The newly refreshed Billboard 200 albums chart welcomes a familiar face back to No. 1, as Taylor Swift's 1989 hops back to the top slot (2-1) after a one-week vacation. This is the album's fourth non-consecutive week at No. 1. The Billboard 200, which has long been a chart that ranked the most popular albums of the week based on pure album sales, now shifts its methodology to a multi-metric consumption model. The ranking includes 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. As previously reported, the new Billboard 200 chart uses accepted industry benchmarks for digital and streaming data, 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. All of the major on-demand audio subscription services are considered, including Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play and Xbox Music.
Swift's return to No. 1 is powered by 339,000 total album equivalent units in the week ending Nov. 30. Of that sum, the majority is pure album sales (281,000). 1989's album sales now stand at 2.5 million after five weeks on sale. The album is also No. 1 on the Top Album Sales chart, which maintains the old Billboard 200's methodology of ranking pure album sales. Swift continues to ride high on the Digital Songs chart, where she has two songs in the top 10: "Blank Space" (holding at No. 1, with 342,000 downloads; up 13 percent) and "Shake It Off" (8-10 with 93,000; up 12 percent).
Taylor Swift's 1989 holds steady at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart for a fifth non-consecutive week. Swift has now spent a cumulative total of 29 weeks at No. 1 with her four chart-topping albums. Among women, only Whitney Houston (with 46 weeks at No. 1) and Mariah Carey (30) have more weeks atop the tally.
As reported previously, the Billboard 200 chart now measures multi-metric album consumption, including pure album sales. The ranking combines on-demand streaming and digital track sales in addition to traditional album sales, all measured by Nielsen Music.
On the latest Billboard 200, 81.4 percent of its total album equivalent units (adding up the weekly unit totals of Nos. 1 through 200) are pure album sales. The rest of its units are track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).
Swift's 1989 moved 274,000 units in the week ending Dec. 7. That's down 19 percent from its 339,000 sum a week earlier. It's not unusual for albums to dip a bit on the chart in the week following the always-busy Thanksgiving shopping frame (which was reflected on last week's chart. 1989 also stays puts at No. 1 on the Top Album Sales chart, which maintains the old Billboard 200's methodology of ranking pure album sales. It sold 230,000 copies in the most recent tracking week (down 18 percent).
Taylor Swift has once again been named Billboard’s Woman of the Year, but she admits it was a hard road to get there. Swift’s latest album, 1989, marks her first official foray into pop, and it has been a smash success, debuting at No. 1 across all genres and selling more than a million copies in its first week. But when she first broke the news to Big Machine label head Scott Borchetta that her new album was not country, “he went into a state of semi-panic,” she tells Billboard.
Borchetta asked Swift to include three country songs on the album, and also suggested adding a fiddle to its lead track, "Shake It Off." “All my answers were a very firm ‘no,’ because it felt disingenuous to try to exploit two genres when your album falls in only one,” she relates. Swift also encountered resistance from her own team.
“They said, ‘Are you really sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want to call the album 1989? We think its a weird title. Are you sure you want to put an album cover out that has less than half of your face on it? Are you positive that you want to take a genre that you cemented yourself in, and switch to one that you are a newcomer to?’” she recalls. “And answering all of those questions with ‘Yes, I’m sure’ really frustrated me at the time — like, ‘Guys, don't you understand, this is what I'm dying to do?’”
Swift’s determination to stick to her guns paid off in spades. ’1989′ has already launched two No. 1 hits with "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space," and is on a trajectory to possibly replace the soundtrack to "Frozen" as the biggest-selling album of 2014.
USA TODAY Album of the Year: Taylor Swift's '1989'
Albums still matter — if you're Taylor Swift and her fans. Swift's fifth album, 1989, dominated 2014 in a way few others have monopolized previous years. By the time Swift released 1989 on Oct. 27, she had worked her fan base into a frenzy of desire, dropping cryptic hints and previewing tracks, even inviting a few hundred of her most devoted followers into private settings where she played them the entire album, a grassroots marketing campaign unparalleled among pop stars of her magnitude.
The result? Swift managed to do in one week what no other album released in 2014 could do in the previous 42: sell a million copies. Within three weeks, she had made it to 2 million. At this point, 1989 has sold more than the combined total of 2014's next three biggest releases — Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour, Eric Church's The Outsiders and Coldplay's Ghost Stories.
Swift also used 1989 to reframe the debate over streaming and the value of music. "In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace," she wrote in a July piece for the Wall Street Journal.
When she backed up that opinion by yanking her entire catalog from Spotify, she became an instant folk hero to songwriters who claimed such streaming services severely underpaid them. In the short term, at least, she hasn't seen any financial repercussions from her decision. When Billboard changed its main albums chart in December to include on-demand online streams, 1989 moved back into the chart's No. 1 spot on sales alone.
The bottom line, though, is that 1989 is simply a fine album. It's intensely personal and drolly self-aware, with singles Shake It Off and Blank Space mocking the persona her detractors have tried to create for her while such songs as This Love and Wildest Dreams invite listeners into intimate places. It moves her away from exacting passive-aggressive revenge on exes, though she still writes about relationships, and reveals her longtime obsession with her recordings' sonic qualities. Swift has been a musical omnivore with excellent taste since her teens, and 1989 finds her, as she sings in Welcome to New York, "searching for a sound we hadn't heard before."
Taylor Swift's 1989 is heading back to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Industry forecasters suggest the album may sell over 340,000 copies in the week ending Dec. 21, while its overall album consumption figure could approach 390,000.
The recently revamped Billboard 200 chart now ranks albums based on their overall consumption. That overall figure combines pure album sales, along with track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).
The new Billboard 200's top 10 will be revealed on Wednesday, Dec. 24. If 1989 returns to No. 1, it will mark the 30th cumulative week atop the Billboard 200 chart for Swift. She previously reigned with Fearless (11 weeks in 2008 and 2009), Speak Now (six weeks in 2010 and 2011) and Red (seven weeks in 2012 and 2013).
Two new albums are on course for top 10 debuts on the new chart: Nicki Minaj's The Pinkprint and D’Angelo and the Vanguard's surprise album release Black Messiah. Minaj's album may sell around 160,000 copies, while D'Angelo's set could shift 100,000.