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Ask Billboard is updated every week. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.

'SAIL' SALES, AND AIRPLAY

Hello Gary,

I had a pretty specific chart question I was trying to figure out the answer to and a colleague recommended that I ask you.

One of my favorite songs of 2011 was AWOLNATION's "Sail" and it struck me as noteworthy that it's been consistently hanging out toward the bottom of the Billboard Hot 100 for months now. It's been on the chart for 20 weeks now yet has never ranked higher than No. 82.

I was hoping you could tell me exactly how unusual that might be? I don't know how easy it is to quantify a statistic like, "X weeks on chart without climbing higher than X," but it definitely seems like songs that stay on the chart that long tend to get much higher, at least briefly.

Thanks,

Al Shipley
Baltimore, Maryland

Hi Al,

Great observation.

AWOLNATION's first Hot 100 hit, "Sail," which even rises this week with a bullet (97-91), becomes one of just seven titles ever to spend 20 weeks on the chart but rise no higher than No. 82, where it peaked in October.

Remember any or all of the previous six? Here they are:

Peak, Title, Artist, Year
No. 83, "I'd Rather," Luther Vandross, 2002
No. 84, "Shake That Monkey," Too Short featuring Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, 2004
No. 85, "Give It to Her," Tanto Metro & Devonte, 2002
No. 86, "Guilty," Gravity Kills, 1996
No. 87, "Stupid Girl," Cold, 2003
No. 88, "Don't Call Me Baby," Madison Avenue, 2000

With steady support from alternative and active rock radio, "Sail" scored a No. 10 peak in a 37-week run on Rock Songs. Its best digital sales week this week (35,000 downloads sold, up 20%, according to Nielsen SoundScan) ups its release-to-date total to an impressive 746,000. Radio has even already taken to follow-up "Not Your Fault," which rises 34-30 in its fifth week on Rock Songs.

As for the Hot 100 chart life of "Sail," I suppose it's all how you look at the glass. If you see it has half-empty, you focus on the song's modest No. 82 peak. But, if you see it has half-full, you consider the track's impressive longevity.

Judging by its acceptance at rock radio, the latter is a smart choice.

It also brings to mind Jerry Seinfeld's bit about how some medicines are "fast-acting" while others are "long-lasting." "When do I want to feel better, now or later?"

That applies to "Sail": the song may not have logged a very high Hot 100 peak, but in staying on the chart for 20 weeks, landing a top 10 rock airplay peak and closing in on three-quarters of a million downloads sold, the act clearly has won much attention in its debut Hot 100 effort.

Slow and steady often wins the race for rock acts, too, as so many alternative acts, from Dave Matthews Band to the Black Keys, have built followings gradually through touring and fans' word of mouth.

With its strong airplay run, "Sail" should continue to sell downloads, so its low peak in its lengthy Hot 100 stay shouldn't hurt it long-term. In contrast, consider a song such as the "Glee" cast's "Loser Like Me," which logged a No. 6 Hot 100 peak but spent only three weeks on the chart last year.

Since its release last March, "Loser" has sold 517,000 - almost 229,000 less than "Sail." Last week, "Loser" sold 5,000, while "Sail" sold 35,000. Without the benefit of sustained airplay, it doesn't appear that "Loser" will catch "Sail" anytime soon, evidence that a low peak and a long Hot 100 run can be much more advantageous than a high-peaking title that quickly departs the chart.