CHART BEAT CHAT
Fred Bronson discusses Duran Duran, chart policies, commercial singles, veteran artists and Bob Hope.IS THERE SOMETHING HE SHOULD KNOW?
I understand most of the rules and regulations regarding charts, but one recent release has me stumped. On June 10, Duran Duran released a box set of their 12" singles from 1981-1985 which contained 13 CDs. Assuming it sold enough to chart, what chart would it be eligible for and how would its sales be counted?? Since they are 12" singles, do they count on maxi-single sales? And, if so, for every box sold, does it count as 13 sold? If it did chart somewhere, and I missed it, apologize.
But to be honest, I'm truly confused as to why everyone did not run out on June 10 to buy this. I waited almost 20 years to get those B-sides (and the record industry wonders why people download music)!
Also, with the original Duran Duran reuniting, do you think there is a chance in hell of them hitting the top-40 again? I bet no one expected the band's mini-comeback in 1993.
Thank you so much,
In case you missed it, Billboard.com gave a thumbs up to the original Duran Duran's appearance at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. You can read Carla Hay's review here.
Whether that will lead to a chart revival for the group is hard to predict, but I can tell you how Billboard would handle the 13 CD box set of singles, should it chart. Or rather, our director of charts and senior anaylst, Geoff Mayfield, can explain. Here's what Geoff had to say:
"Even though the Duran Duran package that your reader describes is a set of individual singles, in the greater scheme of things, this boxed set is a collection of songs. We would thus treat it as an album, rather than breaking those sales out to the individual singles contained within. U.S. sales thus far of Duran Duran's "Singles Box Set 1981-85" have not been large enough to reach The Billboard 200 or Top Internet Album Sales, which are the charts for which it would be eligible."
MY DIGITAL WORLD (AND WELCOME TO IT)
Three weeks ago, Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" (a No. 1 song on the Hot 100 in 1984) was ranked in the top-10 of Billboard's Hot Digital Tracks chart. A week later, two 1974 classics by the late soul maestro Barry White were listed on the chart. My question is simple: how will the Billboard chart department treat oldies like those in the future when (or if) they decide to incorporate paid downloads into the sales component of the formula for determining the Hot 100 chart?
It may not be important now, as the chart points from paid downloads would probably only equate to a negligible fraction of the points that songs currently listed on the Hot 100 acquire from week to week. But as the paid (legal) download market expands to the (IBM and Microsoft Windows-compatible) PC market, I can foresee the impact on the paid downloaded single (and potentially the Hot 100) increasing exponentially.
Will Billboard create a special recurrent or oldies chart for songs like these (similar to its catalog album charts), thus making them ineligible to impact the Hot 100? Or will they become fair game for the main chart because of newfound, albeit sporadic, popularity? My hopes are for the former.
The same question applies to songs that are more current, but are not being marketed as the current single by the applicable record company. If obscure, but current, album cuts by an artist manage to receive a whopping number of downloads in a particular week because of a recent event (e.g., a local concert or even a TV commercial featuring the song), will Billboard apply some kind of criteria that tests whether the song is experiencing an anomaly or true popularity? For example, would Billboard consider a rule that requires heavily downloaded tracks to appear on at least one major airplay chart (Hot 100 Airplay, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, Hot Country Airplay, Adult Contemporary, etc.) before they are eligible to chart on the Hot 100?
In addition, how would Billboard differentiate digital download sales for its Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales and its Hot 100 Singles Sales charts? Currently, Billboard (c/o Nielsen SoundScan) uses a specialized urban store panel for determining "brick and mortar" store sales used to compile the R&B sales charts, while an all-store panel is used for the Hot 100. This was a dated (and questionably effective -- but that's a topic for another day) means of determining the tastes of the R&B/Hip-Hop audience, which now probably does most of its record shopping at the same stores that the mainstream music consumer does.
Wouldn't it be impossible to apply such criteria in determining whether the purchaser of a digitally downloaded track is an R&B buyer or a Hot 100 buyer? I can foresee this becoming an issue if downloaded digital tracks begin to dwarf commercial singles sales to the point where the latter only makes up a minuscule fraction of sales on either of the two major singles sales charts.
I'm sure that the chart department folks will have their hands full trying to work out these and other details of what may likely be the next big revision to the Hot 100 and other singles charts.
We're keeping Geoff Mayfield busy this week. As you can discern from his reply, many of the issues you raised are still to be worked out, but I'm sure you given the Billboard chart department a lot of food for thought. Here's what Geoff had to say after he read your e-mail:
"This letter's author is correct when he says that we'll have a lot of issues to think through in regard to incorporating paid downloads into the Hot 100.
At this point, the number of transactions on our new Hot Digital Tracks chart is relatively low. Our first No. 1 on that chart was in the neighborhood of 1,500 units, so at this point, filtering out oldies or recurrent singles would not be an issue. Whether we would treat older songs the same way we now treat catalog albums when the universe of paid downloads grows is still an open question.
The methodology for Billboard's Hot 100 is under constant review. With other recent avenues like Launch, satellite radio, Music Choice and other new technology becoming means by which music is delivered, we will be vigilant, flexible and sensible about how we formulate that franchise chart."
There was a question last week regarding whether or not more singles would be released following the success of the "American Idol" singles. I just wanted to mention that I already see a trend of more singles released, as I have purchased more singles in the past few months than I have in the last year.
I am a hip-hop and R&B fan, and have purchased singles from Aaliyah, Bow Wow, Blu Cantrell, Chingy, Kiley Dean, Dru Hill, Mya, Bubba Sparxxx, Tamia and Zane that have all recently been released, and I am sure there are singles by pop and rock artists released too that I have not purchased. And the DVD singles being released by such artists as Beyoncé, TLC and Clipse are also promising.
Hopefully this trend of more singles will get even bigger, as I get excited when I can come out of the record store with a few singles purchased!
That excitement about buying records is exactly what the record companies should be encouraging.
When Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" was released last year, I received a lot of e-mails from people who were actually excited about going to a record store and buying the single. The same thing is happening with Clay Aiken's "This Is the Night."
And even with all those singles sold, the Elvis Presley album featuring 30 of his No. 1 hits still managed to sell quite well, and I'm betting the Clay Aiken album will meet a similar fate. Add in DVD singles and paid downloads to the mix, and maybe there is some hope on the horizon after all.
This year seems to have been a tremendous year for "veteran" acts not seen on the Hot 100 since the 1970s or 1980s to return to the top-40. And it's been because the hot younger stars are asking them to duet or otherwise appear with them on their records.
First, pioneering rapper Rakim returned to the top-40 with a role in the song "Addictive" by the group Truth Hurts. And now, as you have pointed out in recent weeks, we've got three veterans returning to the chart whose last appearance on the overall singles chart was about 20 years ago (or more).
Dobie Gray (with Uncle Kracker), Willie Nelson (with Toby Keith) and Jimmy Buffett (with Alan Jackson) are all back in the top-40 together.
Am I forgetting someone else who has returned to the chart? Do you know of any other singles scheduled for release that could bring back artists that the pop chart has "forgotten" for many years? And has a phenomenon like this on the pop charts ever happened before?
It's a device that has been used before, to the same effect. When the Pet Shop Boys asked Dusty Springfield to join them on "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" she earned the biggest hit of her U.S. career. That 1988 single peaked at No. 2.
In the U.K., where this practice has been common for years, the single "History Repeating" by Propellerheads featuring Shirley Bassey gave the British diva her first top-20 hit in 24 years.
In 1999, Diana Ross and Brandy starred as mother and daughter in a made-for-television movie, "Double Platinum." The two stars sang a duet on a Diane Warren song, "Love Is All That Matters." I was certain that if the song had been released, it would have brought Ross back to the Hot 100 for the first time since the re-release of "Chain Reaction" in 1986, but the song was never issued in duet form.
I'm sure the current crop of collaborations featuring veteran acts will continue, since the concept has produced a number of hits this year.
You mentioned that Dobie Gray is back in the top-10 [with "Drift Away," the Uncle Kracker single that features Gray], 30+ years after his last appearance. This bests the previous record of just under 25 years, by the late Roy Orbison.
In 1964, he hit No. 1 With "Oh Pretty Woman" and would not hit the top-10 again until early 1989, with "You Got It." Interestingly enough, that song was from his "Mystery Girl" album, which was his only top-10 album as a solo artist (Traveling Wilburys notwithstanding). Sadly, Roy didn't get to enjoy his comeback as he passed away in late 1988, several weeks before "You Got It," "Mystery Girl" and the Traveling Wilburys' album all peaked on the charts.
Prior to Roy, the longest gap was about 18 years for Dickie Goodman, between 1956's "The Flying Saucer" and 1974's "Mr. Jaws."
Also, Dobie Gray is one of a small handful of artists to have two top-10 versions of the same song, even though other artists covering previous top-10 songs by other artists and hitting the top-10 again are commonplace. Others that I know of are: Chubby Checker (No. 1 twice, with "The Twist" in 1960 and 1962), Neil Sedaka ("Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" was No. 1 in an uptempo version in 1962, and the ballad version was top-10 in 1976) and Sir Elton John ("Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" was No. 2 in 1974 and the George Michael/Elton John version was No. 1 in 1992).
I'd be interested to hear from you and other readers of your column to see if there are others who can add to this list.
Hillel M. Zelman
Let's open it up to readers and see what my in-box receives in the next few weeks.
THE PASSING OF AN ICON
I was sad to hear about the passing of Bob Hope earlier this week, a true American institution. Although best known for his TV and movie work, along with decades of entertaining American servicemen, I was surprised that he also had a trio of chart hits in the pre-Hot 100 days of the 1930s-1950s. Stranger still, his signature song, "Thanks for the Memories," was not among them.
It's strange how a song can be so closely associated with someone, yet never technically be a "hit." Still, Hope was such a hit in so many other facets of his life, I guess it can be overlooked. He will be missed.
Christopher G. Feldman
The loss is a personal one for me. I'm guessing most "Chart Beat" readers don't know a lot about what I did before I worked for Billboard. For the first 12 years of my working career, I was a publicist at NBC Television in Burbank. When I joined the company, a woman who had been working in the press department for many years was the publicist assigned to the Bob Hope specials. I never thought the job would fall to me, but after four years as a publicist, I was given the assignment of working on the Hope shows. For seven years, until I left NBC to pursue my writing career, I worked closely with Hope and his production company, including Bob's daughter, Linda.
The question people usually ask me is what was Bob like to work with. First, he was a dream assignment because he knew the value of publicity and loved to publicize his shows. I don't think he ever turned down anything I asked him to do on behalf of his specials. If I needed him to pose for the NBC staff photographer for publicity stills, he was more than happy to do so and was generous with his time. We didn't have one cross word in seven years. He was always kind to me, and much funnier in person than he was on television. I met a lot of people during my seven-year stint with Bob, and traveled to a lot of locations, including the White House, where I was able to meet President Carter.
I also loved working with Linda Hope, and send her and her family my condolences during this difficult time.