Answers to readers' questions about Dixie Chicks, Cher and a Madonna-less Texas.

LONG WAY TO DIXIE

Keith,

Now that the new Dixie Chicks album "Taking the Long Way" has been released, can you tell me how sales are doing and if they are considered good or disappointing?

Thanks,

Marie Kinney
Dallas


Hello Marie,

Depending on when you read this column, Dixie Chicks' "Taking The Long Way" may have already hit No. 1 on both The Billboard 200 and the Top Country Albums chart. (Billboard processes the new charts on Wednesday morning of each week.)

The set, released May 23, was a sure thing for No. 1 on the album charts that reflected sales for the week ending May 28. Based upon first day sales estimates, industry

prognosticators guessed that "Taking The Long Way" would sell over 410,000 in its first week.

Is that a good number? Any act would be thrilled with selling over 400,000 albums in one week. Is it a decline compared to the figure that greeted their last album? Yes. And that was probably inevitable.

The trio's last studio album, "Home," sold 780,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week back in 2002, according to Nielsen SoundScan . Of course, that effort was led by the smash single "Long Time Gone," which spent two weeks at No. 2 on Hot Country Songs.

So far, country radio stations have nearly ignored the new album. Its first single, "Not Ready To Make Nice," already peaked at No. 36 on the Hot Country Songs chart.



SHARE CHER INFO

Keith,

Love your column!

Can you "believe" that Cher just turned 60? How is that even remotely possible?! I've been a huge fan since way back, and I think she just keeps getting better and better as the years go by. "Living Proof" deserved to be a bigger hit than it was, but I can't wait for her "I'm gonna be a rock-chick again" album -- have you heard any rumors about a release date?

Also, was "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Rosie O'Donnell & Cher on The Billboard Hot 100 during the first chart week in January 2000? I say "yes," but I don't remember the chart position. A fellow Cher fan says I must be dreaming because Billboard doesn't even make charts that week. Who's right?

Thanks,

Daniel Servaty
Columbus, Ohio


Hi Daniel,

Cher and Warner Bros. Records -- her label -- have been mum on when her new album may see the light of day. Alas.

Her last studio effort, 2002's "Living Proof," fizzled out quickly after its release. While it debuted at No. 9 on The Billboard 200 in 2002, it fell off the chart 21 weeks later. Comparatively, 1998's "Believe" spent 76 weeks on the tally and peaked at No. 4. Granted, "Believe" was an unexpected (and extraordinary) success, so it's very difficult to compare anything to that album. So far, "Believe" has sold 3.6 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Living Proof" has managed 499,000 copies.

(And before we dig deeper in to fun Cher chart statistics, the Rosie O'Donnell duet you mention never reached any Billboard chart. And Billboard compiles charts every week of the year. We never close.)

In 2003, Cher unleashed "The Very Best of Cher," which was an overview of her hits going all the way back to the Sonny & Cher days. The album hung out on The Billboard 200 for 51 weeks, peaked at No. 4 and has sold 2.3 million copies.

While "Living Proof" was sliding down the chart and as Cher was prepping the release of "The Very Best Of Cher," her Living Proof Farewell Tour kicked off.

The three-year tour grossed a reported $192.5 million from 273 shows between June 2002 and April 2005. The tour wrapped up April 29-30, 2005 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, selling out both nights and grossing $2.8 million.

While Billboard only maintains records of concert earnings and data going back to 1990, it's safe to say that Cher's Living Proof Farewell Tour was the biggest and highest-grossing of any by a female artist.

That record-setting gross looks like it will be broken by Madonna's Confessions tour this year, as it is on course to gross about $200 million.



CONFESSIONS IN TEXAS

Dear Keith,

Madonna hasn't performed in Texas since the Blond Ambition tour in 1990 -- that was four tours ago! Why do you think that is? The last several tours seemed to repeat the same cities.

Thanks,

Steven Reilly
San Antonio


Hi Steven,

Ray Waddell, Billboard's Senior Correspondent - Touring, wrote about the Madonna tour in Billboard's April 22 issue.

He interviewed the worldwide producer of Madonna's Confessions tour, Arthur Fogel, the president of TNA International (Live Nation's global touring arm).

When queried about how they choose one city over another to book a show, Fogel said "It's tough. There are any number of markets that we're not playing that we certainly could play, but when it comes down to it, you've only got so much time, [availability] and routing possibilities. It would be nice [to have more dates], but I'm thankful for what we have."

Because Madonna determines when she can be on the road (roughly late May through early September), the producers are limited as to how they can schedule the tour. Madonna only tours in the summer, as that is when her two children are out of school for summer vacation. After the time frame is in place, the goal is to maximize ticket sales and revenue. Then, the producer of the tour will consider which markets Madonna may have skipped on her previous tours.

Evidently, at the end of the day, it wasn't logistically possible (or financially advantageous) for the Confessions tour to visit Texas. Madonna's tour is visiting 13 North American cities before crossing the Atlantic to Europe in late July.

And, believe it or not, the 1990 Blond Ambition tour played fewer North American cities (12) than the Confessions trek has lined up. The Blond Ambition tour hit Houston on May 4-5, 1990 and Dallas on May 7-8, 1990.

But there is a bright side: you could still make that 17 hour road trip to Phoenix, where the Confessions extravaganza will visit the Glendale Arena on June 8 and 10.