While reading comments on this article, one may think that shipments include tons of unsold units added to artists’ totals unfairly. This isn’t true. If you look at a fixed period like a calendar year, shipments of some albums may run well over their sales at retail. If retailers ordered them though, it is because they are popular releases, thus they are most likely going to be sold at some point. Retailers won’t continue to order new copies while they have enough stocks, which means retail sales will end up catching up to shipments. If an album under performs massively, extra copies are returned to the major and removed from counts of net shipments, so there is no error there either. Basically, over a period encapsulating the full promotional campaign of an album, retail sales and shipments will become even.
This is why various albums which sold more at retail than albums inside the official Top 50 sellers are missing. Dido‘s Life For Rent sold well over 2 million in 2004, but a great share of these units were shipped during 2003, thus already accounted for with its #4 placing for that year. In the same way Britney Spears‘ In The Zone and Sheryl Crow‘s Very Best Of sold enough to be inside the Top 50, but they didn’t ship enough as extra copies from late 2003 were still available at the start of 2004.
There are also albums which seem to be quite low like, Norah Jones‘ Come Away With Me and Alicia Keys‘ The Diary Of, again albums which had ongoing units left from the previous year.
Among missing albums there are also unreported records. Prince‘s Musicology, issued by his own NPG label, wasn’t reported to the IFPI. The same happened to Franz Ferdinand with their debut album. Then, Sony BMG decided to exclude its Sony Japan artists, explaining why Orange Range‘s MusiQ isn’t on the list.
For every other album their absence simply means they haven’t shipped enough copies to be charted. This includes JoJo‘s eponymous debut, often claimed to be a 6-million seller, which in reality failed to sell 2 million units in the year that saw it sell 70% of its copies to date.
Kelly Clarkson‘s Breakaway also fails to break the Top 50. It went on to ship 6,1 million units in 2005 to be #7 of the year, but it still caps its sales to 7 million something by the end of that year. Killers‘ Hot Fuss is missing also, just like Snoop Dogg‘s R&G.