Confused About What Makes a #1 Album in the Era of Streaming? You’re Not Alone.

It used to be so simple. If you sold more albums than anyone else in a given week, you had the #1 album in the land. But thanks to the modern metrics now used by Billboard, it’s now possible to have a #1 album without selling a single copy. Confused? You’re not alone. The LA Times tries to explain what’s going on.

The Grammy-winning R&B singer Frank Ocean recently released two albums and a full-color, high-gloss magazine over the course of two days. In doing so, he injected enthusiasm, confusion and yet more chaos into an ever-evolving music business.

The unveiling, the latest in a line of innovative, high-profile maneuvers, disrupted the U.S. album charts. Where did Ocean end up on the chart? At No. 1, but how he got there is not as simple as it used to be.

On Monday’s Billboard Top 200 album count, the Apple Music-released “Blonde” debuted at No. 1, with a first-week tally of over 275,000 “equivalent album units” sold — note the wording in quotes.

So, what, exactly, is an equivalent album? It’s a complicated mash-up of streaming and sales data, where 10 digital-track downloads sold and 1,500 songs streamed are equal to one album.

Keep reading.

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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