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 retail and 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 music product is released by the music industry 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 Walmart and Starbucks) ineligible for charting, was reversed on November 7, 2007, and took effect in the issue dated November 17, 2007.
Beginning with the December 13, 2014, issue, Billboard updated the methodology of the 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 Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Vevo and, as of the issue dated March 23, 2021, Facebook.
As of the issue dated August 26, 2023, the current number-one album on the chart is Utopia by Travis Scott.
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.
From the end of 1970 to 1985, Billboard also printed a "Bubbling Under the Top LPs" albums chart paired with the "Bubbling Under the Hot 100" singles chart, which listed albums that had not yet charted on what was then the "Top LPs & Tape" chart.
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 1990, 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.
Since May 25, 1991, the Billboard 200's positions have been derived from Nielsen SoundScan sales data; as of 2008[update], it is contributed to by approximately 14,000 music sellers. Because these numbers are supplied by a subset of sellers rather than record labels, it is common for these numbers to be substantially lower than those reported by the Recording Industry Association of America when Gold, Platinum and Diamond album awards are announced. (RIAA awards reflect wholesale shipments, not retail sales.)
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 Spotify, Beats Music, 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, Tidal and 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.
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.
|Rank||Album||Year released||Artist(s)||Peak and duration|
|1||21||2011||Adele||#1 for 24 weeks|
|2||The Sound of Music||1965||Soundtrack||#1 for 2 weeks|
|3||Thriller||1982||Michael Jackson||#1 for 37 weeks|
|4||Fearless||2008||Taylor Swift||#1 for 11 weeks|
|5||Born in the U.S.A.||1984||Bruce Springsteen||#1 for 7 weeks|
|6||Ropin' the Wind||1991||Garth Brooks||#1 for 18 weeks|
|7||Jagged Little Pill||1995||Alanis Morissette||#1 for 12 weeks|
|8||Doctor Zhivago||1966||Maurice Jarre||#1 for 1 week|
|9||All the Right Reasons||2005||Nickelback||#1 for 1 week|
|10||Tapestry||1971||Carole King||#1 for 15 weeks|
|2||The Rolling Stones|
|5||The Beatles||Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (54), A Hard Day's Night (105), 1 (131), Abbey Road (135), Meet the Beatles! (187)|
|4||Taylor Swift||Fearless (4), Taylor Swift (18), 1989 (64), Red (140)|
|Led Zeppelin||Led Zeppelin II (146), Houses of the Holy (185), Led Zeppelin IV (194), In Through the Out Door (198)|
|3||Michael Jackson||Thriller (3), Bad (138), Off the Wall (149)|
|Nickelback||All the Right Reasons (9), Silver Side Up (162), Dark Horse (182)|
|Whitney Houston||Whitney Houston (11), The Bodyguard (23), Whitney (159)|
|Herb Alpert||Whipped Cream & Other Delights (13), Going Places (44), What Now My Love (170)|
|Elton John||Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (39), Honky Château (145), Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (175)|
|Mariah Carey||Mariah Carey (50), The Emancipation of Mimi (52), Music Box (87)|
|Janet Jackson||Control (72), Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 (94), Janet (119)|
|2||Garth Brooks||Ropin' the Wind (6), No Fences (29)|
|Fleetwood Mac||Rumours (15), Fleetwood Mac (74)|
|Celine Dion||Falling into You (21), Let's Talk About Love (164)|
|Pink Floyd||The Dark Side of the Moon (31), The Wall (92)|
|Creed||Human Clay (34), Weathered (181)|
|Santana||Supernatural (36), Abraxas (114)|
|Backstreet Boys||Backstreet Boys (42), Millennium (70)|
|Eminem||The Eminem Show (56), Recovery (93)|
|Boyz II Men||II (61), Cooleyhighharmony (129)|
|Green Day||American Idiot (73), Dookie (172)|
|Nelly||Country Grammar (85), Nellyville (174)|
|John Denver||John Denver's Greatest Hits (86), Back Home Again (193)|
|Chicago||Chicago II (89), Chicago V (165)|
|The Black Eyed Peas||The E.N.D (96), Monkey Business (134)|
|Justin Timberlake||FutureSex/LoveSounds (97), The 20/20 Experience (200)|
|Mumford & Sons||Sigh No More (106), Babel (116)|
|Alicia Keys||Songs in A Minor (107), As I Am (128)|
|NSYNC||No Strings Attached (111), 'N Sync (137)|
|The Monkees||The Monkees (132), More of the Monkees (156)|
|Eagles||The Long Run (148), One of These Nights (155)|
|Billy Joel||Glass Houses (168), 52nd Street (191)|
|The Kingston Trio||1960|
|Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass||1966|
|8||The Rolling Stones|||
|7||Dave Matthews Band|||
|7||Dave Matthews Band|||
List of acts with the most weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since August 17, 1963.
List of acts who reached number one on the Billboard 200 with a new album in consecutive calendar years since August 17, 1963.
The following artists are the only ones with 30 or more top-10 albums:
Note: As a musician, Paul McCartney has the most top-10 albums, with 51. This includes 32 with The Beatles, 11 solo albums, seven albums with the group Wings, and one album credited to him and his first wife, Linda McCartney.
Note: Swift is the first living soloist to chart four albums in the top 10 simultaneously.
|54||West Side Story†||Various artists||1962–63|||
|South Pacific‡||Various artists||1958–59|||
|Purple Rain||Prince and the Revolution||1984–85|||
|Saturday Night Fever||Bee Gees/Various artists||1978|||
|21||Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em||MC Hammer||1990|||
|20||The Bodyguard||Whitney Houston/Various artists||1992–93|||
|Blue Hawaii §||Elvis Presley||1961–62|||
† The West Side Story soundtrack ran for 53 weeks at No. 1 on the stereo album chart; it was No. 1 for 12 weeks on the mono album chart.
‡ The South Pacific soundtrack ran for 28 weeks at No. 1 on the stereo album chart; it was No. 1 for three weeks on the mono album chart.
§ This is the Blue Hawaii album's run on the mono album chart; it was No. 1 for four weeks on the stereo album chart.
|981||The Dark Side of the Moon||Pink Floyd|||
|796*||Legend||Bob Marley and the Wailers|||
|775*||Journey's Greatest Hits||Journey|||
|655*||Chronicle: The 20 Greatest Hits||Creedence Clearwater Revival|||
|645*||Curtain Call: The Hits||Eminem|||
|638*||Greatest Hits||Guns N' Roses|||
|637*||Doo-Wops & Hooligans||Bruno Mars|||
|581*||Back in Black||AC/DC|||
|564*||Good Kid, M.A.A.D City||Kendrick Lamar|||
|527*||Greatest Hits||Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers|||
|497*||Born to Die||Lana Del Rey|||
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.
|Weeks to No. 1||Artist||Album||Date reached No. 1|
|63||Various Artists||O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack||March 23, 2002|
|53||The Kid Laroi||F*ck Love||August 7, 2021|
|52||Live||Throwing Copper||May 6, 1995|
|49||No Doubt||Tragic Kingdom||December 21, 1996|
|46||Norah Jones||Come Away with Me||January 25, 2003|
|44||Hootie & The Blowfish||Cracked Rear View||May 27, 1995|
|40||Prince||The Very Best of Prince||May 7, 2016|
|31||Toni Braxton||Toni Braxton||February 26, 1994|
|28||Celine Dion||Falling into You||October 5, 1996|
|27||Eric Clapton||Unplugged||March 13, 1993|
|Van Cliburn||Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1||1958|||
|Bob Newhart||The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart||1960|||
|Bob Newhart||The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!||1961|||
|Judy Garland||Judy at Carnegie Hall|||
|Vaughn Meader||The First Family||1962|||
|Frank Fontaine||Songs I Sing on the Jackie Gleason Show||1963|||
|Blind Faith||Blind Faith||1969|||
|Pantera||Far Beyond Driven||1994|||
|Bob Carlisle||Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grace)||1997|||
|Marilyn Manson||Mechanical Animals||1998|||
|Marilyn Manson||The Golden Age of Grotesque||2003|||
|Slipknot||All Hope Is Gone||2008|||
|The Decemberists||The King Is Dead||2011|||
|Amos Lee||Mission Bell|||
|TobyMac||Eye on It||2012|||
|Vampire Weekend||Modern Vampires of the City||2013|||
|Slipknot||.5: The Gray Chapter|||
|Brand New||Science Fiction||2017|||
|LCD Soundsystem||American Dream|||
|Vampire Weekend||Father of the Bride||2019|||
|Slipknot||We Are Not Your Kind|||
|SuperM||SuperM – The 1st Mini Album|||
|Tomorrow X Together||The Name Chapter: Temptation||2023|||
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.
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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.
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Billboard's chart history shows Lecrae has no songs that charted on Hot 100.
Billboard's chart history shows Slipknot has no songs that charted on the Hot 100.
Billboard's chart history shows Brand New has no songs that charted on the Hot 100.
Billboard's chart history shows LCD Soundsystem has no songs that charted on the Hot 100.