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Fred Bronson discusses Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Clay Aiken, downloads and his latest book with readers.


Hi Fred,

Did you notice that 40 years ago this week on Billboard's Top LPs chart (Oct. 19, 1963), Barbra Streisand was No. 8 with "The Second Barbra Streisand Album" while Elvis Presley was at No. 7 with "Elvis' Golden Records, Volume 3." As you know, both acts are in this week's top-10 as well. What other acts in this week's top-10 can do the same in 2043?

David Brunot
Meadville, Pa.

Dear David,

It depends. Are you asking me, or Clay Aiken's fans? Which brings up the sobering thought that in the last week of October 2043, Clay will be 64 years old.


Hi Fred,

With the Clay Aiken CD debuting at No. 1 with a whopping 613,000 copies sold, I started to wonder which CDs have sold the most copies in their debut week. I seem to recall that there have been others that have sold more, but I would think that the amount of sales for Aiken would put him somewhere near the top.

I was really hoping to see Barbra [Streisand] at No. 2 but I guess No. 5 is great for someone who is putting out their 60th release!

Randy J Sams

Dear Randy,

Sales are normally discussed in Keith Caulfield's "Ask Billboard" column, but I can tell you that our director of charts, Geoff Mayfield, writes in the Nov. 1 issue of Billboard about the sales of "Measure of a Man." He notes that this is, "the second largest opening week by an act's first album in Nielsen SoundScan history."

If you're wondering who has the largest opening week, Geoff goes on to explain, "Since 1991, when The Billboard 200 flipped to SoundScan, Snoop Dogg was the only first-time artist to reach a larger first week, opening at 803,000 copies in 1993 when 'Doggy Style' arrived -- back in the day when he went by the moniker Snoop Doggy Dogg. Aiken bumps from second place another man who has changed names, Puff Daddy (now P. Diddy). 'No Way Out' by Puff Daddy & the Family, his first album as a recording artist, began with 561,000 in 1997."

Geoff also reveals, "Aiken's bow is the third largest opener of 2003, behind 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" (872,000 copies) and Linkin Park's "Meteora" (810,000)."

Barbra Streisand's "The Movie Album" is her first top-10 album of the 21st century. Her chart span on our album tally is 40 years and seven months. In that time, she's had 27 top-10 titles; of those, 17 have reached the top-5. By the way, it was a great week for artists who first charted in the 1960s. The current edition of The Billboard 200 also sees debuts from Simon & Garfunkel and Tom Jones.


Dear Fred,

I have been an avid chart-watcher and reader of your column for years, and like you have been disappointed at the demise of the single.

However, I was thrilled to find out that Apple's iTunes store opened to PC Windows users. I promptly went and downloaded the software and about 20 songs right away (I have been very upset about singles not being available, so I felt it important to immediately show my support with my purchases).

I was very happy. Their selection is pretty good (a little room for improvement, but most current stuff is there, and I'm sure it will get better), and the sound quality is amazing. Much better than MP3 files.

My question is, are downloads from the iTunes store counted for the Hot 100 sales chart and figured into the points for Billboard's Hot 100? Apple announced that there have been 1 million downloads in the first three-and-a-half days since the Windows launch. Could that have a large effect on the chart? When would we see the sales data start to affect the chart?

Another prickly question this could bring up: Since many artists have full albums available with songs available for sale individually, would it theoretically be possible in the future for more than one "single" to chart if an individual song is available for download that isn't being promoted to radio? How could this affect labels' strategies for the traditional timing and release of singles in the future?

Anyway, I'm just very glad there in a legal and very easy-to-use service for us to buy individual tracks (and albums) over the Internet for a very reasonable price.


Michael Gilboe
New York

Dear Michael,

Paid downloads are counted for Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales chart, but only if there is a commercial single available. This may change in the future as the technology is refined, but at the moment a paid download for an airplay-only song does not receive sales credit. However, all paid downloads are counted for the Hot Digital Tracks chart. It's possible for five tracks from one album to appear on that chart all at once, and that has already happened in this chart's short life.

One million downloads in less than a week is an amazing number, but keep in mind people are downloading songs from all eras, not just current songs, so the effect on our charts isn't that great yet. As more people rely on this technology to receive music, paid downloads will have a bigger effect on the Billboard charts. This week's No. 1 digital track, "Hey Ya" by OutKast, had 3,700 paid downloads.


Dear Mr. Bronson,

I understand that you have a new book out, "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits." How does this book differ from your previous ones -- and what time period does it cover? Also, as you review all the No. 1 hits over the years, do you find that music trends change very much or is there nothing new under the sun?

Thank you for your consideration,

Joan Gosewisch

Dear Cousin Joan,

You've been one of my biggest boosters, ever since you came for a visit and took me to the local record store so I could buy Lesley Gore's "It's My Party" -- which, by the way, is one of 933 Number One songs in the fifth edition of my book.

Since you asked, the book was originally published in 1985, when there were only 605 No. 1 songs in the rock era. I've updated and revised the book every few years, so this latest edition begins with Bill Haley & His Comets' "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" in 1955 and ends with Clay Aiken's "This Is the Night" in 2003.

I've added indices for writers and producers, and expanded the trivia section in the back. Older entries have been updated, and the book includes new, exclusive interviews with artists like Beyonce Knowles, Nelly, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Clay Aiken, and many, many others (106 new interviews in all just for this edition). Also new are back-cover quotes about the book from some of the people who are in the book, like Gore, Lamont Dozier, Diane Warren, Peggy March, Mike Curb and yes, Aiken.

Music trends are cyclical, so everything comes full circle and keeps going round again. I think it's interesting that the book concludes with Clay, who has legions of fans like superstars of yesteryear, like Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley and the Bay City Rollers.

Hope to see you and the family soon!