Keith discusses Britney, Donna and Michelle Branch.

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

IN OR OUT OF THE 'ZONE'

Hi,

I am a huge Britney Spears fan. I was wondering why her album "In The Zone" has not been certified triple platinum (by the RIAA). Hasn't the album sold well over 3 million copies in the United States? This has been a long-running question for all Spears fans and I'd appreciate it if you could clear up the confusion.

Thank you,

Ali
Houston


Hi Ali,

First, in related news, Spears' new single, "Gimme More," was just released to radio. It's the first single from her forthcoming fifth studio album, due Nov. 13.

While your "In The Zone" question is RIAA-related and can be answered by visiting its Web site, I'll try to answer this. Certification of an album is not automatic. Usually the record label or artist must apply to have a title certified. Also, remember that RIAA certification awards are based on shipments to retailers, not actual sales to the consumer.

"In The Zone" has sold 2,956,000 in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan.

So, it seems reasonable to expect that there were at least 3 million copies shipped to retail.



BRANCHING OUT

Hi Keith,

My question is regarding Michelle Branch. Since she broke out of the pop/rock market in 2004, joined up with vocalist Jessica Harp and formed the country group the Wreckers, I've been left wanting more from Branch on her own.

Country isn't so much my cup of tea, but the Wreckers seem to be doing pretty well in that market. Any word on whether or not Branch will return to the solo arena any time soon? Is there a new album due out soon from the Wreckers? I know Branch is probably busy now, being a mother and wife, but what new musical projects has she been working on?

Also, while we're at it, how has the Wreckers album sales been doing in comparison with Branch's solo material?

Thanks for your time!
Jamie Sward
Boston



Hi Jamie,

Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp are aiming to record their own solo studio sets next.

On August 10, Branch posted the following statement to the Wreckers'
official Web site's message board:

"I want to thank everyone for all of their support with The Wreckers for the past couple of years. It has been an amazing experience for me and it has allowed me to grow in so many ways. However, it seems as though making a solo record is the right thing to do now. I have so many ideas and I can't wait to share what I have been working on. I'll be popping by here to give you updates on the progress."

Branch's last solo album, "Hotel Paper," has sold 1.1 million since its release in 2003.

The Wreckers' debut album, "Stand Still, Look Pretty," has sold 794,000. It peaked at No. 4 on the Top Country Albums chart and spawned three top 40 singles on the Hot Country Songs chart. Its first single, "Leave the Pieces," hit No. 1 on Sept. 9, 2006.

The act just earned a CMA Award nomination for Vocal Duo of the Year. The show will be held on Nov. 7 in Nashville and will be aired live on ABC. The Wreckers are on tour through the end of September.



END OF THE SUMMER

Hi Keith,

I'm a die-hard Donna Summer fan and have followed her career closely from its inception.

Any word on when Summer's new album of original material will finally drop?

I see on her Web site that she, at some point, was ready to pick the finished songs for the album. However, that notation does not include a date when it was posted, and she's not the greatest at keeping her Web site current.

Is there any buzz about the commercial quality of the album? Also, any idea how extensively Burgundy Records intends to promote it? I'd like to see her make a comeback on the charts, perhaps mirroring what Cher did with her "Believe" album.

Danny
Tulsa, Okla.


Hi Danny,

Donna Summer's album, as they say, is still in the works. Burgundy hasn't announced a release date for the album yet.

I'm unaware of the marketing efforts that Burgundy is planning for the album... though they have certainly done a good job getting the word out about new sets from Gloria Estefan and Chaka Khan.

Estefan's Burgundy debut, "90 Millas," streets Sept. 18 while Khan's Burgundy bow, "Funk This," hits retail on Sept. 25.