Billboard Updates Album Chart

Beginning December 5, Billboard will include all albums sold nationally in its Billboard 200 album chart.

This was how albums were originally tracked, but in 1991, Billboard excluded albums that had been out longer than 18 months and dropped below the No. 100 position. This was done so the record industry could see how their albums were doing without having Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon in the way. In 2003, the Top Comprehensive chart was created to reflect the sale of both old and new albums.

Earlier this year, Michael Jackson became the first artist to ever outsell a new release with an older catalog album. His Number Ones, Essential, and Thriller all outsold the Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D. for several weeks following his death in June. Without having a precedent for such a feat, Billboard just reported the Top Comprehensive chart, made things up as they went along, but didn't budge on the rules.

In September, the Beatles released their entire body of work digitally remastered. Once again, these titles were excluded from the flagship Billboard 200 album chart, but they dominated the Comprehensive chart.

Nothing like this has ever happened before, or at least happened with the ability to track it. Several Elvis Presley albums probably outsold Fleetwood Mac's Rumors in 1977 following his death, but until the advent of Soundscan in 1991, album sales couldn't be tracked as precisely. With two high profile instances of catalog albums outselling new releases, both dealing with two of the biggest artists in popular musical history, Billboard has decided to tweak their chart.

For an industry in decline, reporting album sales this way makes sense. Sure, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga will be big sellers this Christmas, but so will Michael Jackson and the Beatles. My big question is will Dark Side of the Moon rocket up the chart out of nowhere, and, if it does, who is still buying it?


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