The UK Albums Chart (currently called the Official Albums Chart) is a list of albums ranked by physical and digital sales and (from March 2015) audio streaming in the United Kingdom. It was published for the first time on 22 July 1956 and is compiled every week by the Official Charts Company (OCC) on Fridays (previously Sundays). It is broadcast on BBC Radio 1 (top 5) and published in Music Week magazine (top 75), and on the OCC website (top 100).
To qualify for the Official Albums Chart the album must be the correct length and price. It must be more than three tracks or 20 minutes long and not be classed as a budget album. A budget album costs between £0.50 and £3.75. Additionally, various artist compilations – which until January 1989 were included in the main album listing – are now listed separately in a compilations chart. Full details of the rules can be found on the OCC website.
According to the canon of the OCC, the official British albums chart was the Melody Maker chart from 8 November 1958 to March 1960 (although the Record Mirror published charts from 22 July 1956); the Record Retailer chart from 1960 to 1969; and the Official Albums Chart from 1969 on. In the 1970s the new album chart was revealed at 12:45 pm on Thursdays on BBC Radio 1, and then moved to 6:05 pm (later 6:30 pm) on Wednesday evenings during the Peter Powell and Bruno Brookes shows. In October 1987 it moved to Monday lunchtimes, during the Gary Davies show, and from April to October 1993 it briefly had its own show from 7:00–8:00 pm on Sunday evenings, introduced by Lynn Parsons. Since October 1993 it has been included in The Official Chart show from 4:00 – 5:45 pm on Fridays (previously from 4:00 – 7:00 pm on Sundays). A weekly 'Album Chart' show was licensed out to BBC Radio 2 and presented by Simon Mayo, until it ended on 2 April 2007.
Though album sales tend to produce more revenue and, over time, act as a greater measure of an artist's success, this chart receives less media attention than the UK Singles Chart, because overall sales of an album are more important than its peak position. 2005 saw a record number of artist album sales with 126.2 million sold in the UK. In February 2015, it was announced that, due to the falling sales of albums and rise in popularity of audio streaming, the Official Albums Chart would begin including streaming data from March 2015. Under the revised methodology, the Official Charts Company takes the 12 most streamed tracks from one album, with the top-two songs being down-weighted in line with the average of the rest. The total of these streams is divided by 1000 and added to the pure sales of the album. This calculation was designed to ensure that the chart rundown continues to reflect the popularity of the albums themselves, rather than just the performance of one or two smash hit singles. The final number one album on the UK Albums Chart to be based purely on sales alone was Smoke + Mirrors by Imagine Dragons. On 1 March 2015, In the Lonely Hour by Sam Smith became the first album to top the new streaming-incorporated Official Albums Chart.
The most successful artists in the charts depends on the criteria used. As of February 2016, Queen albums have spent more time on the British album charts than any other musical act, followed by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, U2 and ABBA. By most weeks at number one, however, The Beatles lead with a total of 174 weeks, and the most number one albums of all with 15. The male solo artist with the most weeks at number one is Presley with a total of 66 weeks. Presley also holds the record for the most number one albums by a solo artist (13) and most top ten albums by any artist (50). Madonna has the most number one albums (12) by a female artist in the UK, though this includes the Evita film soundtrack which was a cast recording and not strictly a Madonna album. Adele is the female solo artist with the most weeks at number one, with a total of 37 weeks.
Queen's Greatest Hits is the best-selling album in UK chart history with 6 million copies sold as of February 2014. Previous first-place holder The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is now in third-place after being supplanted by Queen and then by ABBA's Gold: Greatest Hits. Both albums have sold in excess of 5.1 million copies. The longest running number one album, both consecutively and non-consecutively, is the soundtrack of the film South Pacific. It had a consecutive run of seventy weeks from November 1958 to March 1960 (meaning it was number one for the entire year of 1959), and had further runs at the top in 1960 and 1961, making a non-consecutive total of 115 weeks. With eight consecutive UK number-one albums, Led Zeppelin and ABBA are tied for the most consecutive chart-topping UK albums.
The youngest artist to top the chart is Neil Reid, whose debut album topped the chart in 1972 when he was only 12 years old. The oldest living artist to top the charts is Vera Lynn at the age of 100 with Vera Lynn 100, released in 2017.
The album which has spent the most weeks on the charts is Queen's Greatest Hits with over 700 weeks on its own and a further 211 weeks as part of The Platinum Collection. See List of albums which have spent the most weeks on the UK Albums Chart for full details.
In 1980, Kate Bush became the first British female artist to have a number-one album in the UK with Never for Ever, as well as being the first album by any female solo artist to enter the chart at number 1. In August 2014 she became the first female artist to have eight albums in the Official UK Top 40 Albums Chart simultaneously, (altogether she had eleven albums in the Top 50 in one week). She is currently in fourth place for artists having the most simultaneous UK Top 40 albums, behind Elvis Presley and David Bowie who both tie for the most simultaneous Top 40 albums (twelve each, both immediately following their deaths in 1977 and 2016 respectively), and The Beatles who had eleven in 2009 when remastered versions of their albums were released.
The fastest selling album (first chart week sales) is 25 by Adele. Released in November 2015, it sold over 800,000 copies in its first week.
The X Factor's 2006 runner up, Ray Quinn, is the only solo artist to top the album chart without ever releasing a single, though Led Zeppelin achieved eight consecutive number-one albums from 1970 to 1979 without releasing a single in the UK until 1997.
The biggest drop from number one was by Christina Aguilera with her 2010 album, Bionic. The album fell from the top spot in its second week to number 29.
The Rolling Stones have reached number one in the album chart with new studio albums during five different decades (1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2010s). In the 2000s, they failed by the narrowest of margins to reach the top in 2005 with A Bigger Bang, which was the best-selling album of the week in Britain but was kept out by poor sales in Northern Ireland. ABBA have reached the top spot in four consecutive decades, though this was with the same album (Gold) in the 1990s and the 2000s. For solo artists, Elvis Presley has scored UK number-one albums in five different decades (1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 2000s and 2010s). In 1993, Cliff Richard became the first male solo artist to score UK number-one albums in four consecutive decades (1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s). In 2010, Kylie Minogue became the first female solo artist to have UK number-one albums in four consecutive decades (1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s). In 2012 Madonna's 12th studio album MDNA debuted at number one, giving her UK number-one albums in four consecutive decades, matching Minogue's feat.
The longest number one by a group is Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water which was no.1 for 33 weeks (13 of which were consecutive). The longest consecutive number one by a group was The Beatles' Please Please Me, which held the top spot for a straight 30 weeks. The longest number one by a male solo artist was Elvis Presley with G.I. Blues which stayed at the top for 22 weeks (his Blue Hawaii album was also the longest consecutive number one album for a male artist with 17 weeks). Adele's album 21 has the most weeks at number one by a female solo artist (and by a solo artist of either gender) with 23 weeks, 11 of which were consecutive (which is also a record for a female artist).
Blossoms' self-titled album holds the record for having the lowest one-week sales while at the top of the chart in the modern era, when it was number one the week of 19 August 2016 on sales of only 7,948 copies.
The fastest selling debut albums (first week sales):
Sam Smith holds the record for most weeks spent in the Top 10 by a debut album with In the Lonely Hour, with 76, surpassing a record previously held by Emeli Sandé and The Beatles.