Chart Beat Chat

Fred and his readers discuss downloads, Leona Lewis, Fergie and more!


Hi Fred,

I look forward to Chart Beat and Chart Beat Chat every week!

Who determines when a song is made available for paid download? Once a song is selected as a single, are there factors that influence the timing of the song going to radio vs. being released as a digital download? It seems to me that if the timing is right, an artist has a much better chance to peak high on the Hot 100 and possibly even at No. 1.

I know that several of Fergie's songs from her latest CD were being played on the radio and had several weeks to gain airplay before they were made available as digital singles. Once they were, the songs made giant leaps to the top of the chart. It makes sense to wait until there is a lot of airplay, build demand and then release digitally.

I was hoping to see Madonna go all the way to No. 1 with "4 Minutes" but it looks like it has peaked at No. 3. While airplay for the song continues to grow, digital sales are falling off. If they had waited a month or longer to make it available as a download, no doubt she would have her first No. 1 on the Hot 100 in almost 10 years.

Does it really make a difference to artists and record companies how high a song peaks as long as it sells and makes them money?

Albert Curcio
Philadelphia, Pa.

Dear Albert,

I'm glad you enjoy Chart Beat and Chart Beat Chat!

The issue you raise is now new to the digital era. The timing of a single's release to radio and retail has always been a factor in how high the song can chart on the Hot 100. Savvy marketing staffers at record labels have long strived to time airplay and retail release just right so maximize chart action.

Since the Hot 100 is compiled by combining sales and airplay data, it has always made sense to try and make both sales and airplay peak at the same time. If a single starts out with strong airplay and sales do not kick in, the song can stall while moving up the chart. If sales increase only after airplay begins to decline, then the song can also be hampered from reaching a high position on the chart.

Keep in mind that, with rare exception, airplay builds gradually and sales increases are more rapid, so the whole marketing campaign for a single can be an artful balancing act.

As chart rules and the way the music business operates have changed over the years, marketing folks have adjusted their strategies. But you asked who decides when a digital download becomes available, and the answer is the record company. You also asked if it matters to artists and record labels how high a song peaks. It's hard to generalize as opinions are not monolithic, but my experience is that for the most part, artists do care about how they go on the charts and record companies are more interested in the bottom line.



I have enjoyed your chart column for a good many years, as I have also enjoyed your books, I own several. I've also followed the charts for nearly 40 years and like many readers and followers of the Hot 100 saw another fairly obscure record tied last week with Leona Lewis' return to No. 1 for a third time with "Bleeding Love." I believe it's more common now for a song to return to the summit after spending time there than it was years ago, especially with rankings tabulated more closely by sales and downloads.

It seems to be much easier to track today's songs sales than the old 45 RPM records. Ah, I loved those old vinyls!

I just wanted to bring to light the other two tunes that joined "Bleeding Love." In 1944, the Mills Brothers' classic "You Always Hurt the One You Love" returned two more times after having hit the No. 1 spot and the next year Sammy Kaye's "Chickery Chick" did the trick. Those two along with "Le Freak" and "Bleeding Love" are the only songs to ever have ascended to the No. 1 spot on three different occasions during their initial run.

Oh and speaking of the old 45s, don't you think the hits of today seem so generic? We just click a button and download. Remember how really cool the artwork on some of those old record labels were?

Best Regards,

Terry W. Hill
Ogden, Utah

Dear Terry,

I think the iPod is the greatest invention ever, possibly surpassing the wheel. But I do miss 45rpm singles, and the record labels. I always get a kick out of seeing CDs that recreate famous record labels on plastic-coated aluminum (hey, it's better than nothing).


Congratulations go out to James Otto this week, as he becomes the first artist in 2008 to score his initial No. 1 country hit, with "Just Got Started Lovin' You." By achieving this feat, he is the first to score his initial No. 1 country hit in approximately 11 months, when Emerson Drive reached the pinnacle for the first time with "Moments" the week of June 16, 2007, and the first to do so on an independent label (Raybaw) since Garth Brooks debuted at No. 1 in the fall of 2007 with "More Than A Memory" (on the Pearl label).

One last thing: I would like to wish a Happy Mothers' Day to everyone at Billboard!

John Maverick
Burt County, Nebraska

Dear John,

While not everyone at Billboard is a parent, everyone on staff has (or had) a mother, so I will pass your greetings along.


Dear Fred,

On the Canadian Hot 100, Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" has been on the chart for 54 weeks, and I was wondering whether or not it was close to the record for the longest chart run on the Canadian Hot 100. Can you please tell me?


William Raney
Carmi, Ill.

Dear William,

This is the 60th week we have compiled the Canadian Hot 100, and at No. 48, you'll find Finger Eleven's "Paralyzer" in its 60th week on the chart. So that charter song is the champ for now.