Understanding: Billboard BB200 vs US Album Sales


III) Billboard Issues

D) Music Type coverage

By now, we know that Country artists had their sales divided by 2 on the old Billboard charts, while Pop / Rock acts were inflated by around 50%. The cross-over black artists were in-between with mostly realistic sales, pure R&B stars like Teddy Pendergrass were slightly deflated.

However, what about other genres? We noted that instrumental artists like Yanni were deflated too. What about Latin stars? Both of the following Julio Iglesias albums were certified for 500,000 and 600,000 sales respectively.

Date: 01/09/1984 – Run: 193-192-189-183-*179*-182 (6 wks)

Produced by: Ramon Arcusa
Date: 24/08/1985 – Run: 155-118-107-104-97-95-*92*-92-136-160-168-181 (12 wks) UK:#61/4

Well, luckily Soundscan fixed all that. Or has it? The following albums are from his son, Enrique Iglesias.

Date: 25/05/1996 – Run: 160-150-198-195-0-0-166-150-172-168-165-*148*-196-200-168-196-199-0-0-193-200 (17-11c wks)
Re 01: 01/02/1997: 199 (1 wk)

    2. VIVIR
Produced by: Christina Abaroa/Rafael Perez Botija
Date: 15/02/1997 – Run: *33*-48-58-83-87-95-122-146-167-151-159-170-194-0-197-162-155-194 (17-13c wks)
Re 01: 18/10/1997: 142 (1 wk)

Pretty modest chart runs. They sold respectively 380,000 and 275,000 units as per Soundscan by 1999. Enrique Iglesias went Platinum as early as in November 1996 and Vivir mirrored it in May 1997. Soundscan reflected some 30% of their sales only. That same year, Mas by Alejandro Sanz was released. It was certified 6xP inside the Latin category, representing 600,000 sales. It never entered the Billboard Album Chart though. This is the same for various Alejandro Fernandez albums, the same also for early Shakira records, and the same again for Mexican star Selena.

Selena was highly popular in early 90s inside the Latin community. That’s why she accumulated only 1 week inside the Album chart, at #183 in June 1994. When she was murdered aged just 23 in March 1995, the news around the event crossed over the whole country. Her posthumous album Dreaming of You debuted at #1 as standard retailers were now selling her records. Still, all sales on Latin outlets were mostly ignored. While the album has scanned some 1,65 million units to date, it is certified 35xP Latin by the RIAA, representing 3,5 million sales.

From 2002, the gap between charts and sales for Latin albums diminished a lot. The massive success of both Shakira and Enrique Iglesias in 2002 no doubt helped to convince Billboard / Soundscan to improve their coverage of that segment. Ironically, their following Spanish albums ended up outselling their 90s smashes in terms of Soundscan sales, although they were clearly lower sales.

Christian acts suffered the same fate. Amy Grant‘s album Straight Ahead reached Gold after a few months without charting. For them too the situation improved over the years, so now the Casting Crowns can easily top the charts.

With the proliferation of huge hypermarkets, the stand-alone music retailers closing their doors into the 00s, and iTunes putting all music genres on a par, those unfair issues started to disappear for all genres.

I hope this article cleared up a lot of doubts you had. I also hope our formula will enable you to identify sales of your favorite artists by applying it and adjusting if needed depending on their type of music. Below I include the Excel file that I have used all along this article. Feel free to use it and refer to this article as your source / basis for explanations.

File: US-ChartsToSalesConvertion

Sources: Billboard, Soundscan, RIAA, Hanboo, Toledo Magazine, Rock Hill Herald, Washington Post

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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