Understanding: Billboard BB200 vs US Album Sales


I) Establishing Key Formulas

D) The Finishing

The market evolves year after year, but it also evolves week after week. While for most of them the differences are small and fall into the averages there is an exception. The big gap comes when the holiday season kicks in. Sales explode and do not fit anymore within the scale we defined earlier.

To fix this situation, we have to insert the Christmas factor. The higher an album is charting in December, the highest the factor must be. Inside the formula that we will conclude on, I added a column in which it is hardly needed to put the same scale weight – for example 2 for #100 – as per the ranking the album occupies at Christmas. If this appears to be unclear, the various examples we will expose later on will clarify it.

The finishing also includes slight manual adjustments for specific cases. For example, if an album charts 2-2-2-2-2-2-5-8-11 while another ranks  5-5-5-5-5-5-5-8-11, both albums will have the same result since the 2 and 5 positions are grouped together. Naturally, the album peaking at #2 sold more, especially if it was blocked by a huge #1 LP. When those occurrences of an album riding close to the boundaries of a group for very long happen, weeks may be split equally between the highest and the lowest group. Thus, 2-2-2-2-2-2- is similar to 1-1-1-2-2-2- sales-wise while 5-5-5-5-5-5- is closer to 5-5-5-6-6-6-.

The same occurrence can happen on lower parts of the charts, but the difference between #100 and #101 is very small so doing those adjustments is a waste of time.

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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