Ask Billboard

Keith answers readers' questions on Garth Brooks, Depeche Mode and PJ Harvey.

Nov. 16, 2007 - Ask Billboard is on vacation and will return next week. Keep submitting your great questions! Send all your burning music questions to Keith at



Garth Brooks just received an RIAA award as the biggest-selling solo artist with 123 million in album certifications. Can you tell us what his current Nielsen Soundscan total is and what his biggest-selling albums are?


Jason Englisbe
Mauldin, S.C.

Hi Jason,

According to Nielsen SoundScan, through the week ending November 4, Garth Brooks has sold 65,961,000 albums in the U.S. since the company began tracking data in 1991. Two of Brooks' albums, his self-titled 1989 debut and 1990's "No Fences," do not have a complete sales history in SoundScan's database.

Why is there such a large difference between Brooks' RIAA certification level and his sales total with SoundScan? The RIAA's rules stipulate that some kinds of albums, say, a double album or a box set, can be counted as double towards certification. However, SoundScan doesn't not double-count a two-disc set, or even a box set. With SoundScan, one sale is one sale. It doesn't matter if it's a suitcase full of 20 discs inside: it still counts as one sale.

Brooks' two biggest selling albums according to Nielsen SoundScan are "Ropin' the Wind" (9.6 million) and "No Fences" (9.0 million).


Hi Keith,

Did Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan's new album "Hourglass" chart? How many albums has he sold in the U.S.? Worldwide?

Also could you give me a breakdown of U.S. and worldwide sales of Depeche Mode's albums?

Mark Gravel

Hello Mark,

Gahan's "Hourglass" debuted at No. 120 on The Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Top Electronic Albums charts. It opened with 6,000. In its two weeks of release, the album has sold 8,000 in the U.S. according to SoundScan. SoundScan does not collect global sales data and there is no firm like SoundScan that does anything similar, so I cannot provide worldwide figures for you.

Since SoundScan began tracking album sales in 1991, Depeche Mode has sold 8.2 million albums in the U.S. The group's last studio release, 2005's "Playing the Angel," has sold 418,000.


Hi Keith,

I was wondering what PJ Harvey's total album sales are in the U.S.

Also when was she most popular on the charts (singles, highest album sales)? I know a lot of fans of Polly Jean probably don't care about these aspects of her career, however I'm very curious to know since I am such a brand new fan.

Thanks a bunch,

Shaun Foley
Boston, Mass.

Hi Shaun,

PJ Harvey has sold 1.5 million albums in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan. Her biggest seller is 1995's "To Bring You My Love," which has sold 378,000. She hasn't charted a single since 1998's "A Perfect Day Elise" reached No. 33 on the Modern Rock chart. In fact, that is one of only three singles of Harvey's that have ever hit a Billboard chart. The others are 1995's "Down by the Water" (No. 2 on Modern Rock, No. 48 on Hot 100 Airplay) and 1992's "Sheela-Na-Gig" (No. 9 on Modern Rock).

The multiple Grammy Award-nominee's most recent album, "White Chalk," recently debuted at No. 65 on The Billboard 200. Her highest charting album is 2004's "Uh Huh Her," which entered the tally at No. 29. However, her longest-running album was 1995's "To Bring You My Love," which, while peaking at No. 40, spent 15 weeks on the chart.


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