Understanding: Billboard BB200 vs US Album Sales

The Jacksons

II) Examples of application

G) Jacksons / Michael Jackson (Epic)

The Jacksons and Michael Jackson on Epic came chronologically after the Motown era with the Jackson 5 and young Michael Jackson. Since the latter period wasn’t audited by the RIAA, it is more relevant to start with the Epic albums though to check if there are gaps due to the R&B sector.

Off the Wall reached Platinum status in late 1979 and then 5xPlatinum in 1985 after the introduction of multi-Platinum awards. Calculations suggest 5 million was indeed reached during 1985. That being said, it rose to 6xPlatinum in 1988 while not charting during the interval so figures appear to be just a bit too low.

Thriller‘s chart run is so specific that it is quite amazing to see even it fits well with the calculations. Please notice that since the formula considers higher sales per week for each new consecutive weeks, isolated weeks at the top are downgraded into top 5 weeks. It lasted so long at the top that each week is worth about half a million units, which happens to be almost true! The total is inflated by 10%, but this is so sensible that we should take it with a pinch of salt. If we assume 15 weeks at #1 in a row in 1984 instead of 17, the figure goes down to 20 million, exactly the amount certified.

With Bad, we see a figure clearly over the top in comparison to the reality. What’s more normal for the King of Pop to be over-represented inside Billboard Pop Album Chart.

Instead, figures of the Jacksons are rather perfect. Gold awarded albums sold indeed near half a million and Platinum LPs broke the million mark. By then, his popularity was balanced equally in all branches, creating relevant calculations.

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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