Chart Beat Chat

Fred and his readers discuss Shop Boyz, American Idols, "World Idol" and more!

WHAT CAN ONE PERSON DO?

Fred-

I need your advice.

Before you start making any assumptions, I am not your typical "American Idol" fan. I am a married man in my 30s who happens to enjoy watching "American Idol." However, I don't always buy all the music that the show puts out. I have purchased Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, more for my kids than myself.

With that said, I downloaded Kimberley Locke's new album, "Based on a True Story." I loved her first single from that album, "Change," and decided to go ahead and download the album. Was I surprised! It is a great album. She capitalized on the success from previous singles and put out an amazing album. I literally can't stop listening to it. I have not been this excited about an album in a very long time!

My only concern is that it has not sold anything. Her single is rising on a few charts, but the sales are not. I am hoping that when "Celebrity Fit Club" is done, she will be able to promote this album. I would hate to see this album get lost when it has so much potential.

Other than purchasing the album, what can I do to get the word out about this album? I am not a teenager that can call a radio station over and over and we know how radio has not embraced "American Idol" contestants. I've told friends and family, but what else can I do to help an artist sell an album?

Please help!

Mitch Bartlett
Olathe, Kansas

Dear Mitch,

There are a few things I can suggest that can be applied to any artist or any album.

First, you can write reviews of "Based on a True Story" for online retailers. After I received your e-mail I went to Amazon.com to see if you had submitted a review. I didn't see one, so that's one of the first things you can do. You've got a head start with your letter to me, so take some of the glowing praise and turn it into an online review.

You might not want to call your local radio station over and over, but one thoughtful written letter sent by snail mail to a program and/or music director can have an impact. Kimberley Locke's "Change" is No. 8 on the Adult Contemporary chart this week. If the AC station in your city isn't playing the song, you can argue (in a polite way, of course) that the song has proven itself at AC stations around the country, and Kim has proven herself at the AC format with several hits, so they really should add her song (or increase airplay, which will help move it up the chart).

A dance version of "Change" is No. 1 on our Club Play chart, so if you have a dance station in your area, you could ask them to add it based on the popularity of the dance mix in clubs.

You can blog where appropriate. There are a number of "American Idol" forums dedicated to the show and all of the contestants, where your comments could convince fans of the show to purchase Kim's album.

And of course, by writing to this column you have alerted the millions of Chart Beat readers around the world to the merits of "Based on a True Story."

You didn't have to convert me, I've been a Locke fan since her audition.



IT'S MANDISA'S 'WORLD'

Hi Fred!

In your May 17 online Chart Beat column, you noted that season five of "American Idol" was tied with season three for the highest number of chart-worthy finalists, with seven apiece. Last week, season five finalist Mandisa Hundley debuted strongly on the Christian Adult Contemporary chart with "Only the World," the first single off her Sparrow debut album, "True Beauty."

I think Mandisa's debut at No. 19 brings season five's list of charting finalists to eight, yes? Unless Jon Peter Lewis, Camile Velasco, Amy Adams, Matthew Rogers or Leah LaBelle find chart success anytime soon, I think season five can expect to comfortably keep this record (at least until Jordin Sparks and the rest of season six show up, anyway).

Ganns Deen
Manila, Philippines

Dear Ganns,

I didn't mean to slight Mandisa, and I think I've made it up to her in the current Chart Beat column. Her "Only the World" debuts at No. 2 on Hot Singles Sales this week, so she came very close to adding to the show's collection of No. 1 hits.

As you'll see when you read Chart Beat, Mandisa is the 28th "Idol" contestant to chart (and Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis are No. 29 and No. 30, respectively).

As you note, season five moves ahead of season three when it comes to the number of charted "Idol" finalists. Season five could lengthen its lead if Ace Young charts; on the other hand, Jon Peter Lewis does have a very fine album available.



LET'S GET PHYSICAL

Hi Fred,

I feel cheated and I would guess that both Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis feel cheated, too. After five seasons of carrying over the "American Idol" finale feeling of energy into the record store to buy the physical singles of the top finalists, we were deprived of it this year. I have no single to add to my collection and wonderful sweet Jordin has to have the distinction of being the "Idol" winner who broke the streak of No. 1 singles. I completely understand that the times they are a changin' and no one buys physical singles any more, but the huge demographic of "American Idol" fans still does. We are music fans, collectors and chart watchers and this choice is very disappointing. I am certain that I am not your only reader who is writing to you about this and I am very interested in hearing your thoughts. Do you think there is any chance that the record company, or whoever makes the decision, will decide to release some physical singles after all?

Ric Martel
Chicago, Ill.

Dear Ric,

I don't think we've seen the end of the story yet. While the digital downloads were available immediately after the show, neither Jordin Sparks nor Blake Lewis have their label deals finalized yet, though both will be signed and both will be in the Sony BMG family. I expect announcements any moment, as I know which labels are their intended homes, and the news could be posted even before Chart Beat Chat goes online.

While I don't know for certain, I would expect their respective labels to release physical singles, especially given the track record of previous "Idol" winners and runners-up. So Jordin's "This Is My Now" and Blake's "You Give Love a Bad Name" could still sell in the hundreds of thousands, and could still compete for No. 1 on the Hot 100.




END OF THE 'WORLD'

Hi Fred,

I was just wondering if there will be another "World Idol" competition. Have you heard anything? Also, can you help me recall how the countries/artists fared in terms of the top five when Kelly Clarkson represented the United States?

Thanks!

Marty LeGere

Dear Marty,

While one should never say never, I wouldn't look for a second edition of "World Idol," as much as I enjoyed the original broadcast. For one thing, the ratings weren't high enough to merit a follow-up, and I think if there was going to be a second "World Idol," we would have seen it by now.

But the biggest problem is that the special turned nine "Idol" winners into losers. I don't see any advantage to Kelly Clarkson's career to have her win "American Idol" and then place second on "World Idol." Suddenly, she's a runner-up. Fortunately, she released a sophomore album laden with hits and became a major star all over the world, so she was not hurt by "World Idol."

The top five contestants on "World Idol," broadcast in December 2003, were:

1. Kurt Nilsen, Norway
2. Kelly Clarkson, United States
3. Peter Evrard, Belgium
4. Heinz Winckler, South Africa
5. Will Young, United Kingdom

For the record, I enjoyed "World Idol," but then, I also enjoy the Eurovision Song Contest. One good thing that came out of "World Idol" is that I became friends with Heinz Winckler and organized a dinner party for him when he was in Los Angeles to introduce him to some of the "Idol" staff and some of the American Idols.




GEOGRAPHY LESSON

As a very proud Scotsman I must take exception to your reply to the Eurovison Song Contest question in last week's edition of Chart Beat. In your reply you refer to the top four nations with the financial clout to help stage the show. You refer to England. Let me remind you that England does not enter the Eurovison Song Contest but the United Kingdom does. This is just another example of Americans thinking that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are areas of England when in fact they are all separate countries with their own laws and parliaments.

Tom Bruin
Scotland

Dear Tom,

Having lived in England twice in my life, I actually do know the difference and have a pretty good track record correctly referring to the United Kingdom over the last 23 years. And having attended 12 Eurovision Song Contests, I certainly should know that the United Kingdom enters, not England. Although given the neighborly voting, perhaps it would be a good idea for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to enter separately (if they only could).

I don't know why I wrote "England" when I should have written "United Kingdom" last week but I wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't pointed it out, so thanks for keeping me on my toes. Next time, though, you might not want to make the subject header of your e-mail, "Fred Bronson's Geographical Incompetence." I didn't really take offense, but it's unneccesarily rude.




SALES AND AIRPLAY

Hi Fred,

It's another week and again we have a new No. 1 on the Hot 100. However we also have a brand new song making its debut at No. 2. When I first saw Shop Boyz, I was thinking -- who? In the past year, increasingly there are songs making it into the top 10 chiefly on the strength of digital sales. I think Billboard should lessen the weight of the sales figures when calculating the Hot 100. There are so many songs I've never even heard on the radio yet because a couple hundred thousand have been downloaded, they chart high. How is that balanced compared to millions who hear a song on the radio? It seems the Hot 100 is not a balanced reflection of what's really "hot" out there.

Thanks,
Mike Yuen

Dear Mike,

During the years when single sales in the United States were so depressed that the Hot 100 was mostly determined by airplay, I would constantly receive complaints from readers that the chart was not balanced because airplay counted too much.

So I'm always surprised when someone writes in with the opposite complaint. Sales are having a bigger impact on the Hot 100 because the singles market has been reinvigorated and the charts must reflect that reality. In fact, since digital downloads were first integrated into the Hot 100, sales of singles have tripled in America.

The Shop Boyz single moves 51-2 in its sixth chart week (it's not a debut). On Hot 100 Airplay, it climbs 12-5, so this song is receiving substantial airplay. The fact that you haven't heard of the artist before doesn't mean the song isn't a hit. New artists are always having an impact on the Hot 100 and if you go back and look at Hot 100s from the past, you'll see that there has been a constant parade of artists enjoying their first taste of chart success.

All of this is not to say that our chart department isn't constantly examining the formula that combines sales and airplay to determine the Hot 100. The formula has been adjusted a number of times in the almost 49-year history of this survey, so it's likely to change again as business conditions warrant.




AIRPLAY AND SALES

Hi Fred,

I've been a Chart Beat reader for years now, and I followed all the buzz back when Billboard decided to incorporate digital sales into the Hot 100. We've had a long run from the date it first started, and it seems the tide has turned. Digital sales would once only bump a song five or six notches higher on the Hot 100; now they can make a difference so big as to take "Umbrella" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z from 41-1.

However, I can't help but feel that things are not so well adjusted. A number of singles I've come to love, such as Pink's "U + Ur Hand," and some other pop singles like Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," might have fared a lot better on the Hot 100, if only their sales and airplay had been properly combined. In both cases I watched sales explosions that got the songs high on the chart, only to fall as quickly as they reached the uppermost region of the Hot 100. If you look at this week's chart, though, you can see that those songs are still climbing or are still well positioned on the airplay charts, thanks to a steady climb. If their sales and airplay had met at the right time, Lavigne could have spent a lot more time as the No. 1 single in the country or Pink could have easily surpassed her No. 9 peak on the Hot 100. I think this behavior explains a lot of why the pace is so fast this year and we have yet to see a single that can spend more than a month at No. 1.

Why do you think this is happening? I'm a little sad because seeing the movement of "U + Ur Hand" on all Billboard charts, it is clear that it's a greater hit than a No. 9 position would indicate. And so many other singles have suffered the same fate. Are the recording companies just too confused to release a song digitally only when it has reached its airplay peak? Have single sales always climbed up and gone down this fast? Or should we assume some companies decide not to release a song digitally near to its parent album release date so that one would not damage the other's sales?

Thank you for your thoughts on this.

Gustavo Pessoa

Dear Gustavo,

When you say that the Pink and Avril Lavigne singles would have fared better if their sales and airplay had been "properly combined," I think you're referring to timing, not the actual combining of sales and airplay data.

Billboard ads up the numbers every week and that's how the charts are determined. Accuracy would go out the window if we stopped and said, "This isn't fair to Pink because she's selling now and radio isn't playing her yet, so we'll give her some extra airplay credit to make up for that."

I know you're not asking us to really do that. But you see the problem - the charts must reflect what really happens in the world, or integrity is lost.

Technology has certainly affected the ups and downs of the charts. It's a much more immediate world now. There was a time when record labels couldn't release a single until they were manufactured, inserted into sleeves and shipped to retail stores. Now, a single can be available on iTunes almost as soon as it is recorded.

Record companies would love to have the impact of sales and airplay coincide, but that doesn't always happen. I think we have to live with the world the way it is now, until some new technology comes along and changes everything - again. And by the way, this isn't a new problem. I could go through 49 years of the Hot 100 and find a number of singles that would have charted higher if their sales and airplay had happened simultaneously.




SALES OF WHAT?

Fred,

Can you explain what the Hot Singles Sales chart represents? Does it include digital sales of a single? If so, why is Rihanna only No. 4?

Thanks,

Chris VanDuinen
Clawson, Mich.

Dear Chris,

The Hot Singles Sales chart is based on the sales of physical, commercial singles that are purchased in retail stores or online. Digital downloads do not count for this chart, only tangible singles.

Sales of digital downloads are reflected in the Hot Digital Songs chart. "Umbrella" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z opens at No. 1 on Hot Digital Songs. Sales of the physical single were high enough to allow a No. 4 debut on Hot Singles Sales. Physical singles do not sell anywhere near the number of digital downloads that are purchased every week. To give you an idea of the difference, so far in 2007, there have been 802,000 physical singles sold, compared to 325,099,000 digital tracks.