Chart Beat Chat

Fred discusses "out" artists, two-letter names and album sales tallies.



Your opinion on "gay bands" got me thinking about some of my favorite groups and their success in America vs. Europe. The Pet Shop Boys and Erasure are two of my all-time favorite bands. While both have had some success here in the states (PSB more so than Erasure), it still puzzles me how much more success they have had in their native countries.

To my knowledge both lead singers were "out" to the public when they were having their biggest hits in the late '80s and early '90s. Why is it that England and Europe seem to not care about sexual orientation and America seems to be so hung up about it? Have there been any "gay bands" that have had success in the United States in recent years?

Nick Oswald
Muscatine, Iowa
[email protected]

Dear Nick,

I don't think we can resolve why America is hung up about sex (or sexual orientation) in the confines of Chart Beat Chat, but it's an issue that bears scrutiny in other forums.
Most Chart Beat readers can name a number of artists who have publicly discussed their same-sex orientation who continue to sell albums, including Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang and Rufus Wainwright. They may not be receiving airplay on top 40 radio stations, but that may not (or may not longer) be their goal.

George Michael has continued to sell records in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, but his U.S. fortunes faded after being arrested in Beverly Hills.


Hi Fred!

With "My Love" by Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. ascending to the top spot on the Hot 100, there are a couple of notable facts regarding artists' names.

T.I. ties with two other [artists who have had No. 1 hits] for second place among artists with the shortest monikers.

U2* went to No. 1 with "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (both in 1987).

L.V. was the featured artist on Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" (1995). The concise champ, however, remains the act with the 1979 ode to "Pop Muzik," M.

*Technically, 'U2' is shorter than 'T.I.' and 'L.V.' because there are no periods in the Irish band's name.

Regarding "My Love" being the title of three different songs to go to No. 1, does the "Venus" featured in Stars On 45's "Medley" (1981) count as being one of the four times "Venus" has hit to top, albeit thrice as the same tune (or part of the same tune)?

Pablo Nelson
Berkeley, CA

Dear Pablo,

I don't think anyone will ever beat M for having the shortest name of any artists with a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100, although others could certainly tie him in the future.

To answer your "Venus" question, I would count the Stars on 45 single, as the official title includes the title of every song in the medley, even if we call the song "Stars on 45" instead of its incredibly long title.


Hi Fred,

I have a question regarding the tallying of digital albums vs. physical CD sales. This week, for instance, the "Hannah Montana" soundtrack debuted at No. 1 with 281,000 copies sold. That total includes both physical and legal digital downloads, yes? But when I read about year-to-year comparison of music sales, it seems like we're only talking about CD, or physical sales. To wit: "Overall CD sales are up 1.7% from last week's count and up 5.1% compared to the same week a year ago at 10.03 million units. Sales for 2006 are down 5% compared to 2005 at 433.5 million units."

Am I correct in reading that these totals are only in regard to physical CDs? If so, isn't there a disconnect between the totals reported for individual albums that combine formats and totals for the entire industry?


David Bicha
San Francisco

Dear David,

While I had an initial reaction to your question, I thought it best to turn to Billboard's director of charts and senior analyst Geoff Mayfield to give you a reply. Here's what Geoff had to say:

The album charts, as you mentioned, do add album downloads to physical goods, not just CDs, but also cassette and/or LP in cases where those configurations are available. The idea is to count as many sales as possible, regardless of configuration.

However, in terms of evaluating business, it is worthwhile to look at both overall sales, as well as the behavior of particular configurations. The decline of CD sales and the growth of digital distribution are both details that must be scrutinized, but, to get an overall sense of the industry's standing, comparisons of overall album sales -- as well as other products and revenue streams -- are critical.