Popular Albums chart on March 24, 1956. The position count varied anywhere from 10 to 30 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 (30 positions) and Best-Selling Monophonic LPs for mono albums (50 positions). These were renamed to Stereo Action Charts (30 positions) and Mono Action Charts (40 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 February 1972, the album chart's title was changed to Top LPs & Tape; 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 40 weeks on the Mono Action Chart, and stereo albums were moved to the Essential Inventory—Stereo chart (20 positions) after 20 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 (alternatively titled Midline LPs) which ranked older or mid-priced titles. The chart held 50 positions and was published on a bi-weekly (and later tri-weekly) basis.

On May 25, 1991, Billboard premiered the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart. The criteria for this chart were albums that were more than 18 months old and had fallen below position 100 on the Billboard 200.[6] An album needed not have charted on the Billboard 200 at all to qualify for catalog status.

Starting with the issue dated December 5, 2009, however, the catalog limitations which removed albums over 18 months old, that have dropped below position 100 and have no currently-running single, from the Billboard 200 was lifted, turning the chart into an all-inclusive list of the 200 highest-selling albums in the country (essentially changing Top Comprehensive Albums into the Billboard 200). A new chart that keeps the previous criteria for the Billboard 200 (dubbed Top Current Albums) was also introduced in the same issue.[7]

Holiday albums

Billboard has adjusted its policies for Christmas[8] and holiday[8] albums several times. The 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 1983, 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 2009 the chart holds 50 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.

Nielsen SoundScan

Since May 25, 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).

Incorporation of streaming data and track sales

Beginning with the December 13, 2014 issue, Billboard updated the methodology of its album chart again, changing from a "pure sales-based ranking" to one measuring "multi-metric consumption".[4] With this overhaul, the Billboard 200 includes on-demand streaming and digital track sales (as measured by Nielsen SoundScan) by way of a new algorithm, utilizing data from all of the major on-demand audio subscription services including Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play and Xbox Music. Under the new methodology, ten track sales or 1,500 song streams from an album are treated as equivalent to one purchase of the album. Billboard will continue to publish a pure album sales chart, called Top Album Sales, that maintains the traditional Billboard 200 methodology, based exclusively on SoundScan's sales data.[4]

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 in 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. 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.

All-Time Billboard 200 achievements (1963–2015)

In 2015, Billboard magazine compiled a ranking of the 100 best-performing albums on the chart over the 52 years, along with the best-performing artists.[9] Shown below are the top 10 albums and top 10 artists over the 52-year period of the Billboard 200, through October 2015. Also shown are the artists placing the most albums on the overall "all-time" top 100 album list.

Top 10 albums of All-Time (1963–2015)

Rank Album Year released Artist(s) Peak and duration
1 21
2011
Adele #1 for 24 weeks
2 The Sound of Music
1965
Soundtrack #1 for 2 weeks
3 Thriller
1983
Michael Jackson #1 for 37 weeks
4 Fearless
2008
Taylor Swift #1 for 11 weeks
5 Born in the U.S.A.
1984
Bruce Springsteen #1 for 7 weeks
6 Ropin' the Wind
1991
Garth Brooks #1 for 18 weeks
7 Jagged Little Pill
1995
Alanis Morissette #1 for 12 weeks
8 Doctor Zhivago
1966
Soundtrack #1 for 1 week
9 All the Right Reasons
2005
Nickelback #1 for 1 week
10 Tapestry
1971
Carole King #1 for 15 weeks

Source:[10]

Top 10 albums artists of All-Time (1963–2015)

Rank Artist
1 The Beatles
2 The Rolling Stones
3 Barbra Streisand
4 Garth Brooks
5 Elton John
6 Mariah Carey
7 Herb Alpert
8 Taylor Swift
9 Chicago
10 Michael Jackson

Source:[11]

Artists with the most albums on Billboard's Top 200 Albums of All-Time (1963–2015)

Number of
albums
Artist Albums (ranking)
5
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (54), A Hard Day's Night (105), 1 (131), Abbey Road (135), Meet the Beatles! (187)
4
Taylor Swift Fearless (4), Taylor Swift (18), 1989 (64), Red (140)
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin II (146), Houses of the Holy (185), Led Zeppelin IV (194), In Through the Out Door (198)
3
Michael Jackson Thriller (3), Bad (138), Off the Wall (149)
Nickelback All the Right Reasons (9), Silver Side Up (162), Dark Horse (182)
Whitney Houston Whitney Houston (11), The Bodyguard (23), Whitney (159)
Herb Alpert Whipped Cream & Other Delights (13), Going Places (44), What Now My Love (170)
Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (39), Honky Château (145), Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (175)
Mariah Carey Mariah Carey (50), The Emancipation of Mimi (52), Music Box (87)
Janet Jackson Control (72), Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 (94), Janet (119)
2
Garth Brooks Ropin' the Wind (6), No Fences (29)
Fleetwood Mac Rumours (15), Fleetwood Mac (74)
Celine Dion Falling into You (21), Let's Talk About Love (164)
Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon (31), The Wall (92)
Creed Human Clay (34), Weathered (181)
Santana Supernatural (36), Abraxas (114)
Backstreet Boys Backstreet Boys (42), Millennium (70)
Eminem The Eminem Show (56), Recovery (93)
Boyz II Men II (61), Cooleyhighharmony (129)
Green Day American Idiot (73), Dookie (172)
Nelly Country Grammar (85), Nellyville (174)
John Denver John Denver's Greatest Hits (86), Back Home Again (193)
Chicago Chicago II (89), Chicago V (165)
The Black Eyed Peas The E.N.D (96), Monkey Business (134)
Justin Timberlake FutureSex/LoveSounds (97), The 20/20 Experience (200)
Mumford & Sons Sigh No More (106), Babel (116)
Alicia Keys Songs in A Minor (107), As I Am (128)
NSYNC No Strings Attached (111), 'N Sync (137)
The Monkees The Monkees (132), More of the Monkees (156)
Eagles The Long Run (148), One of These Nights (155)
Billy Joel Glass Houses (168), 52nd Street (191)

Source:[10]

Artist milestones

Most number-one albums

Albums Artist Source
19 The Beatles [12]
14 Jay-Z [12]
11 Barbra Streisand [12]
Bruce Springsteen [12]
10 Elvis Presley [12]

Most number-one albums in a calendar year

Albums Artist Year Source
4 The Monkees 1967 [19]
3 The Beatles 1964 [20]
Glee Cast 2010 [21]

Most consecutive number-one studio albums

Number Act Source
11 Jay-Z [22]
8 The Beatles [23]
The Rolling Stones [23]
Eminem [23]
Kanye West [24]
7 Elton John [25]
Dave Matthews Band [26]

Most consecutive studio albums to debut at number-one

Number Act Source
8 Eminem [22][24]
Kanye West [27][24]
7 Dave Matthews Band [26]
6 Metallica [28]
Beyoncé [29]
Taylor Swift [30]
5 Disturbed [31]
U2 [32]
Madonna [33]
Lady Gaga [34]
  • On May 1, 2016, Beyoncé became the first female artist to have her first 6 studio albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, following the release of her sixth studio album Lemonade. Beyoncé also became the first and only artist in Billboard chart history to have all of her studio albums debut at No. 1, breaking a tied record with DMX.[29]

Most cumulative weeks at number one

List of the ten acts with the most weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since August 17, 1963.

Sources:[35][36]

Most top-ten albums

The following artists are the only ones with 30 or more top-ten albums:[37]

Note: As a musician, Paul McCartney has the most top 10 albums, with 51. This includes 32 with The Beatles, 7 albums with the group Wings, 1 album credited to him and his first wife Linda McCartney, and 11 solo albums.[13][14]

Most albums in the top 10 simultaneously

Most albums in the Top 200 simultaneously

Album milestones

Most weeks at number one

Weeks Album Artist Year(s) Source
54 West Side Story Soundtrack 1962–63 [55]
37 Thriller Michael Jackson 1983–84 [56]
31 Rumours Fleetwood Mac 1977–78 [56]
South Pacific Soundtrack 1958–59 [55]
Calypso Harry Belafonte 1956–57 [55]
24 21 Adele 2011–12 [56]
Purple Rain Prince and the Revolution/Soundtrack 1984–85 [56]
Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track Bee Gees/Soundtrack 1978 [56]
21 Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em MC Hammer 1990 [56]
20 The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album Whitney Houston/Soundtrack 1992–93 [56]
Blue Hawaiiɤ Elvis Presley/Soundtrack 1961–62 [55]

† The West Side Story Soundtrack ran for 53 weeks at number one on the stereo album chart; it was number one for twelve weeks on the mono album chart.

‡ The South Pacific Soundtrack ran for 28 weeks at number one on the stereo album chart; it was number one for three weeks on the mono album chart.

ɤ This is the Blue Hawaii album's run on the mono album chart; it was number one for four weeks on the stereo album chart.

  • Tapestry by Carole King holds the record for most consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 for any one album by a female solo artist with 15 weeks.[57]

Most weeks on the chart

Note that totals are for the main albums chart only, catalog chart totals are not factored in.
(*) indicates that the album is currently charting.
Weeks Album Artist Source
943 The Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd [58]
591* Legend Bob Marley and the Wailers [59]
581* Journey's Greatest Hits Journey [60]
540 Metallica Metallica [61]
490† Johnny's Greatest Hits Johnny Mathis [62]
486* Greatest Hits Guns N' Roses [63]
480† My Fair Lady Original Cast Recording [62]
462* Curtain Call: The Hits Eminem [64]
438* Nevermind Nirvana [65]
Doo-Wops & Hooligans Bruno Mars [66]
436* Chronicle: The 20 Greatest Hits Creedence Clearwater Revival [67]
430* 21 Adele [68]
385* 1 The Beatles [69]
383* Thriller Michael Jackson [70]
376* Back in Black AC/DC [71]
363* Night Visions Imagine Dragons [72]
359* Good Kid, M.A.A.D City Kendrick Lamar [73]
357 The Eminem Show Eminem [74]
351* Greatest Hits Queen [75]
341* Take Care Drake [76]

† Pre-Billboard 200 and Billboard 200

Largest jumps to number one

  1. (176–1) Life After DeathThe Notorious B.I.G.[77] (April 12, 1997)
  2. (173–1) VitalogyPearl Jam[78] (December 24, 1994)
  3. (156–1) In RainbowsRadiohead[79] (January 19, 2008)
  4. (137–1) Ghetto DMaster P[80] (September 20, 1997)
  5. (122–1) More of The MonkeesThe Monkees[81] (February 11, 1967)
  6. (112–1) MP da Last Don – Master P[82] (June 20, 1998)
  7. (98–1) Beatles '65The Beatles[83] (January 9, 1965)
  8. (61–1) Help! – The Beatles[84] (September 11, 1965)
  9. (60–1) Rubber Soul – The Beatles[85] (January 8, 1966)
  10. (53–1) Ballad of the Green BeretsBarry Sadler[86] (March 12, 1966)

Largest drops from number one

  1. (1–169) This House Is Not for SaleBon Jovi[87] (March 17, 2018)
  2. (1–97) Science FictionBrand New[88] (September 16, 2017)
  3. (1–88) IridescenceBrockhampton[89] (October 13, 2018)
  4. (1–77) Madame XMadonna (July 6, 2019)[90]
  5. (1–62) Boarding House ReachJack White[91] (April 14, 2018)
  6. (1–59) Wonderful WonderfulThe Killers[92] (October 21, 2017)
  7. (1–56) American DreamLCD Soundsystem[93] (September 30, 2017)
  8. (1–45) Help Us StrangerThe Raconteurs[94] (July 13, 2019)
  9. (1–43) This House Is Not for Sale – Bon Jovi[95] (December 3, 2016)
  10. (1–41) A Pentatonix ChristmasPentatonix[96] (January 21, 2017)

Note:

  • The album Number Ones by the Bee Gees has the largest drop for an album that did not top the chart. It re-entered the chart at number 5 in the week of August 18, 2012. In its second week, it dropped to number 195, dropping 190 positions.[97]

Longest climbs to number one in the SoundScan era

Here are the albums to complete the 10 longest rises to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since the adoption of Nielsen Music data in 1991.[98]

Weeks to No. 1 Artist Album Date Reached No. 1
63 Various O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack March 23, 2002
52 Live Throwing Copper May 6, 1995
49 No Doubt Tragic Kingdom December 21, 1996
46 Norah Jones Come Away with Me January 25, 2003
44 Hootie & The Blowfish Cracked Rear View May 27, 1995
40 Prince The Very Best of Prince May 7, 2016
31 Toni Braxton Toni Braxton February 26, 1994
28 Celine Dion Falling into You October 5, 1996
27 Eric Clapton Unplugged March 13, 1993
26 Shaggy Hotshot February 17, 2001
  • Forever Your Girl by Paula Abdul spent 64 consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200 before hitting number one in 1989, making it the longest time for an album to reach the number-one spot.[99]

Albums to top the Billboard 200 by artists who have never appeared on the Hot 100

Artist Album Year Source
Van Cliburn Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 1958 [100]
Bob Newhart The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart 1960 [100]
Bob Newhart The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back! 1961 [100]
Judy Garland Judy at Carnegie Hall [100]
Vaughn Meader The First Family 1962 [100]
Frank Fontaine Songs I Sing on the Jackie Gleason Show 1963 [100]
Blind Faith Blind Faith 1969 [100]
Pantera Far Beyond Driven 1994 [100]
Bob Carlisle Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grace) 1997 [100]
Marilyn Manson Mechanical Animals 1998 [101]
Marilyn Manson The Golden Age of Grotesque 2003 [102]
Il Divo Ancora 2006 [100]
Slipknot All Hope Is Gone 2008 [100]
Vampire Weekend Contra 2010 [100]
The Decemberists The King Is Dead 2011 [100]
Amos Lee Mission Bell [100]
TobyMac Eye on It 2012 [103]
Chris Tomlin Burning Lights 2013 [104]
Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City [105]
Lecrae Anomaly 2014 [106]
Slipknot .5: The Gray Chapter [107]
Brand New Science Fiction 2017 [108]
LCD Soundsystem American Dream [109]
Brockhampton Iridescence 2018 [110]
Vampire Weekend Father of the Bride 2019 [111]
Slipknot We Are Not Your Kind [112]

Note: Newhart, Meader, and Fontaine's albums were all #1 on the mono chart, but not on the stereo chart.

Additional milestones

See also

Sources

  • Joel Whitburn Presents the Billboard Albums, 6th edition, ISBN 0-89820-166-7
  • Whitburn, Joel (1991). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums (Revised and enlarged 2nd ed.). Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7534-6.
  • Additional information obtained can be verified within Billboard's online archive services and print editions of the magazine.

References

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