Michael Jackson's phenomenal success this year, little of which was reflected on The Billboard 200. Jackson's Number Ones was the best-selling album in the country for six weeks this summer, but because the 2003 release was a catalog album, it wasn't allowed to appear on the big chart.
"The events of 2009, and the continuing creativity in the repackaging of catalog titles, have led us to conclude that the Billboard 200 would be best served presenting the true best-sellers in the country, without any catalog-related rules or stipulations, to our readers, the media and music fans" said Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard's director of charts.
This is a welcome development, and a much-needed move for the Billboard 200 to retain credibility. It means that the album chart that is reprinted in hundreds of newspapers, magazines and websites around the world (including this one) will be a reflection of what's really selling, regardless of when the albums were released.
The new policy will take effect in the issue dated Dec. 5, which is the first week of Billboard's 2010 chart year. The change will be confined to The Billboard 200. The magazine's other album charts (country, R&B, etc.) will continue to exclude catalog.
Catalog albums have become a bigger factor in recent years. Twenty-nine of the 200 best-selling albums so far this year are catalog titles. Just 19 of the 200 best-selling albums of 2008 were catalog titles.
From the beginning of 1994 through the end of 2007, only three catalog albums sold well enough to have appeared in the top 10 on The Billboard 200 (if rules had allowed). But since the beginning of 2008, 13 catalog albums have sold well enough to appear in the top 10.the Beatles. For two weeks in July, six of the 10 best-selling albums in the country were catalog albums by Jackson. For one week in September, five of the 10 best-selling albums in the country were catalog albums by the Beatles. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, which, at its peak, had four of the top 10 albums on what is now The Billboard 200. But the fact that the albums by Jackson and the Beatles didn't appear on The Billboard 200 undercut the achievement. It made it seem less meaningful and real.
Here's another way of looking at this: From the beginning of 1994 through the end of 2007, there were only 10 weeks in which one or more catalog albums sold well enough to appear in the top 10. Since the beginning of 2008, there have been 26 weeks in which one or more catalog albums sold well enough to crack the top 10. That's a huge upswing.Pearl Jam's Ten would have ranked #5 in March of this year. Kenny G's Miracles-The Holiday Album (seven weeks) and Josh Groban's Noel (five weeks). Next in line, with two weeks each: the Grease soundtrack, the Beatles' Abbey Road and Jackson's Off The Wall, Bad and Dangerous. No Doubt's "Don't Speak," Will Smith's "Men In Black," Sugar Ray with Super Cat's "Fly," Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" and Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris." Clearly, a change was needed to preserve the credibility of the Hot 100. Beginning on Dec. 5, 1998, Billboard allowed non-singles to enter the Hot 100.
The magazine could probably have reacted faster in both cases, but it wanted to weigh all the ramifications before it acted.
Good move, Billboard.