Ask Billboard

Keith answers readers' questions on Sheryl Crow, Britney Spears, Tanya Tucker and more!

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


Hi Keith,

I have always loved Sheryl Crow. I was however disappointed with her last album, "Wildflower." Was it a commercial flop? I blame the record company for releasing "Good is Good" as the first single.

All of her other albums were released after a massive single. Do you think that is why "Wildflower" did not perform to expectations?

I am concerned about her new album "Detours" which comes out soon. Already there have been two singles released -- "Shine Over Babylon" and "Love is Free." "Shine" got absolutely no attention on radio or on video stations either in the U.S. or Canada. I think "Love" is an amazing song and it has started to chart on the Canadian charts. Has there been any action on the U.S. charts?

What do you think "Detours'" chances are? Do you think she still has a large enough fan base to make a return? Or do you think it is headed for the same place as "Wildflower?"

Just out of curiosity, how many copies have each of her albums sold?

Thanks so much.

Ian O'Connor
Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Hello Ian,

Sheryl Crow was the cover story on Billboard's Jan. 26 issue, where she spoke at length to writer Ken Tucker about her new album "Detour."

One could say that the sales of 2005's "Wildflower" were disappointing. It has sold just under a million copies in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan, while her previous studio set, 2002's "C'mon, C'mon," has moved over 2 million.

Crow says "I knew that record ('Wildflower') was going to be a tough sell and I was prepared for that. I was very lucky that my record label did not press me on going back in and recording a bunch of singles. Jimmy Iovine (Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records) understood where I was at and how important it was for me to follow up 'C'mon, C'mon' with something more thought-provoking. I felt the greatest hits record (2003's 'The Very Best of Sheryl Crow') was sort of a nice little bookend to that part of my career and I wanted to come out of the box with something more mature and very specific to what was going on in my life at that moment in time."

Crow doesn't blame her record label for "Wildflower's" low sales and perhaps neither should her fans.

According to our story, there are four different singles from the new album that are being worked to various media outlets. Videos for "Lullaby for Wyatt" and "Shine Over Babylon" were distributed virally through YouTube in November, while "God Bless This Mess" will arrive shortly before "Detour." "Love Is Free" is what you would call the traditional single, which has gone to radio stations and other normal outlets.

"Love is Free" debuted on the Hot AC/Adult Top 40 chart last week at No. 35. It's her 16th Adult Top 40 hit, tying her with Madonna as the artist with the most charting singles on that list.

Will "Detour" succeed? It's so hard to gauge. Even Crow herself has doubts.

"I don't even know how you could succeed in this market. I don't know what records are selling now, with the exception of the Eagles, which was phenomenal because of how they did it. But I just want it to have some legs as far as it being heard. And I'll never know how many people are hearing it, because I don't begin to believe that everyone's going to go and buy it."

She continues, in our story, discussing "Detour's" chances of selling two or three million. "I can't imagine how it could sell that many. I can't imagine how it could sell any because of the climate out there today. Who buys records? It's such an odd thing. In the old days, you put out a single. If the single did well, then your record came out of the gates with a huge, huge bang, but it's not really like that anymore, which certainly makes it more interesting now, trying to figure out creative ways to get your music out there."

Finally, here is a roundup of Crow's album sales in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"Tuesday Night Music Club" (1993; 4.5 million)
"Sheryl Crow" (1996; 2.4 million)
"The Globe Sessions" (1998; 2 million)
"Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live From Central Park" (1999; 486,000)
"C'mon, C'mon" (2002; 2.1 million)
"The Very Best of Sheryl Crow" (2003; 4 million)
"Wildflower" (2005; 949,000).


Hello Keith,

My question is in regards to a question asked a couple of weeks ago about the top 10 selling albums in Nielsen SoundScan era (1991-present). The list included quite a few albums that I expected, but I noticed that Britney Spears' debut album "Baby One More Time" was missing from the list. I thought the album had gone over 14 times platinum, which would qualify it for the list. Am I mistaken?

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Madisonville, Ky.

Hi Jabe,

First, remember that RIAA certifications have nothing to do with Nielsen SoundScan. RIAA certifications are based on albums shipped to retailers, as opposed to Nielsen SoundScan, which counts a sale when it has actually purchased by a consumer.

Indeed, Spears' debut album is certified at 14 times platinum. (Platinum equals one million units shipped.) However, it has sold 10,530,000 according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Why the difference? Nielsen SoundScan does not count albums sold through clubs like the BMG Music Service. (Whereas the RIAA does count those albums shipped to clubs.) Music clubs aren't incredibly popular anymore, but they certainly were in the '90s. When Spears' debut came out in 1999, you can bet that it likely sold quite well through music clubs.

For more information about the RIAA gold and platinum certification process, please visit its Web site at

Ok, ok, so where does "Baby One More Time's" 10,530,000 put her on Nielsen SoundScan's best-sellers list? No. 11. Celine Dion's "Falling Into You" at No. 10 is a couple hundred thousand ahead of Spears.



I've emailed a few times before and read your answers to questions posed weekly. I'm a big Tanya Tucker fan and wondered if you could shed some light on a few questions I have.

First, I'm interested to know what her sales totals have been since the Nielsen SoundScan era began. Secondly, could you shed some light on her RIAA awards status certifications? It seems that many of her releases would have been certified platinum a long time ago. How often does a label like Capitol update or audit a singer's releases?

Hope this one makes the cut.

Chris J. Ramey
Jackson, Tenn.

Hi Chris,

It made the cut!

Since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991, Tanya Tucker has sold 6 million albums in the U.S. The biggest seller is 1991's "What Do I Do With Me," which has shifted a million. Next in line is 1992's "Can't Run From Yourself," having sold 739,000.

In order to familiarize yourself with the RIAA's gold and platinum certification program and how one can apply to have an album certified, please visit its Web site.


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