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 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 the following week. The chart's streaming schedule is also tracked from Friday to Thursday.[67]

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 23.

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.[68]

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.[69]

As of the issue dated December 23, 2017, the number-one album on the Billboard 200 is Songs of Experience by U2.[70]

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.[71] 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.[72]

Holiday albums

Billboard has adjusted its policies for Christmas[73] and holiday[73] 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.

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".[69] 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.[69]

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).

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. 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.


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.[75] 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)

RankAlbumYear releasedArtist(s)Peak and duration
121
2011
Adele#1 for 24 weeks
2The Sound of Music
1965
Soundtrack#1 for 2 weeks
3Thriller
1983
Michael Jackson#1 for 37 weeks
4Fearless
2008
Taylor Swift#1 for 11 weeks
5Born in the U.S.A.
1984
Bruce Springsteen#1 for 7 weeks
6Ropin' the Wind
1991
Garth Brooks#1 for 18 weeks
7Jagged Little Pill
1995
Alanis Morissette#1 for 12 weeks
8Doctor Zhivago
1966
Soundtrack#1 for 1 week
9All the Right Reasons
2005
Nickelback#1 for 1 week
10Tapestry
1971
Carole King#1 for 15 weeks

Source:[77]

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

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

Source:[79]

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

Number of
albums
ArtistAlbums (ranking)
5
The BeatlesSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (54), A Hard Day's Night (105), 1 (131), Abbey Road (135), Meet the Beatles! (187)
4
Taylor SwiftFearless (4), Taylor Swift (18), 1989 (64), Red (140)
Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin II (146), Houses of the Holy (185), Led Zeppelin IV (194), In Through the Out Door (198)
3
Michael JacksonThriller (3), Bad (138), Off the Wall (149)
NickelbackAll the Right Reasons (9), Silver Side Up (162), Dark Horse (182)
Whitney HoustonWhitney Houston (11), The Bodyguard (23), Whitney (159)
Herb AlpertWhipped Cream & Other Delights (13), Going Places (44), What Now My Love (170)
Elton JohnGoodbye Yellow Brick Road (39), Honky Château (145), Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (175)
Mariah CareyMariah Carey (50), The Emancipation of Mimi (52), Music Box (87)
Janet JacksonControl (72), Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 (94), Janet (119)
2
Garth BrooksRopin' the Wind (6), No Fences (29)
Fleetwood MacRumours (15), Fleetwood Mac (74)
Celine DionFalling into You (21), Let's Talk About Love (164)
Pink FloydThe Dark Side of the Moon (31), The Wall (92)
CreedHuman Clay (34), Weathered (181)
SantanaSupernatural (36), Abraxas (114)
Backstreet BoysBackstreet Boys (42), Millennium (70)
EminemThe Eminem Show (56), Recovery (93)
Boyz II MenII (61), Cooleyhighharmony (129)
Green DayAmerican Idiot (73), Dookie (172)
NellyCountry Grammar (85), Nellyville (174)
John DenverJohn Denver's Greatest Hits (86), Back Home Again (193)
ChicagoChicago II (89), Chicago V (165)
The Black Eyed PeasThe E.N.D (96), Monkey Business (134)
Justin TimberlakeFutureSex/LoveSounds (97), The 20/20 Experience (200)
Mumford & SonsSigh No More (106), Babel (116)
Alicia KeysSongs in A Minor (107), As I Am (128)
NSYNCNo Strings Attached (111), NSYNC (137)
The MonkeesThe Monkees (132), More of the Monkees (156)
EaglesThe Long Run (148), One of These Nights (155)
Billy JoelGlass Houses (168), 52nd Street (191)

Source:[77]

Artist milestones

Most top-ten albums

Source:[81][83]

Most number-one albums

Source:[84][85]

Most consecutive number-one studio albums

Source:[86][87]

Most consecutive studio albums to debut at number-one

Source:[89] [90] [91]

Most cumulative weeks at number one

The list of acts with the most weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since Aug. 17, 1963.

Source: [92]

Most albums in the top 10 simultaneously

Most albums in the Top 200 simultaneously

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.

Biggest jumps to number one

Biggest drops from number one

Additional milestones

See also