Chart Beat Chat

Fred and his readers discuss Radiohead, chart lovers, "American Idol" contestants and more!



You've certainly heard by now about Radiohead's plan to sell its new album "In Rainbows" as a pay-what-you-want download. While this potentially has huge long-term consequences for the music industry, I have a question about the more immediate impact.

Will Radiohead's direct online sales be eligible for The Billboard 200? If so, will the amount of money paid for the album have any effect on how it is charted? Also, since a common website seems to be used for all orders around the world, how will American orders be distinguished?

As a side note, I understand that the Eagles' soon-to-be-released new set will be available exclusively through one (very, very large) chain of stores. Does that make the album chart ineligible?

It's a brave new world out there for music marketing. Charting these kind of sales is going to become increasingly difficult.

Patrick Kelly
Brampton, Ont, Canada

Dear Patrick,

As I know you expected, I turned to Billboard's director of charts and senior analyst Geoff Mayfield for a definitive answer to your question. Here's what he had to say about the Radiohead album:

"We are working with our colleagues at Nielsen SoundScan to approach the band's management to see whether U.S. sales can be reported. If so, the album would be eligible for Top Digital Albums and Top Comprehensive Albums. The latter is a chart that combines the current albums that appear on The Billboard 200 with catalog titles, as well as account-specific albums, like some of the samplers that you'll find at Starbucks.

"In order to appear on The Billboard 200 and most of Billboard's album charts, a title must be generally available at retail. That will not be the case with the new Radiohead album until 2008. Under that same rule, during the weeks that Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill: Acoustic" was only available at Starbucks, it appeared on Top Comprehensive Albums, then debuted on The Billboard 200 the week that it had sales from the entire retail universe.

"Nielsen SoundScan does not count sales of albums that are sold for less than half of list price, but since this album will not start with an official list price, that will not prevent this title from charting. Obviously we are hoping the band's camp will be willing and able to provide us with sales data for this much-anticipated title.

"Similarly, we are hopeful that Wal-Mart will be willing for its suppliers to report sales data on that new Eagles project, so that it can appear on Top Comprehensive Albums. That decision is up to each individual retailer. Some, like Best Buy and Starbucks, have been more than willing for their exclusives to show up on that chart and our similar Top Comprehensive Music Videos. Others have elected to either withhold reporting those sales or bar them from appearing on the comprehensive charts.

"Wal-Mart did not report its first two Garth Brooks' albums. In the past, Target also declined to chart its proprietary titles, but did chart the recent Collective Soul album "Afterwords," which bowed at No. 25 with its sales coming exclusively from Target and iTunes. We are hopeful Wal-Mart will have a change of heart with the upcoming Eagles title.

"To say the least, Patrick, this brave new world keeps us on our toes. We constantly re-evaluate our chart rules and policies to ensure that our charts make sense to the needs of the overall music market and to chart fans like you."



You've mentioned several times throughout the years that I've been reading your column that you kept your own list of favorite songs as a weekly personal music chart. I've also read that many of your readers have done the same thing. Until I read about the fact that there are other music fanatics out there such as myself, I thought I was the only one who found it fascinating to track their own personal music charts as I have been doing this since 1985 and still do today.

I was hoping you or one of your many readers could direct me to a website or blog dedicated to other music chart lovers who post and compare their own personal music charts. I've tried to do a search through the internet for such a website but have had no luck.

Do you have any suggestions or perhaps some of your readers can direct me to such a site?

Thanks so much for any insight you can provide!

Tom Eash
Phoenix, Ariz.

Dear Tom,

I started my personal chart when I was 14, the same year that I discovered Billboard (although I started my chart about three months before seeing my first issue). I continued to compile the chart during my high school years, and stopped when I started college. Near the end of my time in college, I resumed the chart and kept it going for another 10 years. During all of that time, I thought I was the only person in the world taking on this weekly task on a personal basis, without having a radio station or trade publication. I never dreamed during any of that time that paying that much attention to charts would have anything to do with my professional life.

I'm not aware of any website that deals with personal charts, but I haven't looked. I can't believe there wouldn't be one. And how fascinating it would be to have all of these personal charts posted, going back years, to compare and contrast.

Since you provided your e-mail as part of your signature, it's appearing here and Chart Beat readers who have information about any websites devoted to personal charts can contact you directly.


Hey Fred,

I am enjoying reading Chart Beat and I look at the charts every week.

My question concerns No. 1 hits by "American Idol" contestants. How many have there been? I think the current total is 134 with Ruben Studdard's "Make Ya Feel Beautiful" debuting at No. 1 on the Adult R&B recurrent chart. Is this right and is there a place I can see all these No. 1s or do I have to research them all?


Lawrence Jones
Philadelphia, Penn.

Dear Lawrence,

You're up-to-date with your "American Idol" No. 1s. The next No. 1 by an Idol finalist will be the 135th for the franchise, counting all national, domestic charts compiled by Billboard. Will it be Jordin Sparks' "Tatoo," which is the Hot Shot Debut on the Hot 100 this week, or the first single by sixth season runner-up Blake Lewis? Or the first single from Kimberley Locke's new Christmas album? Or someone else? We'll have to wait and see.

I've reported on most of these No. 1s in my weekly Chart Beat column as they have occurred, but I haven't kept a list as a document on my computer that I could simply reprint here, so the only way to go back and discover them all is to do a search for my past columns. That sounds like more work than anyone would want to do, but I never underestimate what Chart Beat readers are willing to undertake.


Dear Fred:

Just about three years ago this week, I noted that Usher had three hits in a row in the top 40 of the Hot 100: "My Boo" (a duet with Alicia Keys) at No. 29, "Yeah!" (featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris) at No. 30 and "Burn" at No. 31.

This week, it's deja vu all over again as T-Pain, who has been all over the pop chart during 2007, matches this feat, this time in the "featuring" position: "Shawty" (by Plies featuring T-Pain) at No. 16, "Cyclone" (Baby Bash featuring T-Pain) at No. 17 and "Good Life" (Kanye West featuring T-Pain) at No. 18.

David Dana-Bashian
Garden Grove, Calif.

Dear David,

Good catch. But will anyone ever match the Beatles' feat of having five adjacent hits on the Hot 100 (and in the top five positions, no less)?