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 first number one album of the UK Albums Chart was Songs for Swingin' Lovers! by Frank Sinatra on 22 July 1956. The current number one album, as of 4 May 2018 is Beerbongs & Bentleys by Post Malone.
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 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.