Ask Billboard: The Twitter-Sized Edition

Music Photos of the Year 2012

May 31: Madonna performs on stage during her "MDNA" world tour kickoff in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Answers to questions about Madonna, Beyonce, Sarah Brightman and more - all in 140 words or less!

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20 .

Since I've joined Twitter (finally), how about an "Ask Billboard" in which all responses are 140 words or less? No chance of 140 characters - writing about charts is just too fun and there are usually too many details to cover.

Let's run through several of your questions and see if I can stick to my self-imposed word count. Please continue to send "Ask Billboard" questions to, while my Twitter handle - @gthot20 - is also great for shorter back-and-forths. I'm happy to converse on Twitter, so please get in touch however, and whenever, you'd like!


Hi Gary,

I'm an avid Madonna fan, have been since her debut. I've noticed that her latest album, "MDNA," has re-entered the Billboard 200 a couple of times recently, surely due to her touring the U.S. I'm curious to know exactly how many units it has sold and how it compares to her three prior albums: "American Life" (2003), "Confessions on a Dance Floor" (2005) and "Hard Candy" (2008). I truly believe that "MDNA" is a brilliant album and is suffering in sales due to poor singles choices and little radio airplay. I have not heard one track off the set on any top 40 radio station.


John O'Sullivan
Sacramento, California

Hi John,

I agree that "MDNA" is likely underrated, with "Love Spent" a potential hit that, sadly, may never get its chance as a single. "Give Me All Your Luvin' " and "Girl Gone Wild" peaked at Nos. 24 and 38, respectively, on Pop Songs. Third single "Turn Up the Radio" looks unlikely to chart. (Perhaps "Superstar" might?)

Madonna's current tour has seemingly spurred sales. Three weeks ago, as Madonna toured the East Coast, "MDNA" was No. 94 on the Billboard 200 - but No. 21 in Boston and No. 29 in New York, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

This week, "MDNA" re-enters the Billboard 200 at No. 181. The set has sold 512,000, trailing "Hard Candy" (744,000), "Confessions" (1.7 million) and "Life" (680,000). (Remember, though, that "MDNA" has been out for six months and sales were heftier earlier in the 2000s).

(Exactly 140 words!)


@gthot20 Great "Ask Billboard" (last) week. As Dylan once said, the charts, "they are a-changin'". And for the better.


@gthot20 Great job breaking down the chgs to the Latin, Country and R&B/Hip-Hop charts. Now the tallies will be more accurate than ever b4


Hi Gary,

I read with interest your article explaining the recent changes on multiple charts ( "Ask Billboard: Chart Ch-ch-Changes," Oct. 12). All good, I say.

But ... when are you going to revamp Dance/Club Play Songs? In the article, you wrote, regarding Country Songs, "Would we rather go back to a chart where a song goes 2-1-15 over three weeks?" Well, this is exactly what has been happening on the Dance chart for the last several years. Hopefully Billboard is planning to soon enhance the methodology for the chart, perhaps by electronically tracking the number of plays and/or reporting the number of people at a club to put a weight to each DJ's list.


Ricky Costa
Miami Beach, Florida

Hi Ricky,

Glad you - and many other readers - appreciate the increased accuracy of Billboard's Country, Rock, R&B/Hip-Hop and Latin Songs charts now that they include SoundScan sales and Nielsen BDS streaming, in addition to BDS airplay that previously infused them. (By the way, even though Taylor Swift keeps Carrie Underwood out of the top spot on Country Songs this week, had a hybrid chart existed on April 4, 2009, Underwood's "I Told You So" would've reigned, powered by sales (126,000) following her performance of it, with Randy Travis, on "American Idol." Instead, on the then-airplay-only chart, it peaked at No. 2).

As for Dance/Club Play Songs, changes are "under consideration," according to Billboard director of charts Silvio Pietroluongo. (Since DJs often spin in multiple clubs, their reporting lists to the survey has made for the most feasible methodology to date.)



@gthot20 Hi! Please do an article on Beyonce's US career sales. Thank you.


Hi @regnierpinto,

Beyonce has sold 13 million albums in the U.S., according to SoundScan. That's in addition to 17.1 million in album sales that's she logged as a member of Destiny's Child.

Here's how her four solo studio albums have sold:

4.9 million, "Dangerously in Love" (2003)
3.3 million, "B'Day" (2006)
3 million, "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" (2008)
1.3 million, "4" (2011)

And, here are Beyonce's top-selling digital songs:

4,995,000, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"
3,191,000, "Telephone" ( Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce)
3,137,000, "Irreplaceable"
3,123,000, "Halo"
2,844,000, "If I Were a Boy"
1,691,000, "Sweet Dreams"
1,597,000, "Crazy in Love" (featuring Jay-z)
1,438,000, "Check on It" (featuring Slim Thug)

1,350,000, "Beautiful Liar" (Beyonce & Shakira)
1,037,000, "Diva"
1 million (as of this week), "Best Thing I Never Had"


Hi Gary,

Congratulations to Sarah Brightman, who is going to be the first singer in space! I'm also excited for her to release her new album in January. Can you please let me know her career album sales in the United States? Impressively, she has six No. 1 albums on Billboard's Classical Crossover Albums chart.

Thank you so much,

Alessandro Odoard
El Hatillo, Caracas, Venezuela

Hi Alessandro,

Hope all is well in Caracas!

Brightman, perhaps best known for her Broadway limelight in "Phantom of the Opera," first arrived on Classical Crossover Albums 15 years ago this month with "Time to Say Goodbye," with the London Symphony Orchestra. The set would lead the list for 40 weeks.

Brightman has sold 6.5 million albums in the U.S., according to SoundScan. "Time to Say Goodbye" is her best-seller: 1,407,000.

"I don't think of myself as a dreamer. Rather, I am a dream chaser," Brightman says of her forthcoming mission. "I hope that I can encourage others to take inspiration from my journey both to chase down their own dreams and to help fulfill the important UNESCO mandate to promote peace and sustainable development on earth and from space."


@gthot20 How could you not mention Sheena Easton ๐Ÿ™‚ #1 hit Morning Train (9 To 5) and #18 hit Modern Girl followed by For Your Eyes Only another James Bond theme ... Sorry I had to. Especially after seeing her (in concert) last night ๐Ÿ™‚


OK, @jawsfin is actually Billboard associate chart production manager Alex Vitoulis, calling me out for not including Sheena Easton in yesterday's Chart Beat feature on how Adele is the latest artist to bridge the gap between studio albums by releasing a movie-related theme.

The songs above prove Easton fits the category. In addition to my mentions of Cyndi Lauper, Alanis Morissette and Bruno Mars, Easton has employed the strategy successfully.

So has Roxette ("It Must Have Been Love," 1990), Kelly Clarkson ("Breakaway," 2003) and, more recently, Christina Perri ("A Thousand Years," 2011).

What other artists can you think of that broke out with a monster debut album and, while preparing a follow-up, eased fans' waiting by releasing a hit from a movie? E-mail any examples to or Tweet away - @gthot20 - and we'll note more in the next "Ask Billboard."

(Ooh, 140 words exactly, again!)