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Chart Beat Podcast: 25 Years of Nielsen Music Data on the Billboard 200

Twenty-five years ago today, on May 25, 1991, Billboard made perhaps the most significant change to the Billboard 200 albums chart, which launched, in its earliest form, in 1956. After decades of the tally being based on ranked reports from retailers, Billboard joined with Nielsen Music (then SoundScan) to transform the chart to one ranking actual point-of-sale, electronically scanned sales figures.

The conversion immediately made the chart more relevant and insightful, says Nielsen Music senior VP of global product leadership and industry insights for music Dave Bakula. With Garth Brooks' No Fences notably flying 16-4 on the first remodeled chart, it reflected "how important country music was" among consumers. Brooks is the best-selling album artist in the U.S. over the past 25 years, with 70.7 million albums sold.

In the new episode of the Chart Beat Podcast, Bakula chats with Billboard co-directors of charts Keith Caulfield (also the Billboard 200 chart manager) and host Gary Trust about how Nielsen has tracked music consumption for a quarter-century now, from the country boom of the early '90s through the dawn of digital sales and more. Meanwhile, streaming has surged in recent years, which Bakula sees as a key positive for the business. "The availability of music is greater than ever. And the consumption of music is greater than ever. Fans just continue to have different ways to get to their favorite music."

Also included: an exclusive countdown of the five best-selling albums in the U.S. of the past 25 years.

Previous episodes: Chart Beat Founder Paul Grein / Fred Bronson / Hit Songs Deconstructed on Drake & Selena Gomez / WTBU's Anne Donohue / Mike Curb / Billboard News Director Shirley Halperin / RCA's Joe Riccitelli / Columbia's Pete Cosenza

Enjoy the entire latest Chart Beat Podcast, and stay tuned for upcoming episodes with label execs, radio programmers, songwriters, producers and more, all as we analyze why what's on the charts … is on the charts.

And, to receive every episode automatically in your inbox, subscribe to (and rate) the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast on iTunes!