This article is about the album chart concerning the United States. For the global song chart, see
Billboard Global 200.
The Billboard 200 is a
record chart ranking the 200 most popular
music albums and
EPs in the United States. It is published weekly by Billboard magazine and is frequently used to convey the popularity of an
artist or groups of artists. Often, a recording act will be remembered by its "
number ones", those of their albums that outperformed all others during at least one week. The chart grew from a weekly top 10 list in 1956 to become a top 200 list in May 1967, and acquired its current name in March 1992. Its previous names include the Billboard Top LPs (1961–1972), Billboard Top LPs & Tape (1972–1984), Billboard Top 200 Albums (1984–1985) and Billboard Top Pop Albums (1985–1992).
The chart is based mostly on sales – both at
digital – of albums in the United States. The weekly sales period was originally Monday to Sunday when
Nielsen started tracking sales in 1991, but since July 2015, the tracking week begins on Friday (to coincide with the
Global Release Day of the
music industry) and ends on Thursday. A new chart is published the following Tuesday with an issue post dated to the Saturday of that week, four days later. The chart's
streaming schedule is also tracked from Friday to Thursday. New product is released to the American market on Fridays. Digital downloads of albums are also included in Billboard 200 tabulation. Albums that are not licensed for retail sale in the United States (yet purchased in the U.S. as imports) are not eligible to chart. A long-standing policy, which made titles that are sold exclusively by specific retail outlets (such as
Starbucks) ineligible for charting, was reversed on November 7, 2007, and took effect in the issue dated November 17.
Beginning with the December 13, 2014, issue, Billboard updated the methodology of its album chart to also include on-demand streaming and digital track sales (as measured by Nielsen SoundScan) by way of a new algorithm, utilizing data from all of the major on-demand audio subscription and
online music sales services in the U.S. Starting on the issue dated January 18, 2020, Billboard updated the methodology to compile the chart again by incorporating video data from
YouTube, along with visual plays from digital platforms like
Vevo and, as of the issue dated March 23, 2021,
Billboard began an album chart in 1945. Initially only five positions long, the album chart was not published on a weekly basis, with weeks sometimes passing before it was updated. A biweekly (though with a few gaps), 15-position "Best-Selling Popular Albums" chart appeared in 1955. With the increase in
album sales as the early 1950s format wars stabilized into market dominance by 45 RPM singles and long-playing 12-inch albums – and with 78 RPM record and long-playing 10-inch album sales decreasing dramatically – Billboard premiered a weekly "Best-Selling Popular Albums" chart on March 24, 1956. The position count varied anywhere from 10 to 30 albums. The first no. 1 album on the new weekly list was Belafonte by
Harry Belafonte. The chart was renamed "Best-Selling Pop Albums" later in 1956, and then "Best-Selling Pop LPs" in 1957.
Beginning on May 25, 1959, Billboard split the ranking into two charts: "Best-Selling Stereophonic LPs" for
stereo albums (30 positions) and "Best-Selling Monophonic LPs" for
mono albums (50 positions). These were renamed "Stereo Action Charts" (30 positions) and "Mono Action Charts" (40 positions), respectively, in 1960. In January 1961, they became "Action Albums – Stereophonic" (15 positions) and "Action Albums – Monophonic" (25 positions), and three months later, they became "Top LPs – Stereo" (50 positions) and "Top LPs – Monaural" (150 positions).
On August 17, 1963, the stereo and mono charts were combined into a 150-position chart called "Top LPs". On April 1, 1967, the chart was expanded to 175 positions, and then finally to 200 positions on May 13, 1967. In February 1972, the album chart's title was changed to "Top LPs & Tape"; in 1984, it was retitled "Top 200 Albums"; in 1985, it was retitled again to "Top Pop Albums"; in 1991, it became the "Billboard 200 Top Albums"; and it was given its current title of the "Billboard 200" on March 14, 1992.
In 1960, Billboard began concurrently publishing album charts that ranked sales of older or mid-priced titles. These "Essential Inventory" charts were divided by stereo and mono albums, and featured titles that had already appeared on the main stereo and mono album charts. Mono albums were moved to the "Essential Inventory – Mono" chart (25 positions) after spending 40 weeks on the "Mono Action Chart", and stereo albums were moved to the "Essential Inventory – Stereo" chart (20 positions) after 20 weeks on the "Stereo Action Chart".
In January 1961, the "Action Charts" became "Action Albums – Stereophonic" (15 positions) and "Action Albums – Monophonic" (24 positions). Albums appeared on either chart for up to nine weeks, and were then moved to an "Essential Inventory" list of approximately 200 titles and with no numerical ranking. This list continued to be published until the consolidated "Top LPs" chart debuted in 1963.
In 1982, Billboard began publishing a "Midline Albums" chart (alternatively titled "Midline LPs"), which ranked older or mid-priced titles. The chart held 50 positions and was published on a biweekly (and later triweekly) basis.
On May 25, 1991, Billboard premiered the "
Top Pop Catalog Albums" chart, the criteria for which were albums that were more than 18 months old and had fallen below no. 100 on the Billboard 200. An album did not have to chart on the Billboard 200 to qualify for this chart.
"Both Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall should be in the Billboard Top 200," said former
Pink Floyd member
Roger Waters in 1992. "The Wall still does anything up to four million each year… They've created a catalog chart in which to place all these old albums, leaving the main chart free for all the artists the record companies will want to book advertising space for. It just offers further evidence of the dishonesty that's rife in this business."
Starting with the issue dated December 5, 2009, however, the catalog limitations – which removed albums over 18 months old, albums that have dropped below No. 100 and albums that had no currently running singles – for the Billboard 200 were lifted, turning the chart into an all-inclusive list of the 200 highest-selling albums in the country (essentially changing "
Top Comprehensive Albums" into the Billboard 200). A new chart that keeps the previous criteria for the Billboard 200 – dubbed the "
Top Current Albums" chart – was also introduced in the same issue.
Billboard has adjusted its policies for
Christmas and holiday albums several times. The albums were eligible for the main album charts until 1963, when a "Christmas Albums" chart was created. Albums appearing here were not listed on the "Top LPs" chart, and in 1974, this rule was reverted and holiday albums again appeared within the main list.
In 1983, the "Christmas Albums" chart was resurrected, but a title's appearance here did not disqualify it from appearing on the "Top Pop Albums" chart. In 1994, the chart was retitled "Top Holiday Albums"; as of 2009[update], it holds 50 positions and runs for several weeks during the end-of-calendar-year holiday season. Its current policy allows holiday albums to concurrently chart on the "Top Holiday Albums" list and the Billboard 200.
Beginning with the December 13, 2014, issue, Billboard updated the methodology of its album chart again, changing from a "pure sales-based ranking" to one measuring "multi-metric consumption". With this overhaul, the Billboard 200 includes on-demand streaming and digital track sales (as measured by Nielsen SoundScan) by way of a new algorithm, utilizing data from all of the major on-demand audio subscription services, including
Google Play and
Xbox Music. Under the new methodology, 10 track sales or 1,500 song streams from an album are treated as equivalent to one purchase of the album. Billboard continues to publish a pure
album sales chart, called "
Top Album Sales," that maintains the traditional Billboard 200 methodology but is based exclusively on SoundScan's sales data.
Beginning on January 18, 2020, Billboard incorporated video and audio data from
YouTube, along with visual plays from streaming services like
Apple Music, Spotify,
Vevo, into the Billboard 200. The change has also impacted Billboard's genre-specific album charts.
Billboard's "chart year" runs from the first week of December to the final week in November. This altered calendar allows for Billboard to calculate year-end charts and release them in time for its final print issue in the last week of December. Prior to Nielsen SoundScan, year-end charts were calculated by an inverse-point system based solely on an album's performance on the Billboard 200 (e.g., an album would be given one point for a week spent at No. 200, two points for a week spent at No. 199, etc., up to 200 points for each week spent at No. 1). Other factors, including an album's total weeks spent on the chart and its peak position, are calculated into an album's year-end total.
Since Billboard began obtaining sales information from Nielsen SoundScan, the year-end charts are now calculated by a very straightforward cumulative total of yearlong sales. This gives a more accurate picture of any given year's best-selling albums, as a title that hypothetically spent nine weeks at No. 1 in March could possibly have sold fewer copies than one spending six weeks at No. 3 in January. Albums at the peak of their popularity at the time of the November/December chart-year cutoff many times end up ranked lower than one would expect on a year-end tally, yet are ranked on the following year's chart as well, as their cumulative points are split between the two chart-years.
All-Time Billboard 200 achievements (1963–2015)
In 2015, Billboard compiled a ranking of the 100 best-performing albums on the Billboard 200 over its 52 years, along with the best-performing artists. Shown below are the top 10 albums and top 10 artists over the 52-year period of the Billboard 200, through October 2015. Also shown are the artists placing the most albums on the overall "all-time" top 100 album list.
On May 1, 2016, Beyoncé became the only artist to have their first six studio albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, following the release of her sixth studio album, Lemonade, surpassing DMX. Following the release of Renaissance and its debut atop the August 7, 2022, chart, she extended that record, becoming the only artist to debut their first seven albums atop the chart.
On April 3, 2021, Justin Bieber became the first male act to have his first six studio albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, following the release of his sixth studio album, Justice.
Most cumulative weeks at No. 1
List of acts with the most weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since August 17, 1963.
The album Music to Be Murdered By by
Eminem has the largest rise for an album that did not top the chart; on January 2, 2021, it jumped from No. 199 the previous week to No. 3 on the chart.
The album Hello from Las Vegas by
Lionel Richie has the largest drop for an album that did not top the chart; on September 7, 2019, it disappeared from the chart after having debuted the previous week at No. 2.
Longest climbs to No. 1 in the SoundScan era
Here are the albums to complete the 10 longest rises to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since the adoption of Nielsen Music data in 1991.
Note: Newhart, Meader and Fontaine's albums were all No. 1 on the mono chart but not on the stereo chart. Garland is listed on a technicality; she has 17 pop hits, but all were from 1939 to 1955 – all before the 1958 establishment of the Hot 100.
Justin Bieber became the first artist in history to have five albums top the Billboard 200 at the age of 18, as Believe Acoustic debuted at No. 1 on February 16, 2013. He also became the youngest solo artist to achieve this feat. Subsequently, Bieber (25 years, 360 days) became the youngest solo artist to achieve seven No. 1 albums on the chart with Changes, breaking a 59-year-old record set by
Elvis Presley at the age of 26. He further extended his record, after turning 27, by becoming the youngest soloist to have eight albums top the Billboard 200, following the release of his sixth studio album, Justice, breaking yet another chart record held by Elvis Presley at the age of 29.
Tony Bennett became the oldest male to debut at No. 1 on October 8, 2011 (85 years, 66 days old), with the album Duets II. Bennett, who was born on August 3, 1926, later surpassed his own record when his collaborative album with
Cheek to Cheek, debuted at No. 1 on October 11, 2014 (88 years, 69 days old).
Jackie Gleason, at least for a time, held the record for the most albums to top the Billboard 200 without charting any songs in the top 40 of the Hot 100; five of Gleason's mood music albums topped the Billboard 200 in the mid-1950s.
One Direction became the first group to debut at No. 1 with its first three albums when Midnight Memories debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart dated December 14, 2013. It later became the first group to debut at No. 1 with its first four albums when Four debuted atop the chart on November 26, 2014.
Led Zeppelin holds the record for the longest gap between an album returning to the Top 10. Led Zeppelin first hit the Top 10 on the Billboard "Top LP's" chart for the week ending May 17, 1969, and returned 45 years and 35 days later at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, for the week ending June 21, 2014.
On November 29, 2015,
Adele registered the highest weekly sales figure for a No. 1 album in the Billboard 200 chart history, with 3.38 million units sold. It also became the first album to sell 1 million copies in different weeks, with 1.11 million sold in its second week and 1.16 million sold in its fifth week on the chart.
On May 22, 2016, Coloring Book by
Chance the Rapper became the first streaming-only album to chart on the Billboard 200, debuting at No. 8, with the album being streamed 57.3 million times in its first week, which was equivalent to 38,000 units sold.
On March 18, 2017,
Future made history by achieving back-to-back No. 1 album debuts in successive weeks with Future and Hndrxx for the first time in the chart's history.
On January 19, 2019,
A Boogie wit da Hoodie's Hoodie SZN became the album with the lowest weekly sales figure for a No. 1 album, with 1,000 sales. It subsequently did not sell enough to enter the sales-only "Top 100 Album Sales" chart. A week later, the album broke its own record when it stayed at No. 1 for a second week, selling 749 copies.
^Lindsay, Jay (September 17, 2009).
"Mary Travers of Peter, Paul And Mary Dead at 72". Billboard.
Archived from the original on May 15, 2018. Retrieved March 15, 2018. At one point in 1963, three of their albums were in the top six Billboard best-selling LPs as they became the biggest stars of the folk revival movement.
^"Lecrae Chart History". Billboard.
Archived from the original on October 2, 2018. Retrieved May 30, 2018. Billboard's chart history shows Lecrae has no songs that charted on Hot 100.
^"Slipknot Chart History". Billboard.
Archived from the original on June 14, 2018. Retrieved June 10, 2018. Billboard's chart history shows Slipknot has no songs that charted on the Hot 100.
^"Brand New Chart History". Billboard.
Archived from the original on October 2, 2018. Retrieved May 30, 2018. Billboard's chart history shows Brand New has no songs that charted on the Hot 100.
^"LCD Soundsystem Chart History". Billboard.
Archived from the original on May 4, 2018. Retrieved May 30, 2018. Billboard's chart history shows LCD Soundsystem has no songs that charted on the Hot 100.
^Gael Fashingbauer Cooper (June 15, 2014).
Casey Kasem's 'American Top 40' reached for the starsArchived June 15, 2014, at the
Wayback Machine. NBC News. Retrieved June 15, 2014. "An unparalleled storyteller, Kasem loved to drop a teasing question about a song or a band, then cut to commercial, making his trivia so tantalizing that listeners just had to stay tuned to find out the answer. (...) Who had the most No. 1 albums without a Top 40 single? (Comic and mood-music expert Jackie Gleason, at least at the time.)"