Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust 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.
DONE WITH DIVAS (ALMOST ...)
I am so sick and tired of reading about the divas in Ask Billboard. For the past three weeks, all we get is Madonna, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Can't we just go back and ask questions that have nothing to do with the divas?
Beachwood, New Jersey
I think at this point the only conclusion we can come to is that the three artists on which we've been focusing are truly three of the most successful performers in pop music history. So, it's probably time we move on to new topics.
After three more questions ...
I've been finding your analysis of divas' albums to be very interesting. I was just wondering how Janet Jackson figures into the numbers.
She is one of my all-time favorites. I feel her vast accomplishments have been overlooked in recent years, and I'm very curious to see how she stacks up against Madonna, Whitney and Mariah's album sales.
According the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Janet Jackson ranks at number 11 among solo female artists, with 26 million units certified. (The RIAA's list of all artists is viewable here).
According to Nielsen SoundScan, which began tracking data in 1991, Jackson since that year has sold 19,874,000 albums.
As we've recently analyzed with Carey, Celine Dion, Houston and Madonna, let's run down Janet Jackson's top-sellers since 1991, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
7,010,000, "janet." (1993)
3,229,000, "The Velvet Rope" (1997)
3,107,000, "All for You" (2001)
2,422,000, "Design of a Decade 1986/1996" (1995)
1,377,000, "Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814" (1989)
1,002,000, "Damita Jo" (2004)
655,000, "20 Y.O." (2006)
496,000, "Control" (1986)
446,000, "Discipline" (2008)
And, what's one more comparison involving Carey, Houston and Madonna - and Janet Jackson? Dating to Jackson's first week on the Billboard Hot 100 dated Dec. 12, 1982 (at age 16), in that span since, five artists have notched 10 or more No. 1s: Carey (18), Madonna (12), Houston (11) and Janet and Michael Jackson (10 each). Just more evidence that all the artists we've been spotlighting in this discussion are unquestionably chart royalty.
Hey Gary! How's everything?
In the last Ask Billboard column, you wrote that "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is Mariah's biggest-selling digital song, but I had recently accessed the sales for almost all her singles, and there were at least two that sold more: "We Belong Together" and "Touch My Body." Maybe the numbers you cited did not account for remixes of each of the latter two titles?
Thank you for the work you do on the column. I love reading about Nielsen SoundScan figures. You've been providing much information, with precise numbers. I really appreciate that and had to let you know!
Have a nice week!
Bento Goncalves, Brasil
Thanks very much Vagner.
You are correct. I used the numbers of Carey's top individual tracks, as opposed to songs (combining all versions of each title). When adding up all tracks, Carey's top-selling downloaded songs, according to Nielsen SoundScan, rank as follows:
1,361,000, "Touch My Body"
1,253,000, "We Belong Together"
1,235,000, "All I Want for Christmas Is You"
Thanks for the catch. And, with Labor Day weekend upon us in the U.S., the holiday season is fast approaching. That will give an edge to "All I Want for Christmas Is You" in the coming weeks and perhaps push it to the top in the tight race among Carey's best-selling digital songs.
Love this conversation!
It seems strange to me that Billboard doesn't better address sales in countries other than U.S. Divas and pop music hold sway in so much of the world. Is it time for Billboard to factor in world sales into the Billboard 200 and/or Hot 100 charts?
Billboard's "Hits of the World" coverage has long been a part of our chart menu, and two new tallies have launched in recent years: the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 and the Billboard Japan Hot 100, each utilizing percentages of SoundScan data. Billboard.com also showcases the biggest songs and albums across Europe, with specific charts for the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Our sister site, billboard.biz, and the pages of Billboard magazine afford an even deeper look at the most popular titles, including albums, airplay and digital sales, in several other countries.
As for merging worldwide data into the Billboard 200 or Hot 100, or creating charts that would incorporate such a range of data, it's largely an issue of logistics. Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems tracks U.S. radio airplay with electronic monitors in more than 140 markets, and Nielsen SoundScan measures sales in the U.S. with comparable technology. While similar coverage holds true in Canada, for example, the BDS/SoundScan reach does not extend worldwide. To compile some type of global chart that would include data from the U.S. and around the world, we'd likely have to devise a weighted point system that fairly represents countries' disparate data measurement sources. Such a chart would basically take us back to the days when the Billboard 200 was compiled from ranked sales reports, as opposed to actual point-of-sale information. The benefit of BDS and SoundScan is that we now know exactly how many listeners heard a song, or how many consumers purchased an album. Any such worldwide chart could, at the moment, only represent an approximation of actual data.
Billboard Director of Charts Silvio Pietroluongo confirms the current barriers to such a chart and adds a point on licensing. "It is really an infrastructure issue. While we print charts from other countries and sources, the methods they use to create charts are different. We also don't have the legal rights to use that data for our own purposes."