Ask Billboard

Keith Caulfield answers readers' questions about The Hot 100, Diana Ross and Mariah v. Madonna.


Hi Keith,

I have a question that sounds simple, but always goes unexplained.

Why, in the weekly news article on about The Billboard Hot 100, aren't sales figures for the chart given?

Figures are mentioned when there is a No. 1 with substantially high downloads or CD sales (such as when Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" flew to No. 1 with 250,000 digital downloads), but most weeks the sales for the top 10 aren't mentioned.

This seems especially strange when compared to The Billboard 200's album chart's weekly news story, which features detailed sales recaps. Also, I'm sure it was a regular feature of the Hot 100 news story in the days before the early 2000's when sales of CD singles faltered.

Thank you for listening,

Yours sincerely,

Frank Edwin
London, England

Hi Frank,

Since The Billboard Hot 100 isn't purely a sales-driven chart -- whereas The Billboard 200 albums chart is -- it would be confusing to discuss sales figures on a regular basis.

The Hot 100 blends radio airplay data, digital download sales and CD/vinyl single sales (if they exist) in order to determine the most popular songs of the week. Because of this blending, a single can be ranked high on the Hot 100 with huge sales and little airplay or vice-versa.

That said, when there is significant news with regards to sales – like when Timberlake sells 250,000 downloads of "SexyBack" – we certainly do discuss these feats.


Next, we have two questions about the same topic, Supreme diva Diana Ross.


I am a huge fan of your column and never miss it. I recently read that Diana Ross will be releasing a new album in Europe entitled "I Love You" in October. Are there any plans for it to be released in the U.S.? As far as I know Ross has no label in the U.S., but there has been much speculation about the diva signing with Clive Davis.


Richard Brinson
Richlands, N.C.

Hi Keith,

I know that Diana Ross has a record deal with EMI/Angel that covers everywhere except the USA and Canada and that she has a new CD coming out in October. CD Universe is listing the release as her "Blue Note" debut. Has she signed with Blue Note for the USA and Canada?


Orlando, Fla.

Hello Richard and Nick,

So far, as you both well know, nothing has been announced yet with regards to Ross' album coming out in the U.S. At least we know the album is definitely coming out -- outside America. You'd have to imagine a deal is likely in place for American distribution, but they are just waiting for the right time to announce the news.

Ross' last studio album, 1999's "Every Day Is a New Day," has sold 87,000 in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan.


Hi Keith!

Alright. I am not sure how many times you have had to answer this, but it is still unclear to me. Who has sold the most albums -- Mariah Carey or Madonna? Overall, [who is] the most successful? I get different answers from different sites. So, for once and for all (I know you can be trusted), what's the correct answer?

Thanks for your time!

Josh Brown

Hello Josh,

Who is the most successful? It depends on how you define success.

If we are going strictly by album and single sales, we don't have a way of getting an exact figure for both artists. Nielsen SoundScan, our sister company that was established in 1991, tracks U.S. music sales. Unfortunately, because a good chunk of Madonna's career (and a sliver of Carey's) pre-dates 1991, we don't have a complete sales record for either of them.

Additionally, there is no sole independent firm, like SoundScan, that tabulates global sales. So, establishing how much each has sold worldwide is out, too.


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