Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Are worldwide sales posts pure sales or unit sales?

A: Up until the start of 2017, all worldwide sales posts were pure and based on data from a set of the ‘most relevant’ countries. All weekly sales figures from 1 January 2017 onward are units and denoted by an asterisk (*). Figures for albums released prior to 2017 are pure sales plus units from 2017 only. 

Occasionally, pure worldwide sales for older albums will be posted. These posts will not contain an asterisk (*) and will be noted as pure. Additionally,  adjusted album sales will be posted when announced by labels (typically around the release of new material from the same artist).

Q: When is the Billboard Hot 100 (singles chart) updated?

A: The full chart is normally released on Tuesday in the US, with the top 10 and selected other positions being posted up to 24 hours before the full chart.

Q: When is the Billboard 200 (album chart) updated?

A: The full chart is normally released mid week in the US, with the top 10 being posted on Sundays.

Q: What does “US digital sales” mean?

A: “US digital sales” refers to pure single sales in the US. Current week sales will be posted after the artist name and with the total since release in parenthesis. Singles released before the digital era have physical sales counts that are not included in these totals.

Example: Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” has sold 3.9m digital copies and an estimated 900,000 physical singles since release. While its actual sales would add up to nearly 4.8m, the post would read 3.9m total.

Q: What does “US Top Album Sales/US pure album sales” mean?

A: “US Top Album Sales” refers to pure album sales (digital and physical) in the US. Current week sales will be posted after the artist name and with the total since release in parenthesis.

“Est.” means the total is estimated. While most current albums are nearly exact, some are rounded to the nearest 250 or 1,000 copies.

Example tweet: “US pure album sales: Weekly rank # @Artist, Album title Copies sold this week (total copies sold).

If the amount of copies sold this week is not exactly known, the total will instead be located outside the parenthesis.

Q: Are BMG/other music club sales included in “US Top Album Sales/US pure album sales”?

A: No. Nielsen does not track these sales and most clubs are now defunct. You can find a list of top selling BMG titles here. These numbers are included in RIAA counts.

For example: Janet Jackson’s ‘janet.’ has sold. 7,073,000 pure copies according to Nielsen. Including 860,000 reported albums from BMG and streaming units, the album has moved over 8m equivalent albums in the US. It is eligible for at least 8x platinum and could be higher based on additional shipments.

Q: What does “Billboard 200” mean ?

A: The Billboard 200 is a chart that ranks the best performing albums in the US each week, combining pure sales, TEA and SEA. 

Q: What are TEA, SEA and SPS?

A: TEA means track equivalent albums. TEA is calculated by adding up all of the song sales from an album and dividing by 10. Thus, 10 song downloads from the same album is equivalent to 1 album unit.

SEA means streaming equivalent albums. SEA is calculated by adding up all of the audio song streams from an album. Premium streaming totals are divided by 1,250 and free streaming totals are divided by 3,750. Thus, 1,250 premium streams or 3,750 free streams from the same album is equivalent to 1 album unit.

SPS means sales plus streaming. It is a common way to express ‘units’ (pure, TEA and SEA all together).

Q: What are the requirements for RIAA certifications?

A: For songs, all official audio and video streams from within the US are counted in addition to pure single sales. 150 streams = 1 track sale.

For albums, all official audio and video streams (SEA) from within the US are counted in addition to TEA and pure sales. 1500 streams = 10 track sales = 1 album sale.

In addition, if an album shipped over 1 million copies to stores it can be certified Platinum without all 1 million of these copies being sold.

Gold = 500,000 units

Platinum = 1,000,000 units

Diamond = 10,000,000 units

Visit the RIAA website for more information.

Q: What does “eligible for Gold/Platinum/Diamond” mean?

A: If a track or album is eligible for a new certification, that means it has just surpassed a certain threshold but has yet to be officially certified. In most cases eligibility means that a new official certification should be expected in the next few weeks.

Eligibility for a certification does not mean the track or album is officially certified by the RIAA.

Example: Miley Cyrus’ “Malibu” was eligible for RIAA Platinum on or around 5 August, was officially certified on 28 August and the award was publicly announced on 31 August. 

Q: What are some different types of “US SPS units” calculations?

A: Chart Units – SPS total counted starting from the album’s release date. This means that units racked up by singles released prior to the album are not included in this count. Only audio streaming is counted.

Total Project – SPS total of the entire album era including pre-album tracks in addition to the album SPS from the release date. Only audio streaming is counted.

RIAA Project – Total project plus equivalent sales from video streams (which do not count for weekly album charts).

Because RIAA includes audio and video streams in addition to data from singles prior to album release, an album could be certified even though the album’s chart units or total project SPS total could be significantly below the certification threshold.

Example: Halsey’s ‘hopeless fountain kingdom’ is certified RIAA gold denoting consumption and shipments of at least 500,000. However, its SPS total is at 410,000 because some of those units came from video streams or pre-album data.

Q: What does “[Example song] has now sold over 100,000 units in the US” mean?

A: A song has sold that many units based on download/pure sales and audio streaming ONLY. This does not count video streaming (such as YouTube), that would otherwise be counted toward the RIAA unit total. If video streaming is added to a total, this will be denoted.

Example: Katy Perry’s “Roar” has 8.3 million in U.S. activity based on downloads and audio streams ONLY. With video streaming, it is certified Diamond by RIAA.

Q: Do unofficial videos on YouTube count for the Hot 100?

A: Yes. User-generated clips that utilize authorized audio from a song count in addition to official videos from the artist’s channel (via Billboard; verified here).

Q: Are tour bundles included in “US chart preview” and “US pure album sales” posts?

A: Yes.

Q: Why do you post pure album sales instead of SPS?

A: Pure album sales are much easier to count 😛

Q: Are “UK album/single sales” pure or SPS?

A: Almost always SPS. Specifically noted if sales are pure.

Got more questions? Leave a comment below or DM on Twitter.