CHART BEAT CHAT

Fred Bronson discusses sales certifications and figures, MercyMe and Reba McEntire with readers.

MISLED?

Fred,

Could you please explain why RIAA and Billboard post artists with gold and platinum record sales that haven't actually reached these plateaus? I read that you post numbers for units shipped not sold. Isn't that misleading?

Anzio Mason

Dear Anzio,

Billboard does not publish sales information on its charts. You will find symbols indicating Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certification for gold and platinum records, and numbers indicating multi-platinum status.

The RIAA certifies records based on units shipped to retailers, not units sold to consumers. Billboard reports information about certifications because it's information our readers want to have. More information on the RIAA's policies and the process of certification can be found on its Web site.

You will find information about sales figures in news stories and columns written by members of our chart department. Those are actual sales figures based on data gathered by Nielsen SoundScan.



MERCY, MERCYME

Dear Fred,

Why hasn't the song "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe debuted on the Hot 100 yet? It has crossed over to top 40 radio and gets a ton of airplay in the Nashville market. I have friends in New York who say that it has gotten substantial airplay on their top 40 stations as well.

Why is it so hard for a Christian song to crack the Hot 100? I realize the market is much smaller, but this song from MercyMe is constantly played on Christian stations and now is receiving high spins at top 40. Has it stalled already somewhere between 101 and 200 or does it have a chance to break into the Hot 100?

Also, do Christian radio stations even report to Billboard?

Thanks,

Mark Bondi
Nashville

Dear Mark,

You're right about MercyMe's "I Can Only Imagine" receiving a lot of airplay in Nashville. The mainstream top 40 radio station in your city, WRVW (107.5 The River) played the song 38 times last week, according to Billboard's sister publication, Airplay Monitor. That's down from 70 spins the week before, but it's still a high number.

The song is also receiving airplay in some other cities. On WWWQ (Q100) in Atlanta, "I Can Only Imagine" had 20 spins, up from 18. WQEN (103.7Q) in Birmingham, Alabama, played the song 42 times, down from 68 the week before.

However, the national picture is not as bright -- at least, not yet. You mention New York, but the song is not showing up among the top 40 songs at any New York stations monitored by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. The national airplay figures for "I Can Only Imagine" could change soon, as Curb Records is going to promote the song to top 40 radio starting this month.

Meanwhile, MercyMe is doing well at Adult Contemporary radio. "I Can Only Imagine" ranks No. 11 on Billboard's AC chart, up from No. 12. The song has 952 spins at AC radio last week, up from 889 the week before.

Overall, "I Can Only Imagine" does not have enough airplay to debut on the Hot 100, but it is very close. With the new promotional push from Curb, I would expect to see MercyMe on the big chart very soon.

And just to clarify one point: you asked if Christian radio stations report to Billboard. These days, we do not take reports from radio stations. Instead, hundreds of radio stations in different formats are electronically monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by Nielsen SoundScan, so we know exactly what songs are played and when without asking stations to report to us.



'MOUNTAIN' HIGH

Fred

I was wondering about your opinion on the latest Reba McEntire single, "I'm Gonna Take That Mountain." Do you think Reba will get another top-10 country single? And what do you think her chances are of matching the kind of chart success she experienced in the mid-'90s? Could Reba be writing a whole new chapter to her musical career, or are her greatest successes behind her?

Thanks

Darrin Simmons

Dear Darrin,

"I'm Gonna Take That Mountain" climbs 30-25 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart this week, and earns Greatest Gainer/Airplay honors on the tally. This new Reba McEntire single may have enough momentum to carry it into the top-10.

This is McEntire's first chart entry since "We're So Good Together" peaked at No. 20 the week of Dec. 2, 2000. Not that she hasn't been busy the last three years, as she has been starring in her WB television series, "Reba."

"Mountain" should rise higher than the No. 20 peak of "We're So Good Together." It will be interesting to see if it becomes the first No. 1 song on the country chart by a female solo artist in over a year. The last No. 1 by a solo female country artist was "Blessed" by Martina McBride in the spring of 2002.