"Chart Beat" columnist Fred Bronson answers readers' questions about Kelly Clarkson, singles sales, Avril Lavigne, radio station playlists, Shania Twain, double albums, his latest books, and best sell
THE FIRST KELLY QUESTION
Earlier this year, "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson set a record for the biggest leap to No. 1 with "A Moment Like This." This week her single falls 11 spots from 25 to 36 [on Billboard's Hot 100], however, it regains a bullet because the single is once again Greatest Gainer/Sales. My question is, has Kelly set another record for biggest chart drop that earned a bullet?
Your letter surprised me, because I have the Hot 100 as it appears in the Dec. 14 print edition of Billboard, and "A Moment Like This" does not have a bullet. I checked with our director of charts, Geoff Mayfield, to confirm this. It's true -- no bullet. The posting on the Web site was incorrect, and was fixed thanks to your E-mail. As to how Kelly Clarkson earned Greatest Gainer/Sales honors for a single that has been deleted, see the next letter.
THE SECOND KELLY QUESTION
Kelly Clarkson's single "A Moment Like This" / "Before Your Love" has almost sold out the 700,000 copies that RCA has produced. Maybe for this reason, on Nov. 26, 2002, RCA released the DVD videos (which use the same audio as the CD) for these two songs.
My question is, will the sales of this DVD, which only has the CD audio plus video just for those songs, count as sales points for Billboard charts and cause the songs to be certified platinum after 300,000 DVDs are shipped, equaling 1,000,000 copies of the audio of the songs being shipped?
Also, where are the sales points for the group album "American Idol: Greatest Moments" soundtrack going, since "A Moment Like This" / "Before Your Love" are also on this album and no other track is receiving as much airplay as "A Moment Like This?"
(From following Amazon.com sales ranks, Kelly's single sales should move from No. 2 back to No. 1 in the U.S. and Canada, past [Madonna's] "Die Another Day.")
I would greatly appreciate a response. Thank you.
St. Augustine, Fla.
You raised a lot of questions, so let me take them one at a time, though not in the order you asked them. First, let's deal with the sales of the "American Idol" TV soundtrack album. Albums are albums and singles are singles, and Billboard doesn't mix sales data of the two formats. Sales of the album only count for Billboard's album charts, such as The Billboard 200 and the Top Soundtracks tally, which are strictly sales charts. Sales of the album have no effect on The Billboard Hot 100.
"A Moment Like This" holds at No. 2 on the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart, still runner-up to Madonna's "Die Another Day." Just using Amazon.com sales rankings wouldn't be enough information to predict where a single would be on this chart. Nielsen SoundScan does count Internet sales, but that's just a small part of the weekly retail picture.
To answer your question about DVD sales, I asked Geoff Mayfield to explain Billboard policy -- yes, we're keeping Geoff busy this week. Here's what he had to say:
"In an effort to support the survival of the retail-available single, Billboard has been very open-minded about allowing new-technology formats to be considered as legitimate singles for tabulation of The Billboard Hot 100 and Hot 100 Singles Sales charts. That included the introduction of multimedia singles a few years ago -- the first one to chart came from 'N Sync -- and, since 2000, the DVD single.
The first titles distributed solely as DVD singles to impact the Hot 100 were both from Arista: OutKast's 'Ms. Jackson' and Toni Braxton's 'Just Be a Man About It,' with those sales points kicking in with the Dec. 9, 2000 issue. A Madonna title that charted earlier, 'Music,' had also been released on DVD but was also sold in other store-available formats. DVD singles are entitled to count on both our singles charts and on the Top Music Videos tally."
So that explains why "A Moment Like This" earned Greatest Gainer/Sales honors this week. While Kelly Clarkson improved sales by 1,500 units, thanks to the release of the DVD, an 8.5 million-listener drop in radio airplay caused the song to drop 11 places on the Hot 100.
AVRIL, AVRIL, AVRIL
I noticed that with the addition of Avril Lavigne's third single "I'm With You" jumping into the top-40 [of Billboard's Hot 100] this week, she has three top-40 hits during the same week. These days that may not be unusual, with artists like Ashanti, Nelly, and P. Diddy accomplishing this same feat. However, each of those artists were either featured on one of their singles or had a featured artist, whereas Avril Lavigne's singles are just her.
I was wondering when was the last time a solo artist had three singles all appear in the top-40 during the same week. Is this a first for a female artist? Is this a first for an act with their first three singles?
Good question, but unfortunately it's one of those questions where a truly accurate answer would require checking every single chart from the last 44 years by hand. There's no database to check for a complete answer.
So a "Chart Beat" columnist has to rely on memory. And that's why I can tell you that this is definitely not the first time a solo artist has had three top-40 hits all on her own in the same week. If you look at the Hot 100 for the week of Nov. 15, 1980, you'll find that Diana Ross moved 6-5 with "I'm Coming Out," while "Upside Down" fell 10-25, and "It's My Turn" climbed 47-37. Then jump ahead to the Hot 100 for the week of March 6, 1993. Whitney Houston slipped 1-2 with her mega-hit "I Will Always Love You," while the follow-up, "I'm Every Woman," slid 4-6, and the third single from "The Bodyguard" soundtrack, "I Have Nothing," leaped 42-23. The next week, Houston had three songs in the top 11 -- and the week after, as well.
You asked if this was a first for an act with its first three singles. The Beatles went far beyond this when their first three A-sides took the top three positions on the Hot 100 the week of March 14, 1964.
THIS BUSINESS OF RADIO
Re: the current radio play debate: It would be nice to think of radio stations as philanthropic institutions with nothing better to do than play what the public wants to hear. Instead they are commercial ventures which need to attract specific audiences to appeal to advertisers.
Isn't this the reason why even top 40 radio stations have narrow genre-specific playlists and children's pop music (Steps, S Club 7, etc.) fail to attract appreciable airplay at all?
It's a question of demographics. Most top 40 radio stations don't cater to the youngest end of the spectrum. Rightly or wrongly, they have categorized acts like Steps, S Club 7, and the A*Teens as acts that appeal to listeners 12 and under, so these groups have had a problem garnering radio airplay in the U.S. (with the exception of S Club 7's "Never Had a Dream Come True," which peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Hot 100). The Radio Disney chain does cater to this pre-teen audience, which is why their playlist looks so different from other top 40 stations that are looking for the listeners 18 years and older (but not too much older).
ONE 'UP'MANSHIP - OR TWO?
I was curious if Shania Twain's latest CD, "Up!", counts as two albums or just one on The Billboard 200? I'm fairly sure that Billboard's policy on double CDs is that they count as two units sold for each album sold. For example, Garth Brooks' "Double Live" album sold a million copies in its first week because it was double album. This might be different though because both CDs contain the same songs. Is there a policy on this?
Thank you so much Fred for reading all of our E-mails. I know we all appreciate the hard work you do for us.
Thanks. It's a pleasure!
Shania Twain's album counts as one album when it comes to the Billboard charts. In the print issue dated Dec. 14, director of charts Geoff Mayfield reports that the album has sold 1.5 million copies in its first two weeks, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That means that 1.5 million copies have been sold, not 750,000.
A lot of readers asked this question this week. I think the confusion is because of the policy of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which is the trade organization that awards gold and platinum certifications. A double album does count twice for them, so 1.5 million copies sold would be triple platinum -- but keep in mind the RIAA issues certifications based on units shipped, not units sold. That means Shania Twain's platinum figure is already higher than triple-platinum (and going "up").
Okay, I'm putting together my Christmas Wish List and I need your help. My public library says I can't renew your "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits" and "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits" for the 14th consecutive month, so those tomes are at the top of my list.
Problem is, I can't sort out what the latest editions are, where to find them, or when the next editions are due out.
It seems like I've been waiting for two years for the latest version of your "Hottest Hot 100 Hits." Some online book retailers are selling it, some say they're out of stock, and some say it's set for release in November 2002 (which ended yesterday). The Web site of your publisher, Watson-Guptill Publications, says it's not yet available. Order now? Or get a new library card in a new name?
Your "Number One Hits" book is sold in most places as the "4th Ed. (December 1997)." That's the one I saw on the shelf at a brick-and-mortar book retailer I shopped at yesterday. But the Watson-Guptill site shows a book with a January 1999 publication date (and the same cover art as the December 1997 4th edition). What's the latest edition of this classic -- and if it's the 4th edition, when can we expect to see the 5th edition? It's time.
Help me set Santa straight on which editions he should get me. And if the latest edition is "old," I need your advice: Buy, hold, or borrow, Fred?
Oh, good. Your library got my phone call.
But seriously, thanks for asking. Coincidentally, less than an hour before writing this reply to you, my editor at Watson Guptill sent me an E-mail to let me know that the first copy of the third edition of "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits" had just arrived on her desk. I hope to be holding it in my hands in the next 24 hours. That means the books have arrived in the warehouse, and they'll be loaded onto trucks and delivered to bookstores throughout the U.S. The book should also be available online now, and arriving in stores in the next week or two.
It's true that this new edition of "Hottest Hot" had been originally scheduled to come out earlier, but this edition took longer for a number of personal and professional reasons. As a result, the book is updated through June 2002, the latest possible date I could update it through and still have it be published this year.
I'm writing the fifth edition of "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits" now. It's scheduled to be published in November 2003. It's on track and on time, but I'll have to leave it up to you if it's worth it to buy the fourth edition. You'll have a year's worth of reading in store if you do, until the fifth edition arrives in stores.
SHANIA VS. ALANIS
Happy holidays. I'm looking forward to your annual list of favorite songs/albums because it's introduced me to some good new music over the years.
With Shania Twain's new album out, there have been several stories about how her last album is the best-selling album since Nielsen SoundScan started keeping track. However, these reports always cite the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) shipment numbers, not Nielsen SoundScan sales figures. I thought "Jagged Little Pill" was the best-selling album of the 1990s according to SoundScan. Did Twain overtake it in the 2000s or is Alanis still tops?
On a related note, are the SoundScan sales figures a truer representation of total sales than the RIAA shipments? I read that SoundScan does not include mail order or online sales. I don't know what percent of total sales this represents, but now I'm wondering if RIAA shipment figures take these into account and, hence, might be a better gauge of actual total sales. I'd be interested to hear your take on this.
Still a fan after many years,
Thanks for reminding me! I better get to those top-10 of 2002 lists. The deadline for turning them in is just a few days away. This year, they will be available exclusively online at Billboard.com, although I'll be including some lists in my "Chart Beat" column in the Dec. 28 print edition of Billboard. I do have some idea already of what will be on my lists, even though I haven't finalized the rankings. Hope you find some good new music this year, too.
When you read Geoff Mayfield's response to your question (yes, I had to turn to Geoff one more time), you'll see that you had every good reason to ask the question. Here's what he had to say:
"It becomes even more tangled when I tell you that another '90s title, the soundtrack from 'The Bodyguard,' was certified for more sales than Alanis' title was, 17 million to 16 million.
The all-'90s charts that we published in the 1999 Year In Music spotlight ranked albums according to what their Nielsen SoundScan totals were for each week they appeared on the chart. Our charts department also had to insert a few big titles that had street dates prior to Billboard's May 1991 switch to SoundScan data, using chart histories and RIAA certification histories to approximate each pre-SoundScan title's rightful position.
Because our all-'90s chart only credited units sold during an album's chart weeks on The Billboard 200, there were some discrepancies between our list and SoundScan's, but not at No. 1. In the first week of 2000, SoundScan's all-time chart had Alanis at No. 1, Shania Twain's 'Come On Over' at No. 2, 'Metallica' by Metallica at No. 3, and 'The Bodyguard' at No. 4. However, Shania wasn't through. The album ranked No. 10 during Christmas week of 1999 and remained on The Billboard 200 through October. At some point in the past two years, it went to No. 1 to overtake Alanis.
One reason why 'Bodyguard' might have a higher certification level than some of the titles that stand above it at SoundScan is that SoundScan's sample -- by mutual agreement with Billboard -- does not include record clubs. However, your information about direct-to-consumer marketing and Internet retailers is not correct. All of the better-known music sites, including Amazon.com, CD Now, and Tower.com, are part of the SoundScan sample, and direct-marketing sales have become an increasingly important part of some albums' SoundScan totals, especially in a title's first week."
And Wade, just to emphasize a point made earlier in this column, Nielsen SoundScan measures actual sales, while the RIAA certifies based on units shipped to retail. That's why there is a difference between sales figures reported in Billboard and gold and platinum certifications shown on Billboard charts.
Now, I'm logging off for this week so I can finish those top-10 lists...