Answers to readers' questions about Toni Childs, Paula Cole, the RIAA, Nielsen SoundScan and Ricky Martin.

UNION FIRE

Hi Keith,

I was curious if you could give me sales figures for two artists, Toni Childs and Paula Cole, who have each released three albums. I realize that Toni Child's debut, "Union," was released pre-SoundScan, but perhaps it went gold?

Childs hasn't released anything since 1994's "The Woman's Boat." I know it's been 12 years -- but is she still signed to A&M Records? If not, [are there] any rumblings about when we could expect something from her? Cole's last album, "Amen," was critically drubbed, sold poorly and had no hit singles. Any idea of what she's up to now? Is she still a Warner Bros. artist?

Lastly, I greatly enjoyed reading the information about Grace Jones you provided in a recent column. Grace Jones is criminally underrated. Her "Nightclubbing" album is one of the greatest records ever made, by anyone.

I look forward to your column every week. Thanks for unearthing interesting facts and figures for us!

Christopher Brisson
Culver City, Calif.

Hi Christopher,

Paula Cole's biggest selling album in the United States is "This Fire." The 1996 set has sold 1.6 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Her 1994 set "Harbinger" has moved 150,000, while 1999's "Amen" has done 116,000. Cole departed Warner Bros. in 2003 and later signed with Columbia Records. She is working on a jazz album, which should be released later this year.

While Toni Childs' first album, 1988's "Union," did come out before SoundScan began tracking sales data in 1991, it has sold 180,000 copies since that point. "Union" has also been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for 500,000 units shipped to U.S. retailers.

Her 1991 album "House of Hope" has moved 203,000 and 1994's "The Woman's Boat" has shifted 66,000. Her 2000 "Ultimate Collection" has sold a rather meager 16,000. Childs is working on a new album, titled "Keep the Faith," which is scheduled for release in September through Hanalei Music Co.

I'm glad you enjoyed the information about Grace Jones. It's too bad there isn't an authoritative greatest hits collection for the underrated artist.



DATA DISCREPANCIES

Keith,

I know the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) certification figures refer to shipments [to retailers] and Nielsen SoundScan figures refer to sales to customers. However, that doesn't seem to explain the often-huge discrepancies between the two.

For example, according to RIAA, Shania Twain's "Come on Over" has sold 20 million; SoundScan says 15 million. Similarly, the RIAA claims 6 million copies of ABBA's "Gold" compared to 4 million from SoundScan.

Surely, "shipments vs. real sales" cannot explain the huge difference. Are we also expected to believe that music club sales are quite significant? (As music club sales are not included in SoundScan's tally.)

John Boylan
Hertfordshire, England

Hi John,

At deadline, Shania Twain's "Come on Over" stands at 15.4 million copies sold in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It is the biggest selling release in America of the past 15 years, since SoundScan began tracking data in 1991.

It's very likely that music club sales contributed a huge number of units towards "Come On Over's" 20 million RIAA certification figure.

It may seem odd now, but remember, clubs like Columbia House and BMG Music were highly popular for a very long time. Music clubs didn't start losing serious ground until the rise of Internet retailers (like Amazon.com) and peer-to-peer services (that enabled people to download music for free).

"Come On Over" was released in late 1997 and continued to sell extremely well until 2000. During those years, peer-to-peer services were just getting a foothold and many consumers still subscribed to music clubs.

Considering that Twain was enormously popular over those years, and that "Come On Over" was a smash album with numerous charting singles across many formats of radio, it's a fair assumption to think that "Come On Over" found its way into many music club purchases.



THE LIFE OF RICKY

Hi Keith,

I wanted to know how Ricky Martin's CD "Life" has sold in comparison to his other recent English albums. I thought it was a great contemporary revolution in his sound despite the weak first single, "I Don't Care." I believe if "Save the Dance" or the title track was released initially, it would have been a bigger hit.

Thanks again!

Julio Torres

Hi Julio,

Ricky Martin's "Life" didn't quite blow off the shelves. It has sold 261,000 copies in the United States since its release in October 2005, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

His last English language album, "Sound Loaded," has shifted 1.7 million since its 2000 bow. Of course, that set profited from Martin's then-huge profile and a well-timed just-in-time-for-Christmas release, powering through 1.1 million between late-November release and the end of December that year.

Ultimately, his biggest English-seller is of course his 1999 self-titled set, which has moved 6.9 million copies in America. That's the album that boasts the singles "Livin' La Vida Loca," "She's All I Ever Had," "Shake Your Bon-Bon" and "Private Emotion." It also includes the Madonna duet "Be Careful" and the Spanglish versions of his pre-1999 hits "The Cup of Life" and "Maria."