Fred and his readers discuss Celine Dion, Taylor Hicks, ageism and more!

IT'S ALL COMING BACK TO US NOW

Hello Fred,

You must get quite frustrated with so many questions about the divas: Janet [Jackson], Whitney [Houston], Mariah [Carey] and Madonna. However, a diva not mentioned a lot is Celine Dion. I am a huge fan. Are there any plans for a new studio album in the near future? It's been three years since "One Heart" was released. I know Celine is wrapping up her Las Vegas shows but I miss her in the spotlight. Any word from her label?

Could you also list the last few releases according to her sales figures?

Thank you so much. I love reading your column.

Thank you for thinking of other divas!

Regards,
Brandon Vernaz


Dear Brandon,

I not only have word from Celine Dion's label, I have word from Celine. Since her last album was released, there has been a shakeup in the executive ranks at her label. Charlie Walk was named President of Epic Records in December 2005. He reported to Don Ienner, chairman and CEO of the Sony Music Label Group, and Michele Anthony, president and chief operating officer. In June, Ienner and Anthony exited the company.

Chuck Taylor, senior editor of Radio & Records and singles reviews editor for Billboard, asked Walk about the label's commitment to Celine as an artist and Walk reaffirmed that commitment. Last month, Chuck met with Celine and her manager/husband Rene Angelil in Las Vegas. He asked them if they were working on a new project, and neither Celine nor Rene said that anything was in the works.

There was a greatest hits CD and DVD of Celine's French recordings released in 2006, along with a couple of new singles and videos recorded in French, which did well in French-speaking territories.

Chuck reminds that Celine did record one new song this year, "Let Your Heart Decide," based on a French song from a 2005 studio album, for the soundtrack to the animated film "Asterix and the Vikings." The song has not been released in the United States, but you can find a video for it on You Tube.

The only thing I can't give you is sales figures. Chart Beat and Chart Beat Chat can only deal with chart positions, per Billboard policy.



T-SHORT

Hi Fred,

It looks like Taylor Hicks is about to disappear from the Hot 100 with "Do I Make You Proud" (and very likely has disappeared by the time you read this). Is his eight-week run on the Hot 100 the shortest amount of time a No. 1 song has stayed on this chart? What song had the shortest run previously?

Brian Lynch
Los Angeles, Calif.


Dear Brian,

Taylor Hicks' "Do I Make You Proud" did indeed fall off the Hot 100 this week. Its eight-week run on the entire chart is the shortest I can find for any No. 1 hit on this chart. There are a number of chart-toppers that had 10-week runs, including classic Beatles songs like "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Paperback Writer," as well as the more recent "American Idol" finale tune "I Believe" by Fantasia, but no No. 1 hit ever had a single-digit run on the entire chart until now.



IT'S A BUSINESS

Hi Fred,

I really love your chart insights -- they are a great end to the week.

I wanted to reply to recent questions about how radio is ignoring singers like Madonna and Janet Jackson. I think what [readers] are missing is that pop radio is an almost exclusively youth-driven format. While the Madonna and Janet singles might by well-crafted, listeners in their teens and early 20s simply don't relate to the songs or the image of singers in their 40s. While there are always exceptions (Cher's "Believe"), radio is dominated by singers in the 20-25 age group. It's not a personal vendetta against Madonna, but a business reality. It's simply how pop radio is -- and how it has always been.

Thanks,
Rick Bernstein


Dear Rick,

There is a song in the new John Kander and Fred Ebb (with Rupert Holmes) musical "Curtains" performed by a character who is the producer of a Broadway show. She sings "It's a Business," and the lyrics make it clear that art is nice, but what really counts is the bottom line.

You can understand why your letter made me think of this song. In other words, I agree with you. Ageism is certainly a part of the music business -- an ugly part, but one that must be acknowledged.



IS AIRPLAY FAIR PLAY?

I remember in 1998 when Billboard changed the Hot 100 policy to make airplay the priority means of gaining enough points to earn a spot on the Hot 100. I have to wonder though, even though digital sales are making sales a bigger priority, is airplay still a relevant factor?

My friends and I barely listen to the radio at all, let alone call a radio station to request a song. Is the audience for radio listeners down dramatically now, compared to 1996? Any way of tracking it?

In your own opinion, is airplay still a significant means of determining the hottest songs in the country?

Randy Brooks
Baltimore, Md.


Dear Randy,

A lot of people might be listening to iPods, but radio still attracts millions of listeners and airplay is still an important factor in the music business. The sheer numbers of people who listen to radio factor into the charts because Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems keeps track of audience impressions (the number of people listening to a radio station at any given moment, according to ratings, when a song is played).

I do need to clarify your reference to making "airplay the priority means of gaining enough points to earn a spot on the Hot 100." That isn't exactly what happened.

As I've said many times in this column, the Hot 100 has always blended airplay and sales -- it's why the chart was created in August 1958. In December 1998, the policy was revised to allow airplay-only tracks to chart. Previously, there had to be a commercial single available before a song could debut. But market conditions changed and so chart policy was changed to reflect what was going on in the real world.

As we headed into the 21st century, sales of singles diminished and, by default, that made airplay more of a factor in determining hits. With the rising popularity of paid digital downloads, sales have increased and the balance between sales and airplay has been restored.



I GO TO MANAGUA

Dear Fred,

Here is one more No. 1 song which contains the name of a foreign city in its title: "Managua, Nicaragua" by Freddy Martin and His Orchestra was No. 1 for two weeks in March 1947. (You knew I would research this for the pre-rock era, didn't you?)

Larry Dhooghe
Forest Grove, Ore.


Dear Larry,

Yes, I did!



ONWARD CHRISTIAN CHARTS

Hello Fred,

As a follow-up to Gregg Nottingham's question in last week's Chart Beat Chat and now that Radio & Records is part of the Billboard Information Group, is the R&R CHR/Top 40 chart the same as the Pop 100 Airplay tally? If this is the case, do syndicated countdown shows such as "American Top 40" and "Rick Dees Weekly Top 40" base their lists on the Pop 100 Airplay now? As you know, the former show once reflected The Billboard Hot 100, then the Hot 100 Airplay lists.

Furthermore, will "Casey's Top 10" now be a countdown of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart?

On a related issue, what will be done with the R&R Christian Inspo chart? Will it be compiled using BDS Nielsen SoundScan data? I know that the Billboard Hot Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC charts are still undergoing development in terms of the inclusion of stations on each radio panel. Thus, at this point, both charts appear similar. However, the R&R Christian charts (CHR, AC, Inspo, Rock) have been vastly different from each other. How will this situation be resolved?

Thanks again for a must-read column every week!

Sincerely,

Robert Nongrum
Calgary, Alberta


Dear Robert,

The Radio & Records CHR/Top 40 chart is equivalent to the Billboard chart known as Mainstream Top 40. These charts are based on the number of spins each song receives. The Pop 100 Airplay chart measures audience impressions -- factoring in the number of people who heard a particular song when it was played on the radio. Both the CHR and Pop 100 Airplay charts are based on airplay monitored at mainstream top 40 stations.

The syndicated countdown shows you mention do not license charts compiled by the Billboard Information Group, so that means they are not using Billboard charts or Radio & Records charts.

For the answer to your question about Christian charts compiled by Billboard and Radio & Records, I turned to Wade Jessen in Billboard's Nashville office. Wade is director of country charts, and manages the bluegrass, Christian and gospel charts. He is also the new country editor for Radio & Records.

Before I pass along Wade's comments, let me clarify a reference in your e-mail to two of our sister companies, BDS and SoundScan. Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems provides airplay data and Nielsen SoundScan keeps track of sales via bar code scanning. The R&R charts are all airplay-based, so the data for all of these charts is provided by Nielsen BDS, not SoundScan.
Now, here's what Wade had to say:

"The R&R Christian AC chart is now driven by monitored airplay data from Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. Non-monitored stations in that format report to the R&R Christian Indicator chart.

The R&R Christian CHR, Rock and Inspo charts are all reported airplay charts. We have discontinued publication of the Christian Songs chart, which was an all-formats monitored Christian chart. At this point in our integration with R&R the future of that chart is uncertain, but we should have an announcement soon.

So, we now have a full complement of Christian radio charts, and will continue to work with our partners at Nielsen BDS to more fully develop our slate of monitored stations in the Christian formats. Check them out at radioandrecords.com.