Editor's Note, Nov. 21: We're taking a week off but will be back on Friday, Nov. 28 with a new column. Here is the column from Nov. 14.
Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Keith Caulfield at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.
'OUT' AND ALOUD
I always read your column and I was wondering if, with the release of Girls Aloud's new album "Out Of Control" in the U.K., we're going to see it (come out) overseas? I love them and it's a shame they never had a chance here in the U.S. I know that a lot of Girls Aloud fans would love to see them here.
Girls Aloud are experiencing quite a bit of success at the present in the U.K. Its Polydor/Universal album "Out of Control" recently debuted at No. 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart while the set's lead single, "The Promise," also topped the U.K. Singles Chart. The latter also happened to be the act's 19th consecutive top 10 hit there -- its complete output of single releases.
We got the official word straight from Hassan Choudhury, VP, international marketing for Universal Music U.K. about the state of Girls Aloud in the U.S. He said that the "international rollout for Girls Aloud and their 'Out Of Control' album is focused on continental Europe for the immediate future, spurred by the prospect of a major TV commercial tie-in in Germany, featuring the girls."
Continuing, he said that the "longer-term future includes the U.S., especially if this European campaign proves the Girls Aloud appeal to international audiences."
So, there you have it. Universal Music, the Girls' label, isn't ruling out a go at the U.S., so keep your fingers crossed that the stars align and the Girls come to America.
DIGITAL SHELF LIFE
I just read that Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" is the first catalog track to exceed digital sales of two million copies. I've noticed the song has been a constant presence in the iTunes top 100 since the series finale of "The Sopranos" aired last year, so I'm notsurprised its numbers are so high.
Do you know the other top-selling catalog songs in the digital format? By that, I mean songs that were released before digital downloading was possible.
I'm guessing "Thriller" and "All I Want for Christmas is You" are in the top 20 (thanks to annual holiday interest), but I'd love to know exactly which classic songs are enjoying healthy digital lives. Thanks!
For the purposes of this answer, I'm going to define "catalog track" as one that was released before 1990. (Technically, that's not Billboard or Nielsen SoundScan's definition. For us, a catalog album, for example, is generally one that is 18 months old, or older.)
But, I think what you are asking about is basically, "what really old songs have sold a lot?"
SoundScan maintains a continually updated all-time best selling digital song download chart.
Right now, through the sales week ending Nov. 9, 2008, here is how the top five pre-1990 songs stack up.
1. Journey, "Don't Stop Believin'" (2,043,000 downloads)
2. Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Sweet Home Alabama" (1,472,000)
3. Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody" (1,446,000)
4. Guns N' Roses, "Sweet Child O' Mine" (1,374,000)
5. Guns N' Roses, "Welcome to the Jungle" (1,259,000)
Queen's "We Will Rock You" is in sixth place, with 1,253,000.
Those are the only six pre-1990 titles among the top 200 best selling digital songs.
While doing some research on David Bowie, I was wondering what his biggest selling album is. I'm guessing it might be "Let's Dance" since it was on the Billboard 200 for many weeks due to "Let's Dance," "China Girl" and "Modern Love” (its singles).
In addition, can you also supply sales numbers for his later releases, such as "Outside," "Heathen" and "Reality" along with recent compilations such as "Best of Bowie," "The Collection," "Best of 80/87," etc. including his most recent live album?
Lastly, any word on a new studio release?
Because David Bowie's career pre-dates the establishment of Nielsen SoundScan in 1991, we have to examine his gold and platinum certification information with the Recording Industry Association of America. SoundScan is our sister company that collects sales data for us, but since they have only been around since 1991, we need to loop in the RIAA in order to get the full picture of Bowie's sales.
Only two of his studio albums have been certified platinum, which means one million units have shipped to U.S. retailers. Those are "Let's Dance" and "Tonight."
It would seem that many consumers are content with purchasing a greatest hits collection from Bowie, as they consistently sell well.
For example, his top two best-selling albums since 1991, according to Nielsen SoundScan, are the single-disc version of his 2002 set "Best of Bowie" (1.1 million) and the 1990 album "ChangesBowie" (624,000).
Bowie's most recent live album release, "Live Santa Monica '72," has sold 10,000 in the U.S.
As for a new studio album from the legend, there hasn't been any official word about when to expect a new offering. His last set, 2003's "Reality," debuted and peaked at No. 29 on the Billboard 200. It has sold 151,000 in the U.S.
BRITISH, AND ALONE
There is, I'm sure, no British act that has sold more units than the Beatles. But my question is, who are the individual male and female British acts that have sold the most -- in what has been called the rock era – if that term is still used?
My guess among the men would be Elton John, or maybe Paul McCartney as a single act. Among the women, I guess one would assume Olivia Newton-John, but then again there's Petula Clark. What do you say?
Again, like we had to do with the previous question, we need to rope in the RIAA (riaa.com) in order to figure out who are the best sellers (or highest certified acts) of all time in the U.S.
On the RIAA's Top Selling Artists list, the Beatles are naturally No. 1, with 170 million in certified album units.
The highest ranking solo British male is Elton John (70 million) while Olivia Newton-John is the leading female with 14 million. (Newton-John was born in England, but moved to Australia as a child.)