Keith answers readers' questions on Madonna, "Now That's What I Call Music" series and Paula Abdul.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Keith Caulfield at askbb@billboard.com.

'4 MINUTES' OF FAME

Hi Keith,

Madonna just released her new single "4 Minutes" featuring Justin Timberlake. Do you think American radio stations will play it along with other singles from her upcoming album "Hard Candy?" They shamelessly ignored (her last album) the great "Confessions on a Dancefloor."

This time she collaborated with Timbaland, Pharrell and of course Timberlake. Will this fact entice U.S. radio to put Madonna back onto the airwaves where she belongs?

Micheal Alexander
Boston

Hi Michael,

It seems like the magic combination of Madonna, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland is already working. In "4 Minutes'" first three days of radio release, 60 monitored U.S. radio stations played it seven times or more. That includes WIHT Washington, D.C. (29 spins), KHJZ Houston, Texas (29 spins), WKXS Boston (22 spins) and WHTZ New York (19 spins).

Next week it will likely debut on the CHR/Top 40 airplay chart in our sister publication Radio & Records. It also has a chance of debuting on The Billboard Hot 100 as well.

We'll see if radio stations continue to embrace "4 Minutes" in the coming weeks. It wouldn't be unusual for stations to back off a song after an initial flurry of activity, especially if the song doesn't react well with a station's audience.

On a side note, "4 Minutes" will not only be released as a digital download in the coming weeks, but it will also be granted a physical single release in the U.S. The remixes of "4 Minutes," crafted by Tracy Young, Bob Sinclair and Junkie XL, will be released on CD Maxi, 12" vinyl and of course digitally.

Madonna's "Hard Candy" album drops April 29.



'NOW' 16

Hi Keith,

I love your column and I look forward to reading it every week. I have a question about the "Now That's What I Call Music" series. The 27th edition bowed this week with one of the lowest (debut) sales figures in the in series history.

My question is, do you think that this franchise will eventually become irrelevant? With digital downloads there is no reason to wait for a compilation to get certain songs. I already have 16 of the tracks on "Now 27" on my iPod. I would be interested in your opinion.

Thank you,

Paul Hollins
Chicago

Hello Paul,

Interesting you should bring this up. I wrote about this very topic earlier this week for Billboard Chart Alert. "Now 27" debuted at No. 3 on The Billboard 200 with 169,000 - the lowest opening sales week for a regular "Now" album since the first volume in 1998. The first "Now" album started with 48,000, eventually peaking with 178,000 during Christmas week of 1998.

We haven't seen a regular "Now" album have a sales week in excess of 300,000 since "Now 23" debuted with 337,000 in November 2006. Since then, the opening weeks of the subsequent "Now" albums have each gone down. "Now 24" did 230,000 its first week, "Now 25" started with 226,000 and "Now 26" debuted with 208,000.

Consumers don't have to wait for a "Now" album to be released in order to obtain music's biggest hit singles. They can simply go buy whatever songs they want for 99 cents each at the iTunes Store.

"Now" served a great purpose in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when legal Internet downloading didn't really exist in a successful format. But now with iTunes so ubiquitous, "Now" albums seem a bit outdated.

That said, the "Now That's What I Call Music!" franchise still has a lot of life in it. As do its other themed collections, like "Now That's What I Call The 80s!," which debuted this week on The Billboard 200 at No. 11.

When a "Now" album can bring together an album's worth of material that's very appealing to consumers for an economical price, it's a winner.

Look at the first "Now That's What I Call Christmas!" album. It has sold 3.3 million in the U.S. The 36-song set carries a list price of $19.98. Already, if you did the math, a 36-song set would cost you at least $36 if you bought each song a la carte via iTunes.

Even better, the "Christmas" sets, because they are themed collections, they are targeted to an audience that will likely embrace all of the songs on the album.

Sure, you could still make your own Christmas playlist on your iTunes at home, or on your iPod. But sometimes it's easier and cheaper to buy a well-crafted compilation that might bring some previously unfamiliar gems to your music collection.



'DANCE' BUT NO SPINS

Keith,

I don't want this to sound like a stupid question, but do you know the reason why Paula Abdul's new single "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" is not getting any airplay on the radio?

I was wondering if is just because DJs don't like it? Is it a corporate decision? Is it because the single is on a small label and the distribution is slower?

I'm pretty sure some people think is a good song (like me), but it just bugs me how a song that (hit No. 1 on the Top Music Videos chart in the iTunes Store) is not getting any radio airplay.

Thanks!

Richard
Guatemala City

Hi Richard,

For the seven days ending Tuesday, March 18, only five monitored U.S. radio stations played Paula Abdul's "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" seven or more times. The outlets were WZEE Madison, Wis. (9 spins during the week), CKEY Buffalo, N.Y. (8 spins), KQMQ Honolulu (8 spins), KNCH Seattle (8 spins) and KKMY Beaumont, Texas (7 spins).

Even KIIS in Los Angeles, which has a morning show hosted by "American Idol's" Ryan Seacrest, has only played the song 10 times total since it debuted in January.

Many radio stations played "Dance" initially in January when it was first released to radio. But since then, pretty much everyone has backed off the song. It's likely because their audience didn't respond well to the track. A radio station will only play something that it feels will work for its audience, and it seems the vast majority of stations don't feel "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" is right for them.

Among video channels, during the tracking week, only MTV Hits played the music video for "Dance," and it aired it four times. Its big sister station, MTV, has only played the clip once, on March 10. No other monitored video channel has played "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow."

It's not all bad news, though. "Dance" has sold 189,000 digital downloads and has moved in excess of 30,000 in each of the past four weeks. This week it was No. 21 on the Hot Digital Songs chart, having sold 39,000.

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