The Billboard 200 Album Chart Methodology Has Totally Changed (And BTW, Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ Is #1 Again)

Robbie Daw | December 3, 2014 10:40 am

In case you missed the news, last week One Direction‘s Four became the final album to top the Billboard 200 chart via the methodology of tallying up sales alone. This week marks a new era for Billboard, in that the main album chart will be determined by on-demand streaming and digital track sales, in addition to traditional album sales, all measured by Nielsen.

“This is the most substantial update to the chart’s methodology since May of 1991, when Billboard first used Nielsen’s point-of-sale data — SoundScan — to measure album sales,” the publication’s Keith Caulfield writes today in his weekly album chart update.

So what exactly does all of this mean? Here are a few brass-tacks pointers for the Billboard 200 going forward:

* Digital streams will be determined by using “accepted industry benchmarks,” says Billboard, “where 10 digital track sales from an album is equivalent to one album sale, and 1,500 song streams from an album equates to one album sale.”

* Exactly which streaming services are represented in the weekly album chart data? All of them, “including Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play and Xbox Music.”

* This week Taylor Swift‘s 1989 is back at #1 for a fourth non-consecutive week. Here’s how Billboard broke down her 339,000 “total album equivalent units” this time around: Pure album sales = 281,000, while track equivalent album sales, or TEA + streaming equivalent albums, or SEA = 58,000.

* If you’re the type of person who resists change, relax — you can always just refer to Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart, which still does things the old-fashioned (as of seven days ago) way.

One thought comes to mind with all of this, which is that acts who have been traditionally thought of as more “singles artists” than “album artists” might benefit from Billboard and Neilsen now accepting streams into the equation. For instance, you’ll note below that Ariana Grande and Maroon 5 have now zipped back into the Top 10. (Last week Maroon 5’s V was floundering at #32.)

Time will tell. But just keep an eye out for the 12-week stint at the top for Rihanna‘s next LP.

The Top 10 of the Billboard 200:

1. Taylor Swift, 1989 *4 weeks*
2. Pentatonix, That’s Christmas To Me
3. Various, Shady XV *new*
4. One Direction, Four
5. Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour
6. Rick Ross, Hood Billionaire *new*
7. Ariana Grande, My Everything
8. Beyonce, Beyonce: More *new*
9. Soundtrack, Frozen
10. Maroon 5, V

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