Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo' Debuts at No. 1 on Billboard 200 Chart
Kanye West scores his seventh No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, as his latest release, The Life of Pablo, arrives atop the list. The set earning 94,000 equivalent album units in the week ending April 7, according to Nielsen Music. Of that sum, 28,000 were in pure album sales -- the rest were in streaming equivalent albums.
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new April 23-dated chart (where The Life of Pablo is No. 1) will be posted in full to Billboard’s websites on Tuesday, April 12.
The Life of Pablo is the first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 where the majority (70 percent, in fact) of its units were generated by streaming equivalent albums (SEA). Its 66,000 SEA units equates to just over 99 million U.S. streams for the album’s tracks in the week ending April 7. (Each SEA unit is equal to 1,500 streams from an album.)
None of Pablo’s tracks were available for individual purchase, so the album debuts on the strength of only streams and traditional album sales.
The previous high-water mark for streaming percentage at No. 1 was notched just three weeks ago, on the April 2-dated chart, when Rihanna’s Anti returned to No. 1, with 44.6 percent of its total units (54,000) derived from streams. That week, Anti sold 17,000 in traditional album sales, while the rest of its unit total was comprised of streaming and track equivalent album units. (Note: This story was updated on April 11 at 9:42 a.m. PST, correcting Anti's streaming percentage from 31.3 percent to 44.6 percent.)
In terms of streaming units at No. 1, Pablo has the second-largest streaming sum, just barely behind the chart-topping bow of Justin Bieber’s Purpose late last year. The latter started with 67,000 SEA units -- equal to slightly more than 100 million streams of the album’s tracks. (Purpose’s overall first week unit total was 649,000, powered mostly by its strong 522,000 album sales start.)
The Life of Pablo was initially released on Feb. 13 via Tidal’s streaming service, and briefly as a commercial download via West’s official website. The set’s sales and its streams through Tidal were not reported to Nielsen Music, whose data powers the Billboard 200 chart, and it was thus unable to chart.
On April 1, the album became widely available to other streaming services, and went on sale via West and Tidal’s sites. The streams and sales of the wide release were reported to Nielsen Music, enabling its arrival on the charts.
The 28,000 sales reported for the album were from the two web sites, and album/ticket offers with West’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden in New York on Feb. 11, and its simultaneous live stream movie theater event.
Tickets to the New York event came with a download of Pablo, and the sales of the set were counted when and if consumers opted to redeem and download the release. For the live stream movie theater event, customers had the option to add the Pablo album to their purchase. The sales of those albums counted when they were fulfilled to the customer.
Both the Madison Square Garden event and the live stream theater experience are similar to previous chart-eligible offers from artists like Justin Bieber, One Direction, Ellie Goulding, Andrea Bocelli and Elton John.
The Life of Pablo is West’s seventh consecutive No. 1 album, and all have debuted at No. 1. Pablo follows his previous leaders Yeezus (released in 2013), Watch the Throne (the collaborative set with Jay Z, 2011), My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), 808s & Heartbreak (2008), Graduation (2007) and Late Registration (2005). (West only missed the top slot once, with his debut effort, The College Dropout. It bowed and peaked at No. 2 in 2004.)