# Understanding: Billboard BB200 vs US Album Sales

#### I) Establishing Key Formulas

###### B) Scaling the Ranking

For a very long time the Billboard Album Chart has been a Top 200 ranking. During the last 15 years we have enjoyed tons of leaked charts with sales from the US, the UK, France, Australia, Canada and Japan. Thanks to those elements we have been able to know how many units an album sells at each position.

Obviously, it would be way too painful to create specific formulas for each and every position of the Top 200. Even more painful would be compiling each and every position of an album that we would like to estimate. As similar positions represent similar sales, grouping them and using an average for each group is far more relevant.

Consequently, chart runs will be studied by setting how many weeks an album spent:

• At #1
• Charting 2-5
• Charting 6-10
• Charting 11-20
• Charting 21-40
• Charting 41-100
• Charting 101-200

Our experience with leaked charts tell us that a dozen years ago, the #200 album inside the BB200 was selling over 5,000 units a week, the #100 was moving more than 10,000 copies, about 20,000 units for the #40 album, the #20 was selling 40,000  copies, inside the Top 10 selling over 60,000 units was the norm and the Top 5 used to be close to 100,000 units or surpassing that figure.

The #1 album obviously sold more, with fluctuating numbers depending on its strength. The longest an album spent at the top and the most it was selling per week. This was ever truer before the Soundscan era when the high debuts on the back of the fan base and strong pre-orders didn’t exist. If we transform all those elements into a scale, we get following results:

• At #1 = weight 22+3*the number of weeks at #1
• Charting 2-5 = weight 14
• Charting 6-10 = weight 10
• Charting 11-20 = weight 7
• Charting 21-40 = weight 4
• Charting 41-100 =weight 2
• Charting 101-200 = weight 1

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

1. Gus says:

Michael Bolton was/is a singer, not an instrumental artist.

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. Gus says:

I know why!!! They had a song together called “Missing you now”! LOL!

2. Pelvis says:

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!

3. 영배 says:

1. Hi 영배!

Yes, there is two Understanding articles in the making including that one 😉

4. Stephen says:

This was a really interesting read! Thank you for posting!

5. Bryc says:

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

6. borderwolf says:

I’m wondering if you’ve also calculated the factor for the years since 1990 onwards.

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!

7. raffi says:

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?

8. raffi says:

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

9. BBUser says:

Hello dear MJD !Do you have 1991~1995 American album sales data?Tanks!

1. Hi BBUser!

Sure, here they are, in millions:
1991 – 698,2
1992 – 776,2
1993 – 836,1
1994 – 1009,4
1995 – 997,7

1. BBUsher says:

Thanks!

10. Al says:

Hey MJD!

I’m just curious, how does this method work if you apply it to other markets like Germany for example?

11. LUNGA says:

1. Hi Lunga!

Please find below the calculations of US sales for New Edition 80s albums:
Candy Girl 252,000
New Edition 1,863,000
All For Love 993,000
Under The Blue Moon 365,000
Heart Break 2,126,000

As shown on previous examples, Billboard charts used to represent roughly 80% of sales for Black music artists.

As for their RIAA history:
– they never had a major audit as shown by the absence of mass updates of various albums together
– All For Love and Under The Blue Moon reached their awards relatively easily in spite of calculated sales under their criteria which evidences the 80%-ish coverage
– self-titled album did most likely cross 2 million in late 1985. It makes sense, as the lead single for follow up album was released in October 1985 they haven’t cared certifying officially an album they weren’t going to promote anymore.
– Heart Break did sell well past 2 million especially since it had 3 hit singles with no cross over appeal (#1/3/4 hits on R&B charts that peaked at #44/95/out inside the Hot 100), likely 2,5/2,6 million by the end of 1989
– both New Edition and Heart Break went 2xP in mid-90s, this still means they were below 3 million. Almost no catalog sales information came out since so it is difficult to gauge their sales since then, although Heart Break sold 1,600 copies in the week following the BET special this year. In all likelyhood, Heart Break did pass 3 million since while New Edition should be close to the mark too.

As for Bobby Brown, Don’t Be Cruel went 7xP in 1995 after the allowance of all Club sales. For that reason, it could have been anywhere from 7 to 8 million already back in 1995. Once again, we miss Soundscan information for recent although it is doubtful that this album sold well for obvious reasons. It can perfectly be over 8 million now though since it could have been very close by 1995 already. Plus, it must be said that MCA are slow for RIAA awards: Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedos is the only album their certified multi-plat during the last 10 years. The last time they updated a catalog Urban album on their roster was in 2000 with Mary J Blidge’s What’s the 411?

1. LUNGA says:

Hey MJD. Thanks for your insight. They were a big touring group and most artists don’t make the bulk of their money from record sales but rather ticket sales unless they like prince and do most of the writing and producing or mariah who has songwriting and production credits on her biggest hits so maybe that’s why they didn’t care to do a proper audit of their album sales. You should do an article on how royalties work and publishing rights and income. I know the media claims Beyonce has \$500 million but her best-selling album took 12 years to go 5x platinum and adele has had two diamond selling albums back to back so Im willing to guess she makes more from her record sales than Beyonce and her tours sell well too —->https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adele_Live_2016. I think Beyonce only has the upper hand on adele in touring https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Beyonc%C3%A9_live_performances But beyonce has a great marketing team behind her

1. Hi Lunga!

While Forbes-like figures have their interest, I tend to let them out while judging the popularity of music artists. You will get people like Puff Daddy who’s richer than almost every singer on Earth only thanks to business skills rather than thanks to his music, in a similar way to Floyd Mayweather who grosses way more than any other boxer because he is his own promoter. Beyoncé is a striking example – her main source of revenue so far has been her marriage with Jay-Z, himself immensely rich thanks to several well-powered businesses more than his records sales. This completely corrupts the picture.

Last but not least, the inflation plays a major role. There is tons of “highest grossing tour” figures going on but they make basically no sense has the ticket price exploded over the years. For example, you will have tons of divas fans fighting on the biggest female tour being owned by Madonna vs Beyoncé vs Taylor vs Celine vs Gaga vs whoever else going on for years while Tina Turner did bigger tours than all of them.