Understanding: Billboard BB200 vs US Album Sales

Teddy Pendergrass 1950 - 2010

II) Examples of application

D) Teddy Pendergrass and Kool & the Gang

The interest behind Teddy Pendergrass and Kool & the Gang is to study acts that were strong performers on the R&B charts. We are tempted to believe that R&B retailers were already included into the Top Album chart, which is why the data was also available to build the themed-ranking.

In reality, while some black-music retailers were a part of the Billboard panel, they were less covered than the main retailers which sold pop and rock music. More on this later.

This fact is visible with those two artists. One album over-shipped happens, the case of Teddy Pendergrass is intriguing. All of his albums were way below the mark when certified. He isn’t a big name and he never had a big hit single. His biggest peaked at #25. That single went Gold for 1 million copies shipped though. What was going on there? Quite simply, we are seeing the example of a pure black-music artist, who never crossed over to the main pop scene. As a result, his proportion of sales is distorted, concluding on Billboard rankings deflating his real popularity. At least 20% should be added to all of his figures.

This situation seems less obvious with Kool & the Gang. As their albums largely outsold their certifications, it seems rather normal. If we focus on awards dates though, we notice the same issue. Their first album topped half a million sales after more than a year, while it was certified after 7 months during a slow time for shipments. The platinum albums charted for 10-16 months to clear 1 million with ease, but they were all way under the mark when the awards arrived. It was too early to explain it only with optimistic shipments, especially given it happened with 8 albums in a row. As they did cross over a bit more in the 70s – and even more from 1980 – the gap is lower than that of Teddy Pendergrass.

14 thoughts on “Understanding: Billboard BB200 vs US Album Sales”

    1. Hi Gus!

      Obviously you are correct, I always think about Kenny G when talking about Michael Bolton and vice versa, don’t ask me why! Now fixed 😉

  1. Hello dear MJD it’s really a very interesting article on RIAA certifications.
    From this article it is evident that some artists such as U2 or Michael Jackson were massively inflated.
    This fact will affect on global sales ? For example the U2 in last year’s article have sold about 192.400.000 equivalent album sales with 12x platinum for The Joshua Tree, 8x platinum for Achtung Baby, 5x platinum for Rattle and Hum and War etc..
    Based on this new article for example their US album sales and their world album sales will be lower ?

    1. Hi Anthony,

      No, it doesn’t impact RIAA certifications. Their awards were achieved thanks to catalog sales and CSPC articles took that into consideration already!

  2. Great job man! Are we getting the 2nd part of your Understanding article about download sales vs. streaming? This is the one I’m most excited about, haha.

  3. Hey MJD,
    You’ve done a lot of work on 90’s and 2000’s artists and I think you should consider looking at Ashanti’s discography. She came out with a strong debut and had hit songs in her time

    1. Hi Luca!

      The factor can be easily calculated for post-1990 years using US Sales Database. I avoided it on purpose for two reasons:
      – Soundscan reflects better ups and downs, runs are much less linear, which corrupts the grouping of positions logic. In the past, a standard run was 152-81-55-38-33-32-33-39-60-121-155-187-out. Now you can have 10-39-101-199-out, which would give a much better result than 11-41-101-out.
      – Internet/pre-orders: they massively frontloaded sales which means now a #1 can sell 30k or 1m. This completely corrupts every possible calculation!

  4. Hi MJD!

    Forgive me for being quite ignorant, but I’ve re-read your article a thousand times, and I still don’t know how you input the Xmas factor in your calculations. I know how to calculate without the Xmas factor, but how do you add in the Xmas factor? Does it depends on which positions it charted during December?

  5. Hi MJD!

    Forgive me for being ignorant, but I still don’t know how you add in the Xmas factor in your calculations. Could you elaborate on how to do that?

    1. Hi Raffi!

      You are two that did this comment (with someone at SHF) so I suppose this part is unclear, I’ll amend the text! In the meantime, here is the answer I made to the other comment:
      The Xmas factor ais roughly the same scale as the chart overall, just slightly lower. Here is the weight you should give to an album depending on its average ranking in December:
      At #1 = weight 15 to 20 (depending on how big it was / how long it remained at 1)
      Charting 2-5 = weight 12
      Charting 6-10 = weight 8
      Charting 11-20 = weight 6
      Charting 21-40 = weight 4
      Charting 41-100 =weight 2
      Charting 101-200 = weight 1

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