Ask Billboard

Keith answers readers' questions on Tori Amos, Def Leppard and Britney Spears.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Keith Caulfield at



My question concerns special editions of albums. How big of a percentage do they usually account for in first week sales, or overall sales, for albums that have those editions? (Editor's note: A special edition of an album would be one in unique or different packaging, for example.)

I'd think it would be mostly hardcore fans that tend to buy them and wonder if they amount to a lot of sales or not really?

I'm particularly curious about Goldfrapp's new album, "Seventh Tree" (which is awesome). It was released as a gorgeous special edition that came in a box and lots of goodies including a handwritten lyric booklet. I know the album debuted with roughly 15,000, but is there any data that would show how many of those were the special edition?

Other special editions I'm curious to find numbers for are of Madonna's "Hard Candy" and the CD/DVD version of Janet's "Discipline." Do CD/DVD versions sell in higher numbers than more elaborate special editions? Or are sales fairly low for each? Any information you have on any of this would be great.

Thank you,
Jason Garcia

Hi Jason,

Actually, we usually don't have a way of determining how many copies of each permutation of an album was sold using SoundScan's database.

Why? Well, the record labels that release these albums want to make sure that all of the various versions of an album have all of their sales combined so that there is just one big sales number. Once all of these versions are combined in SoundScan's database, we don't know how many of each version sold.

A record label certainly knows how many copies of a special edition they have shipped to retailers and they keep tabs on their own sales. However, once all of the various editions are merged in SoundScan's tracking system, we can no longer divide out the sales for each version.


Hi Keith,

I read your column pretty regularly, and I don't think I've ever encountered how Billboard decides which chart (or charts) a song's sales should count toward, particularly when it comes to digital sales and songs that have a presence on multiple charts.

This might sound like a stupid question, but does Billboard divide up the sales somehow so that the majority of a single's sales count toward the chart where it's getting the most airplay?

For instance, it doesn't make sense to me that Ashanti has the combined radio play and single sales to make "The Way That I love You" No. 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (higher than Ray J & Yung Berg's "Sexy Can I"), but is much lower on the Billboard Hot 100 (way below Ray J).

Christian Smith

Hi Christian,

We do not divide up a song's sales among different charts.

While the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart uses both R&B radio airplay and sales information, its sales data only is compiled from physical sales of singles (yes, CD singles and 12" vinyl, if it exists). So, as you can imagine, with so few physical singles existing, it's basically an R&B airplay chart.

The Billboard Hot 100 blends both radio airplay (from all formats of radio) and physical sales -- as well as digital downloads of songs. (The Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart does not employ digital sales yet.)

Ashanti can be much higher on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart because her single is performing especially strong on R&B radio stations.

However, for the Billboard Hot 100, she has to compete with everyone else in all genres of radio, not to mention digital sales. Tough competition!



I'm a big Mariah Carey fan, and am incredibly shocked at the downward slide of her new single "Bye Bye" on the Billboard Hot 100.

It was the Hot Shot Debut (at No. 23) a few weeks ago, and her highest debut in years. Why do you think it has lost popularity? Does it have a chance to even make it into the top 10?

Carlos Anino

Hi Carlos,

Don't panic!

"Bye Bye" is headed back up the Billboard Hot 100. On the chart dated May 24, it zips from No. 38 to No. 27. Its radio airplay has been increasing over the past few weeks, so it should only continue to go higher.

The song debuted so high a couple weeks ago due to strong digital download sales. However, at the time, the airplay of the song wasn't big enough to keep the song from sliding down the Hot 100 in the ensuing weeks.

But, all is right in the world now, and "Bye Bye" should say "Hi Hi" to the top 10 quite soon.