Chart Beat Chat

Fred discusses airplay v. sales, Hicks, "Hips", Madonna and Arista.


Hello Fred,

I haven't written that often, but I read you faithfully every week.

To me, the Hot 100 seems to favor downloaded sales more than airplay. I know that sales and airplay are compiled together in a point system, but does airplay carry lesser weight?

I know radio play is tracked by a reliable company that has been used for over 10 years and that you get a more accurate reading of what's being played, but I can't understand how a song that is getting moderate airplay could overturn a song that the listening public has already crowned No. 1.

Single sales had all but been erased from the scene until last year and now that you can download them for 99 cents, it's become a matter of whether you can sell enough copies that week to become No. 1.

I believe the reason no song has been No. 1 more than five weeks this year is because there is not a lot of airplay for that song (scratch "Check on It" and "Bad Day").

Love your column and your knowledge for the music that is universal to us all.

Jamal Cannady

Dear Jamal,

Thanks for being a faithful reader; I really do appreciate that.

You're correct that the Hot 100 is compiled by combining sales and airplay data. That has been true since the chart was introduced in August 1958. Over the years, some No. 1 songs were strong in sales and airplay; others were stronger in one or the other. Because Billboard didn't publish component sales and airplay charts, it was not possible to tell which hits were stronger in which areas.

Shortly before new technology was introduced to the Billboard charts in 1991, those component charts started appearing in the magazine. Then it was easy to see where songs' strengths were.

I don't know how old you are, but if you are a younger Billboard reader, you may not remember a time when sales played such an important role in compiling the chart. Once sales started diminishing, the influence of sales on chart position also diminished -- naturally.

I think that is why you don't understand how records that sell well but don't have a lot of airplay can perform well on the chart.

I've said it many times, but each week's chart positions depend on how the numbers add up. The easiest way to reach No. 1 is to have a lot of sales and a lot of airplay. A harder way is to only be strong in one area but it's not impossible.

We have a good example this week. Even though "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean is strong in sales and airplay, Taylor Hicks' "Do I Make You Proud" sold enough singles to debut at No. 1 even though "Proud" has minimal airplay. The sales numbers for Taylor's single are so overwhelming that when the numbers are added up, "Proud" comes out on top. Most of the sales for "Proud" came from CD singles, not digital downloads, so Taylor got to No. 1 the old-fashioned way (but a way that works!).



I'm curious to know how Taylor Hicks is No. 1 this week when "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean is still experiencing massive radio airplay and sales. I know that Hicks sold a tremendous amount of singles this week, but "Do I Make You Proud" has garnered little to no airplay. Do singles sales count for 50% and radio airplay for 50% of the Hot 100, or do sales carry more weight?

Tom Meyer

Dear Tom,

Part of the answer to your question can be found in the above e-mail, but since you asked about sales and airplay percentages, I thought your letter deserved a spot in this week's Chart Beat Chat.

It's a misconception that sales and airplay each make up a specific percentage of a song's total points. More accurately, sales and airplay points are added together, and the totals decide position on the Hot 100.

You can then determine what percentage of each song's total points comes from airplay, and what percentage comes from sales. For example, a single like Taylor Hicks' "Do I Make You Proud" might chart with a point total that is 95% sales and 5% airplay (that's hypothetical, not the actual breakdown). On the other hand, a song like "Dèjá Vu" by Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z has a point total this week that comes 100% from airplay because there was no single available for sale, either as a download or a physical CD single.

It's possible to be No. 1 solely on sales or solely on airplay if the numbers in either column are so massive, as the sales figures are this week for Hicks.


Hi Fred.

Now that Madonna's "Get Together" hit No. 1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart, how many No. 1s does that make for her and why was there no mention of it in Chart Beat?

Thanks for the years of enjoyment.

Jayme Petrille

Dear Jayme,

"Get Together" was Madonna's 36th No. 1 on the Club Play chart. She has owned the record for the most No. 1s on this chart for a long time so this wasn't the biggest news of the week - which is probably why it wasn't in Chart Beat.

However, I know Madonna has many fans and many of them read my columns, so it was worth a mention and should have been included last week. We shouldn't take her for granted just because she makes going to No. 1 on the Club Play chart look so easy.


Hi Fred,

Thanks as always for your Chart Beat patrol.

Quick question in regards to your column note on Arista: Wasn't Barry Manilow's "Mandy" the first No. 1 hit for the label?


Joe McCombs
New York

Dear Joe,

I know it seems like that would be correct. The truth is Barry Manilow was already signed to Bell Records when Clive Davis was asked to head up the label. Clive changed the name to Arista and pared the roster, but he kept Barry. "Mandy" was issued on the Bell label before the name change.

You'll get a different story from Clive, who says he formed Arista as a new label but, no matter what, "Mandy" was the sixth and final No. 1 on the Bell imprint.