Chart Beat Chat

Fred and his readers discuss Mary J. Blige's 72-week run on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, the influence of airplay and downloads on the Hot 100 and Pop 100 charts and more!


Dear Fred,

I read both Chart Beat and Chart Beat Chat every week, and have been a faithful follower of the former since the mid-'90s; it always provides the most interesting and relevant chart feats from new and veteran artists. That is why I was surprised, to say the least, to see no mention in this week's Chart Beat of Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" notching a 72nd week on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, breaking the record held by Usher's "You Make Me Wanna..."

After all, not only does she set the overall longevity record on that chart with "Be Without You" -- as already documented, its 15-week run at No. 1 is also the longest in the history of that chart. So the case could be made that "Be Without You" is now the biggest R&B hit in the history of Billboard.

And you didn't mention it!

Mark Harris
Columbus, Ohio

Dear Mark,

Much obliged to you for writing in about Mary J. Blige's achievement. She certainly deserved a mention in Chart Beat this week for setting the record of having the longest-running single on a Billboard R&B chart - and Billboard has been charting R&B singles since 1942.

She is holding at No. 45 this week with one of her four songs on the chart, "Be Without You." As you mentioned, this former No. 1 is in its 72nd chart week, beating the former record of 71 weeks held by Usher with "You Make Me Wanna...," a No. 1 hit from 1997. The only other title to remain on this chart for 70 weeks or more was R. Kelly's 2003 hit "Step in the Name of Love," which had a 70-week run.

"Be Without You" holds the record for the longest-run at No. 1 since the R&B chart returned to Billboard in 1965 after a short hiatus. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote when the single set the record at the 15-week mark:

To find a No. 1 song that ruled as long as Blige's hit, one would have to go back to 1949, when the Charles Brown Trio was on top for 15 weeks with "Trouble Blues." Between 1945-1947, three other songs were No. 1 for 16 weeks or more. They were:

18 weeks "The Honeydripper (Parts 1 and 2)," Joe Liggins and His Honeydrippers
18 weeks "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
17 weeks "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
16 weeks "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop," Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra

I agree with you that you could easily make a case for calling "Be Without You" the biggest R&B hit in the history of Billboard. If the song is still on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in seven days, we'll mark the 73rd chart week with a Chart Beat item that acknowledges your e-mail. Other readers also wrote in about Blige's achievement, by the way, but your letter was the first to arrive.


Hi Fred,

Love your columns and have three editions of your "Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits." A longtime chart addict (since 1975) and longtime reader of your columns, I was wondering if you could tell us how much airplay and downloads figure into the Hot 100 or Pop 100. I'm a much bigger fan of the Pop 100 but both charts seem heavily weighted towards downloads. They seem to drive positions.


Jim Sewell

Dear Jim,

The Hot 100 and the more recent (by comparison) Pop 100 are both compiled by blending sales and airplay, as you know. The Pop 100 was introduced the week of Feb. 12, 2005, the same week that paid digital downloads were fully integrated into the Hot 100. At that time, Hot 100 chart manager Silvio Pietroluongo explained the ratios between airplay and sales on both charts. Here is what he wrote:

"The infusion of digital sales into the Hot 100 alters that chart's formula. Reports from nonmonitored radio stations will no longer be a factor. Audience from Hot 100 Airplay is still divided by 10,000, but digital sales and retail singles sales are now divided by five (retail sales had been divided by 10). In addition, songs without a retail component will now be allowed to chart on the Hot 100 regardless of their rank on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. In the past, a song had to appear among the top 75 of the airplay chart in order to debut on the Hot 100.

"Radio audience on the Pop 100 is divided by 1,000, but sales are factored at 100%. The ratio of radio audience to sales in the new Hot 100 formula is averaging 67-33. The ratio was adjusted to 75% radio and 25% sales in 1998, when the chart's radio panel was expanded to include all formats. But, as fewer hits have been released to retail, the influence of sales has been minuscule in recent years.

"The radio-to-sales ratio on the Pop 100 is averaging 60-40. Titles are removed from the Pop 100 when they fall below No. 30 and spend more than 30 weeks on the chart."

Jim, you mentioned that the Hot 100 and the Pop 100 both seem to be download-driven. There is a logical reason for that. Since Billboard introduced digital sales into the mix a little over two years ago, average weekly sales of digital downloads have tripled. Just as airplay became a more dominant factor when sales of singles dried up, now the pendulum has swung the other way. As sales have increased, they have naturally had a bigger influence on the chart.

Billboard's chart department staffers are constantly monitoring market conditions and how those conditions affect the charts. I don't know of any plans to alter chart formulas, but I'm sure they are aware of this situation.
You might be interested to know that you weren't the only reader to write in about the issue of download sales affecting the charts. Keep reading.


Dear Fred,

After a decade of my weekly Chart Beat Chat fix, I finally have a topic to write to you about. I'm so excited to participate for a change!

After reading Rhoemi R. Smith's letter last week about iTunes, I began to think about Fergie's recent yo-yo on the Hot 100 because of an issue with iTunes. "Glamorous" soared into the top 10, plummeted right out of the top 10 until it was outside the top 50, then blasted back into the top 10 again, mostly because of its availability on iTunes. I can't think of a time in chart history (at least in the 25 years I've been a chart-watcher) where one "retail" outlet -- iTunes -- has created such an impact on the Hot 100. Many of the tremendous leaps on the chart we've seen in the last year are due to iTunes downloads.

My concern isn't so much in questioning demographics of downloaders or their musical preferences. I think you make a great point that a variety of genres are represented on the Hot Digital Songs chart. My concern is more for the impact that iTunes has on the Hot 100. An availability issue can damage a song's chances of reaching the upper echelons. While this has been true in the past with distribution of singles or the release of singles following a push to radio (my favorite example is Kelly Clarkson's jump from No. 52 to No. 1 with "A Moment Like This"), I don't think I like that one outlet alone has this level of power. Apple certainly should be congratulated on revolutionizing paid downloads, but it just seems like times have changed a little too fast on the Hot 100, with only one company to thank or blame.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that recent wild jumps and drops will eventually level off? Or is this truly a new era where we should come to expect unusual chart yo-yos and incredible chart leaps?

Thank you so much, Fred, for a column that is always interesting and insightful. I take such pleasure in always feeling like I'm in the industry "loop" thanks to your devotion to the charts.


Tim Edens
Austin, Texas

Dear Tim,

Thanks for your kind words, and I'm glad you enjoy Chart Beat Chat on a weekly basis.

As you can tell from the response to the above letter, paid digital downloads are certainly having a strong effect on the Hot 100. The wild "Glamorous" yo-yo moves were an anomaly, but your point is well-taken.

You asked for my thoughts, so here they are. First, it isn't just iTunes that is affecting the chart. Nielsen SoundScan tracks sales from a number of online sellers and they all count toward the Hot 100. However, Apple's iTunes has the giant share of the market, so it's only natural that the iTunes store's sales of digital downloads would have the biggest influence on the chart. The Billboard charts reflect actual market conditions, whatever they are. Billboard didn't make iTunes influential by using its sales data for the Hot 100, iTunes IS influential and the charts reflect that truth. Should market conditions shift (in either direction), you would see iTunes sales become less (or more) influential.

As for the incredible chart leaps, they sure give me something to write about!


Hi Fred,

In Chart Beat Chat last week you mentioned:

As for the number of writers on a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100, there were 11 credited songwriters on "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" by Puff Daddy featuring Mase in 1997. A year earlier, there were 12 credited songwriters on "Tha Crossroads" by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. The Mims song thus holds the record, with 13 songwriters.

I don't know how the songwriters were credited, but one of my fave singles that went to No. 1 was the medley by Stars on 45, which had to have a ton of writers listed, right?

Hope all is well!

Dave Richards

Hi, Fred!

The medley by Stars on 45 that hit No. 1 in May 1981 would have the jump on all others as far as incorporating other hits into it, I would think - using 10 songs that were previously hits. Whether you call it sampling or just remaking, it is far ahead of Mims or others in borrowing from others.

As far as songs that didn't reach No. 1, I would look at Dickie Goodman's many comedy 45s such as "Mr. Jaws" or going back to "The Flying Saucer" in 1956, where he would use actual clips of then-recent hits to punctuate his dialogue. These would invariably have 10 or more samples in each of them.

Thanks for a great column each week!

Yours faithfully,

Phil Schulz

Dear Dave and Phil,

Kudos for remembering the "Stars on 45" medley (and Phil, the Dickie Goodman novelty songs). But, I wouldn't put them in the same category as Mims' "This Is Why I'm Hot" or the other songs mentioned in Chart Beat Chat that sampled multiple recordings.

The art of sampling is different from recording a new version of a previous hit, or in the case of the Stars on 45 song, new versions of multiple hits. The Dickie Goodman recordings didn't sample older records either, but used the actual recordings.

Dave, as for your question, there were only five writers on the Stars on 45 medley: Robbie van Leeuwen, founder of the Dutch group Shocking Blue, which originally recorded "Venus"; Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, who wrote "Sugar, Sugar" for the Archies and John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who wrote all of the Beatles songs that made up the rest of the medley.


Dear Fred,

With the publication of this week's Hot 100, we have reached an important milestone that I think should receive recognition. Billboard has now been publishing an authoritative, definitive, reliable pop singles chart for two-thirds of a century.

Notice there were some [qualifying] adjectives in that last sentence. Prior to 1940, Billboard did publish some pop singles charts, but they did not meet modern standards. You published a disc jockeys chart as far back as 1934 and a juke box chart starting in 1938. In an era when it was common for several recording acts to release recordings of the same song simultaneously, these charts listed all versions of a song together as one entry. The songs were not necessarily in rank order. The juke box chart measured how many juke box owners added the song to their juke boxes that week, as opposed to number of plays. So, there are reasons why we don't talk about those charts much nowadays.

The era of "good" charts started the week of July 27, 1940, which was a Thursday. That was when Billboard published the first chart that did not have all the drawbacks listed in the previous paragraph. It was called Best Selling Retail Records and had 10 positions. It was compiled from sales data collected from 53 stores in 25 cities nationwide (from what we would now call the Lower 48). Plus there were four regional charts that also had 10 positions.

Add 66 years and eight months to that date and I come up with March 27, 2007, as marking two-thirds of a century of "good" charts. There have been 1,140 No. 1 songs on the Best Seller and Hot 100 charts through "Glamorous" (not counting "Bird Dog," which hit No. 1 on the Best Sellers chart after the Hot 100 began, and counting "The Twist" only once).

Larry Dhooghe
Forest Grove, Ore.

Dear Larry,

I have a feeling you are the only person in the known universe who caught this anniversary. I hope we're all around to celebrate the week we get to the full-century mark.

And speaking of the pre-rock era years, see the next e-mail.


Hi, Fred,

I read your column religiously every week online. I've been addicted to the Billboard charts since May 10, 1957, the day I got my first transistor radio and heard my first countdown, and yet you (and your readers) consistently come up with some surprises in your column, which makes it always fascinating.

I thought I'd suggest that in response to recent inquiries about books documenting the history of pop music before "Rock Around the Clock," you might mention Joel Whitburn's "Pop Memories, 1890-1954." It doesn't give much information beyond title, performer and chart history, but it provides a thorough overview of what songs and performers have been popular ever since records of sheet music and phonograph record sales have been kept.

Rick Emmer
Tampa, Fla.

Dear Rick,

Joel Whitburn's books are excellent resources and there is a large section of my bookcase filled with his works. "Pop Memories" is outstanding, and there is also a book that just covers the Billboard charts from 1940-1955.

Readers who want more information should check out Joel's website at