3 Must-Know Facts About Nielsen’s Billboard Charts

ImagesBillboard and Nielsen surveys inform a great deal of what we know about the music business when it comes to numbers, but how these companies work can be something of a mystery to artists, a mystery which we unpack some of here.


Guest Post from Topspin

The Billboard charts are the most well known music rankings in the world. Billboard publishes a host of charts that are individually or collectively based on key fan interactions with music, including album sales and downloads, track downloads, radio airplay, streaming, touring, and fan interactions on leading social networks.  

Topspin is an official chart reporter to Nielsen, one of Billboard’s data partners. Artists frequently ask us when they will find out how their new release performed on the charts. We recently caught up with Silvio Pietroluongo, VP of Charts and Data Development at Billboard, and wanted to share his official answers to these common questions…

Question #1: What constitutes a “chart week”?

SP: A chart week is a 7 day period from Friday at 12:00:00am to Thursday at 11:59:59pm Pacific Time.

An exception to this rule is physical sales that occur on a web store (i.e. Topspin), for which the chart week is offset by three days to allocate time for shipment of product. Thus, the chart week for online physical sales goes from Wednesday to Tuesday.


Also, radio charts utilize a Monday to Sunday 7-day cycle.

Question #2: If an artist releases a new track or album in the current chart week, when will they know know how it did on the charts?

SP: Billboard announces the new top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 every Sunday within a story found on billboard.comand also via our social channels. Complete chart listings are refreshed online at billboard.com each Tuesday morning. So if you release your album on Friday October 7th, for example, then we will announce the top 10 for that chart week on Sunday, October 15th and it will appear on the complete chart listing on Tuesday, October 18th.

Question #3: Why is the “WEEK OF” for the latest chart always so far in the future?

SP: Good question. Billboard has historically dated issues in the future, as is the standard for magazine publishing, i.e. the October issue of Vogue comes out in September. Our charts are dated in accordance to the issue in which they will appear.

Here’s an example timeline using a recent tracking week:

Data Tracking Week is Friday, October 7th to Thursday, October 13th.

Billboard announces top 10 of Billboard 200 on Sunday, October 16th.

Entire chart posts on billboard.com on Tuesday, October 18th.

Charts are dated Week of October 29th.

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  1. hello;
    The above information is interesting but unhelpful. Any chart can be made to say anything, either by how the information is processed (chart methodology) and/or by what people or organizations are selected to report.
    i’d like to know what Billboards methodology is and who reports to the major charts.
    Addressing these questions is highly useful.
    Thanks, Mark J

  2. Hi Mark,
    Billboard sales charts are based on sales data provided by Nielsen SoundScan. SoundScan receives sales data from music retailers (physical and digital), as well as from artists who sell direct-to-fan such as CD sales in merch booths while on tour.
    Radio charts are deprived from Nielsen BDSradio. Radio stations (both terrestrial and some Internet) provided airplay data to BDSradio. BDSradio also has technology and processes for detecting audio airplay. They use all of this information (reported and surveyed) to determine chart positioning.
    Billboard also uses a number of sources to chart social media, viral, videos, and other popularity rankings.
    Dae Bogan
    Co-founder & CEO

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