Fred Bronson answers e-mail from readers.

WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT DOLLS?

Fred,

I noticed the 17-spot move that the Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha" took to No. 19 [on Billboard's Hot 100' this week and in my curiosity to see what prompted this move, reviewed its activity on both the download and airplay component charts. The Pussycats actually sat one position behind Papa Roach's "Scars" on both components (No. 27 on downloads and No. 48 on airplay), yet was a full 14 positions higher on the Hot 100.

My only explanation is that its physical single availability accounted for the difference. Are physical singles making such a comeback and that song is selling massive quantities to warrant such a huge discrepancy in its Hot 100 position or is this by chance a rare Billboard error in printing?

Kevin Martin
New York

Dear Kevin,

The charts are checked and re-checked too carefully for there to be an error like this. I checked the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart and found the Pussycat Dolls at No. 2. While I don't have the raw sales figure, that would indicate there are enough sales of commercial, physical singles to impact the chart position of "Don't Cha."



DOWNLOADABLE OPTIONS

Fred,

I have noticed that some singles are not available for download. If so, do you think this will become a trend with the record companies? And how does it work? Do record companies actually issue a single as a download? Do record companies realize that if a single is not available for purchase, people will just download it for free?

Now that the single has transitioned to digital sales, do you think that it is cannibalizing sales of albums or not? Since we now have actual point of sales data, this claim by the record companies could be proven or disproven.

How does Billboard compile the sales data for digital downloads on the R&B survey? Will Billboard be incorporating sales data into the country singles chart? This chart is due a shot in the arm and this could shake the chart up a little. It is so stagnant. If sales were incorporated into this chart I am sure radio would wake up because these songs they play over and over again might not be faring quite as well with sales data put into the mix.

Thank you for your time and I love your column!

Greg Coleman
Dallas

Dear Greg,

More and more songs are available for downloading, which is creating a whole new singles market in the United States. In one recent week, there were over six million paid downloads sold, but only 94,000 commercial, physical singles.

Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart is compiled in similar fashion to the Hot 100. Sales of commercial singles as well as paid digital downloads are included and combined with airplay.

In contrast, the Hot Country Songs list has been an airplay-only chart for years, because most country songs were not available for sale as commercial singles. We'll have to wait and see if it becomes appropriate to change this chart to combine sales and airplay.



THE BICE IS RIGHT

Hi Fred,

I was a big Bo Bice fan during "American Idol" and would like to "register my vote" by downloading his single when it becomes available. How does Billboard go about creating the digital download chart? Are there specific services monitored?

Also, I understand his version of "Vehicle" will be the B-side of the single. How high would this version need to chart in order to surpass the original?

Thanks,

Jeff Thomas
Washington, D.C.

Dear Jeff,

Sales of paid digital downloads from all major sites are counted. It will be interesting to see how Bo's single of "Inside Your Heaven" charts, compared to the version recorded by Carrie Underwood. We could have a situation where the same song is No. 1 and No. 2 on the Hot 100.

The original version of "Vehicle" by Ides of March peaked at No. 2 in 1970. Of the group's five chart entries on the Hot 100, "Vehicle" was the only title to reach the top 40 portion of the chart.



MARIAH'S 'EMANCIPATION'

Dear Fred,

I have long been a fan of your column, and have written to you several times regarding the remarkable chart achievements of Mariah Carey. I was so pleased to see that Mariah is once again on top. It seemed since the release of "Glitter" her career had stalled, but with the runaway success of her "Emancipation" album, it seems she has resurrected her career.

The music on the new album is the most fresh and current work that she has produced in years, and as a prolific songwriter in a field where most vocalists don't write their own songs, Carey's rebound must be so much more personally gratifying to her.

With this 16th No. 1 putting her just behind Elvis, it also lengthens her record run of weeks at No. 1, doesn't it? I've lost track of how many weeks she's logged, but I remember that "Thank God I Found You" put her in the top spot. How far ahead of the competition is she on that one?

Yours Truly,

Thomas J. Webb

Dear Thomas,

You'll find coverage of this topic in "Chart Beat" this week. Including the two weeks that Mariah Carey has been on top with "We Belong Together," she has spent 63 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100.

That puts her in second place in the rock era, ahead of the Beatles' 59 weeks but behind Elvis Presley's 78 weeks.



BALTIC OF CONFUSION

Dear Fred,

Thanks for a great column and chat this week.

However, a typo snuck into the chat item on Eurovision. You mention "the Balkans" and talk about Latvia and Lithuania. Those countries, of course, belong to the Baltic countries, not to the Balkans.

Best regards,

Peter Brandt Nielsen
Copenhagen

Dear Peter,

It wasn't a typo, just a geographical mistake. I should know the difference, having been to the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia.



DON'T ROCK THE FLAGSHIP

Dear Fred,

I can't begin to imagine how much Billboard has impacted my life and my music. I have put together mix CDs based on [chart] information. I have your book, the No. 2s book and Joel Whitburn's latest edition of "Top 40 Singles." Whenever I hear a song, its peak position immediately comes to mind. I have to agree with a lot of my fellow chart followers that replacing, altering or adding new charts that would taint or diminish the Hot 100's integrity in any way would be unjust.

Just because the music industry has changed doesn't mean that Billboard should. The Hot 100 has always been the final say in whether a song is truly a hit and its ultimate peak position reflects that fact. It also determines whether a song will truly last 10 or 20 years from now.

For example, I was at a diner having a meal and heard Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You." Why is this song still getting play on most radio stations even after 20 years? It's a great record, not to mention [spending] 10 weeks at No. 2 (tied with Missy Elliott's "Work It" for the most weeks spent in that position).

The Hot 100 singles chart has indeed been the standard bearer by which all songs are judged and has been that way for nearly 50 years. It's fine that the chart wants to incorporate changes that [improve] accuracy, but everyone's fear is that all of the rich history the chart has spawned since [being introduced on] Aug. 4, 1958, will mean nothing if new lists are being added. I agree with those who support keeping the Hot 100 as the flagship of all of Billboard's charts.

Do you have any information about an updated release of another No. 2 singles book by Christopher Feldman? I might've mentioned that I put together a personal five-disc collection (complete with liner notes and all) on the subject of No. 2s.

Thanks again, Fred.

Sincerely yours,

Dana E. McIntyre
Oakland, Calif.
dmac3014@comcast.net

Dear Dana,

To answer your question first, I haven't heard of any plans to update Christopher Feldman's fine "The Billboard Book of Number 2 Hits."

I think it's safe to say the Hot 100 will remain the flagship chart in Billboard. It continues to be the most accurate reflection of the 100 most popular songs in the United States every week, and the recent full integration of paid digital downloads is just the latest change that keeps the chart accurate in a world of changing business policies and technologies.



IT ALL ADDS UP

Hi Fred,

I just finished reading your column this week. As always, an enjoyment. I have for years found it very informative.

But after reading about Mariah Carey reaching the No. 1 position for the 16th time, you wrote this would place her in third place, behind Elvis Presley with 17 and the Beatles with 20, "among all artists with the most No. 1s in the rock era".

If my numbers for Diana Ross are correct, she has had ten No. 1s with the Supremes, two with Diana Ross and the Supremes, five billed as Diana Ross and one as Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. This is a total of 18. (Maybe 19, if one counts "We Are the World").

Just going on a count of 18, wouldn't this put her in second place, after the Beatles?

We can't say you're only counting Mariah's solo efforts. Many of her No. 1s were with someone else, such as Boyz II Men or Joe.

Can you clear this issue up for me?

Thank you.

Nelson Gomez
Bronx, N.Y.

Dear Nelson,

There are two ways to count an artist's No. 1 hits. There are "career totals," which would include everything they've ever recorded. Diana Ross would have a career total of 18 ("We Are the World" doesn't count), but to be consistent we would have to credit Paul McCartney with 29 (20 with the Beatles and nine post-Beatles), Michael Jackson with 17 (four when he was part of the Jackson 5 and 13 in his solo career), Phil Collins with eight (seven as a solo act and one with Genesis), etc.

Unless I specifically state I'm using a career total, the number of No. 1 hits is based on singles where an artist is credited by name. Lionel Richie gets a separate total for his No. 1 songs with the Commodores and his No. 1 songs where his name is listed in the credits. The Four Seasons have their own total that doesn't include Frankie Valli's "Grease."

It's a little confusing when it comes to Diana Ross. The Supremes had 12 chart-toppers before Diana split for a solo career. However, 10 of those were credited to the Supremes and two were billed as being recorded by Diana Ross & the Supremes. She then had six No. 1s post-Supremes, including her duet with Lionel.

Having a featured artist or pairing up with another act doesn't affect whether someone is a "solo" artist or not. When she was in the Supremes, Diana Ross was clearly a member of a group. When she recorded "Endless Love," she was a solo artist teaming up with another solo artist, Lionel Richie.



THE ISSUE OF FREE DOWNLOADS

Dear Fred,

Recently, you said that free downloads for specific songs issued by a label do not count toward the Hot 100 chart.

Last week, Mariah Carey saw over a 100% rise in downloads. This can be attributed mostly to the remix of the song "We Belong Together" which was available exclusively on iTunes and was made available for free at Carey's official Web site, www.mariahcarey.com.

According to reported numbers, the remix of "We Belong Together" sold 27,000 copies, outdoing the original, even though it never once broke [the] top 50 on iTunes. This is impossible given that the original version of the song sold less and was sitting up in the top 30 all week.

According to the iTunes discount purchase plan, a label has to purchase 25,000 copies of a single to offer it to fans for free. Are you sure that Billboard didn't accidentally count these singles when [compiling] the Hot 100?

Mathematically, something doesn't add up.

Laney Barber

Dear Laney,

I did state Billboard policy last week regarding free downloads not being counted for the Hot 100. Your e-mail and others like it prompted me to ask Billboard's director of charts, Geoff Mayfield, about "We Belong Together."

I hope you will appreciate Geoff's response, as he is as concerned about the accuracy of all Billboard charts as much as you and I, if not more. Here's what Geoff had to say:


In these fast-changing times, there are rare occasions when we have to adjust chart rules on the fly. At the point when Fred asked me about free downloads last week, it was the not the intention of either Nielsen SoundScan or Billboard to include free downloads in our tabulation of Hot Digital Songs, The Billboard Hot 100 or the Pop 100 unless they met the conditions that we outlined: that the merchant gets paid full price and the consumer can use the premium to buy any available download.However, as the day wore on, it became apparent we did not have a sufficient filter in place to enforce that policy until after the chart was tabulated, this after we had already held up processing more than 24 hours beyond normal deadlines. Had we been able to install that filter last week, Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" would not have risen to No. 1 on the Hot 100 until this week.Now, the filter is in place. The policy that we stated in Fred's "Chart Beat Chat" last week and repeated above is becomes effective with this week's charts.
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