Ask Billboard

Keith discusses greatest hits albums, the solo 'Doll and chart methodology.


Hi Keith,

I have a question about greatest hits albums. Who has the final say of what songs go on them? The artist or the record company?

It seems like over the past few years we have been bombarded with them, and I must say I find it frustrating when songs that you love from the artist are not on the greatest hits, even if the song was a released single.

The most current example I have is Stevie Nicks' latest (hits set, "Crystal Visions"). I was very disappointed that many of her singles were left off it, but yet we get "live" versions, Fleetwood Mac songs and duplicate songs on it. This seemed weird to me especially since she released two albums between her first greatest hits, 1991's "Timespace" and this one.

Same with Sheryl Crow's greatest hits, there were two versions of "The First Cut Is The Deepest" while other singles of hers were left out. Madonna is another example with "GHV2: Greatest Hits Volume 2" where she put on songs like "Drowned World" and yet left off several released singles.

Any info about this would be great!

Thanks so much!

Ryan Gibson

Hello Ryan,

Who determines what is included on a greatest hits album varies from project to project. For example, if you are a record label compiling a hits package for an artist that is no longer signed to the label, you can imagine that the input from the artist could be quite minimal.

Alternately, if you are, say, Madonna, and your entire body of work resides with one label, and you are still signed to the label, and you are an artist of incredible importance, you can bet that they have a lot of creative control over a hits package.

That's why Madonna's "GHV2" album has its quirks ¬ she determined what the tracklist would be.

The same goes for Nicks' "Crystal Visions." I contacted Nicks' publicist Liz Rosenberg (who also represents Madonna), who filled me in on "Crystal."
Nicks made all of the decisions with regards to what would be on the album, the order of the tracks and which versions of the songs would be included.

When picking songs for "Crystal," Nicks also considered which of her songs were already represented on existing hits packages from her and Fleetwood Mac.

Personally speaking, I think "Crystal Visions" is quite a fun collection.

One could quibble with how minor singles like "After the Glitter Fades" Or "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You" are not included. However, the album does have all of Nicks' solo top 20 Billboard Hot 100 hits, including her most famous solo songs, "Stand Back" and "Edge of Seventeen."

Maybe someday we'll probably get a "The Best of Stevie Nicks" compilation that will have all of her solo hits combined with her Fleetwood Mac hits.

That way, you'd get one album that has "Stand Back" alongside "Gold Dust Woman" and "Edge of Seventeen" next to "Sara."

For more information on Nicks, visit her official Web site.


Hi Keith,

How good is your summer going?

I was just wondering if it is true that the lead Pussycat Dolls singer, Nicole Scherzinger, is going to release a solo album, and if so when?

I also would like to know how many copies have the Pussycat Dolls sold of the album "PCD." I looked at the Billboard charts and it has the RIAA platinum symbol, but the album was released some time ago, and it has had five very successful singles. Somehow a million copies doesn't seem to be that much, so have they sold more?


Miguel Silverlake
Middletown, NY

Hi Miguel,

Well, considering summer only means a seasonal change and not any less work to do, it's going just fine.

The frontwoman of the Pussycat Dolls, Nicole Scherzinger, is prepping the release of her solo effort, "My Name Is Nicole," for later this year. I don't have an exact release date, but look for it around September.

"PCD" has sold 2.7 million copies in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan. It has spawned six Billboard Hot 100 singles ¬ "Don't Cha" (No. 2), "Stickwitu" (No. 5), "Beep" (No. 13), "Buttons" (No. 3), "Wait A Minute" (No. 28) and "I Don't Need a Man" (No. 93).



I have a question regarding Billboard's methodology for ranking albums prior to (the establishment of) SoundScan (in 1991).

How were the rankings derived, particularly the year-end charts? Were they based on sales, or some other basis? There does not seem to be a lot of verifiable detail of how this was done. I have seen claims on various sites, but nothing from Billboard's own archives, and a search was not particularly successful.

Ron Binns
Gainesville, Fla.

Hello Ron,

Beginning with The Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums charts dated May 25, 1991, both began using Nielsen SoundScan data. (Eventually, all of our other sales charts would be driven by SoundScan information.)

Previous to SoundScan, we would take reports from stores, and then order the albums on the chart based on how well they were selling, according to these reports. Each position on the chart was worth a fixed number of points, and that point value would not differ from week to week.

Once we began using SoundScan information, the No. 1 position's point total simply became the weekly sales amount for that album. So, R. Kelly's point total on The Billboard 200 this past week with "Double Up" was about 385,000.

On the cover of Billboard magazine dated May 25, 1991 ¬ when we first started employing SoundScan information - we ran a letter from our then-publisher explaining the change. Here is the introduction from that story.

"To our readers:

"This is a week of historic change for Billboard magazine. For more than 30 years, our sales charts have relied on rankings of best-selling records obtained from stores, over the telephone or by messenger service. Until now, the only technological changes have been the introduction of computers to tally the data more quickly and the recent usage of fax machines -- but the basic methodology has remained the same.

"In the last few years, the introduction of point-of-sale systems that scan bar codes at retail checkout counters has made possible a whole new degree of accuracy for measuring record sales: the ability to count precisely the number of units sold, rather than just a ranking of titles. Billboard has worked diligently over the last two years to take advantage of this new technology to produce more accurate charts. With this issue we are proud to begin using actual piece counts for two of our leading charts: Top Pop Albums and Top Country Albums. Eventually, actual units sold will be used as the basis for other music sales charts in the magazine."

-- Further, in the Dec. 21, 1991 issue of Billboard, we explained, in brief, how the year-end charts were compiled:

"The 1991 Year-End Charts were compiled by computer from Billboard's weekly and biweekly charts during the eligibility period, which is November 24, 1990 through November 23, 1991 for all the charts.

"Final year-end chart positioning is based on a point system. Points are given to each record (single or album) for each week on the chart, in a complex inverse relationship to the chart position.

"The Year-End Charts represent the accumulation of all points ¬ based on the number of weeks on the chart plus positions attained ¬ that respective artists, labels, publishers, etc., have received for their charted recordings during the eligibility period.

"Each chart has its own unique point system, with points assigned to each rank on a chart based on the actual average number of points a record receives at that position on the computer worksheet for the chart. (These point totals are not shown on the charts printed in the magazine."

-- To compare how things have changed, here is a small excerpt of the explanation that ran with in our Dec. 23, 2006 year-end issue:

"As in recent years, the rankings for Broadcast Data Systems- and SoundScan-based charts reflect airplay or sales during the weeks titles appeared on a relevant chart from the 2005 chart year ¬ which began with the Dec. 3, 2005, issue and ended with the Nov. 25, 2006 issue (including, for charts that are published biweekly, sales from the unpublished weeks).

"Sales or airplay registered before or after a title's chart run are not considered in these standings."