Understanding: Billboard BB200 vs US Album Sales

Earth, Wind and Fire

II) Examples of application

E) Commodores and Earth, Wind & Fire

Here is the case of two acts similar to the Jackson 5 in that they were hugely popular on both sides, Pop and R&B. Earth, Wind & Fire are especially interesting as their catalog was audited in full by the RIAA several times between 1984 and 2001.

Their first 6 albums all gained one Platinum higher than calculated sales. Those awards were obtained many years after the initial run though and they make perfect sense once adding their respective catalog sales.

We notice that, although close to the next certification level, Faces, Electric Universe and Touch The World never made reached it. Those are precisely the only 3 albums among this list with no single reaching even 1 million streams on Spotify, which explains their non-existent catalog sales since the end of their respective promotion. This also confirms that unlike Teddy Pendergrass, and in spite of being a black act, Earth, Wind & Fire was fully regarded as a cross-over act by then as the Billboard’s panel reflected their sales to perfection.

The Commodores truly crossed over with their 1976 hit Sweet Love. Before that, they were deflated by rankings as shown with Machine Gun which barely charted while it sold past half a million units in two years as per Billboard. Following albums fit perfectly with their certifications until Live!.

For the first time, the formula seems wrong with Natural High, showing 1,9 million sales in 8 months while it did 3 million in less than 2 years. Selling over 1 million outside of chart rankings isn’t realistic. We may jump on the conclusion that it sold a lot via urban retailers however, this isn’t the issue. Let’s check its chart run:

Produced by: Commodores/James Carmichael
Date: 27/05/1978 – Run: 68-24-15- 10-7-4-*3*-3-5-3-3-3-3-3-3-7-6-8-10-13-12-12-18-31-65-64-64-93-113-179-179-179- (32 wsf)
            06/01/1979: 200 (33/16 wks) UK:#8/23/3

We fell into the anomaly category. At the time charts were always waves. An album was climbing until its peak then dropping. It isn’t natural to be that high for so long without climbing higher, e.g. spending 10 weeks inside the Top 5 including 8 at #3 without ever reaching #1/2. The norm would have been:

Produced by: Commodores/James Carmichael
Date: 27/05/1978 – Run: 68-24-15- 10-7-4-*3*-3-3-2-1-1-1-1-3-7-6-8-10-13-12-12-18-31-65-64-64-93-113-179-179-179- (32 wsf)
            06/01/1979: 200 (33/16 wks) UK:#8/23/3

The question turns out to be which albums blocked it at #3? During its second 6-weeks run there, it was indeed always the same #1 and always the same #2, meaning it outsold every album minus two for 6 weeks in a row, a true real #1 seller in a standard period. The Top 2 albums were the Soundtrack Grease and the Rolling Stones’ big gun Some Girls respectively, which better explains why Natural High had to settle for #3 in spite of sales worthy of a #1 spot. Assuming it sold enough to be #1 in a normal week for 4 weeks, the calculation climbs to 2,5 million, now in line with 3 million shipped after one more year of solid sales.

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Please reply back soon MJD, I’m trying to do an analysis on Zara Larsson and I need 2017 album sales, audio streams and downloads for all markets please 🙏🏻

Donald Miller

I found the part about Teddy Pendergrass interesting because of his comparable lack of crossover success. Would have been nice if you had included a non-crossover country act or two for contrast.


Hi MJD, You are really good at getting the more accurate figures. It is your unstinting skill, why don’t you and your team start a worldwide top 100 songs in a weekly basis. What i dont like in us billboard hot 100 charts is that there is a limit now on the number of weeks for a song staying on the charts and if it reaches that limit, the song will not appear on the following week even if its sales are still enough to be in the hot 100. For the uk charts, i dont like their new rule… Read more »


And 2013 Album sales for Europe, Australia, new Zealand, Canada and the United States


Actually I changed my mind, can I instead get CD, Vinyl and digital Album Sales and the total number of streams and singles sales for all markets in 2017, if you can can you list them on here please?