CHART BEAT CHAT
Fred Bronson discusses country artists on the R&B chart, radio and ringtones with readers.SHOULD HAVE STUDIED THE BOOK A LITTLE MORE
You mentioned that Tim McGraw is the first country artist since Conway Twitty to appear on the R&B/hip hop singles chart. Actually, Kenny Rogers' "Lady" was one of the rare songs to hit both the Black chart (as it was called at the time) and the Country chart (I learned this from reading "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits" so many times that I practically have it memorized!).
I also seem to remember (but may be mistaken) that Linda Ronstadt's remake of "Ooh Baby Baby" hit the R&B chart, although I'm not sure she was considered a country artist at that time. And both Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson appeared as part of USA For Africa on the No. 1 R&B hit "We Are the World," although of course neither is mentioned by name as an artist.
Are there other songs that have appeared on both the country and R&B/hip hop charts? Besides the above, I think that a number of Elvis Presley's hits did so, but I'm sure that there are many others.
Love your column (and your books) as always,
Penn Valley, Pa.
Sounds like I need to read that book again.
You're right, Kenny Rogers' "Lady" did chart R&B, as did his collaboration with Kim Carnes and James Ingram, "What About Me?"
In 1979, Linda Ronstadt's "Ooh Baby Baby," a remake of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Ooo Baby Baby," peaked at No. 77, but Ronstadt would be considered a pop artist. The same goes for Elvis Presley, who would be classified as a rock act or a pop act, even though he charted on both country and R&B tallies.
I enjoyed reading Jason Lee's letter and your response, but then I always enjoy these conversations on the business of radio, having worked in radio from 1979-1987.
When I was growing up, top 40 stations (and there were several in each market, not just one) played all, or nearly all, the songs on the top 40. I could listen to Casey Kasem every Sunday, and I'd know at least 90% of the songs. Top 40 stations played rock, country, soul, easy listening, instrumentals, novelty songs, etc. If people were buying the song, it was played on top 40 radio.
Back then, there was no (or at least very little) "narrowcasting." My mother and I could listen to the exact same station for hours. Some of the Carpenters songs may have been a little syrupy for me, but I'm not sure she cared for all the Guess Who songs either. The point is, all our songs were on the same station(s).
I can't say exactly when narrowcasting began -- it may have been with the rap explosion of the 1990s, and mainstream top 40's refusal to play it, because they thought it isolated their older audience (i.e. anyone over 30) -- but what a detriment it's been to radio. Now, stations target very specific age groups. For example, rap and mainstream top 40 are almost mutually exclusive. One appeals to urban 12-24 year-olds, and the other to suburban 18-35 year-olds.
In the 1970s, these two groups would have listened (primarily) to the same stations. By narrowcasting, all radio listeners will never again experience the hype of the Beatles invasion of 1964. What the urban 12-24 year-olds consider to be THE hit of the day ("Drop It Like It's Hot," for example) isn't even known by the suburban 18-35 year-olds, who consider "She Will Be Loved" to be THE song of the moment. How sad that these two very similar groups can't share the same music anymore.
I suggested last summer that satellite radio should at least attempt to revise the old top 40 sound of years past. In other words, satellite radio would be the perfect place for a new station to play ALL the top 40 material, including the country songs found in the No. 30-No. 50 chart range. I believe many people (from many different demographic groups) would listen to such a station -- remember, no commercials would likely be reason enough for a rap lover to wade through the occasional Switchfoot or Tim McGraw song, and vice-versa. This type of station may inadvertently cause Hilary Duff's songs to merit enough airplay (through the snowball effect on commercial radio) to actually chart higher, which was reader Jason Lee's point in the first place.
My letter received a few good responses, and I'd like to throw my idea out there again. If there is anyone involved in the satellite radio business, please feel free to e-mail me at the address listed below. I have several ideas which I believe might interest you.
And as for reader Jason Lee, keep hoping for the "Return of Radio." Someday, it will happen!
Forgive the plug, but one place to hear songs from every format is "The Billboard Radio Countdown." Each week, we play 10 songs from the top 40 portion of the Hot 100, and we include country, rap, pop, modern rock -- whatever is charting. We also play six extra songs, including a song from another Billboard chart and an international song from the Hits of the World charts published in Billboard.
The Countdown is hosted by Chuck Taylor of Billboard and Billboard Radio Monitor, produced by Patrick Eves and written by yours truly. You can hear it by going to www.billboardradio.com. We do have a worldwide audience, made up of listeners who enjoy music from different formats.
RING HIS BELL
I've seen in the news that Billboard will be adding a ringtone chart in the near future. It seems like the public, largely unwilling to pay for downloads of singles, is quite willing to spend twice that cost to buy an inferior and shorter version of the same track even when they have no control over when they will hear it.
I assume the new chart will appear beginning with the new chart year in December. Any hints as to the first No. 1 ringtone? What other changes can we expect with the New Year? A merger of the modern rock and mainstream rock charts, which are now as indistinguishable as Mary Kate from Ashley? Are legal downloads included in the Hot 100?
The Hot Ringtones chart debuted in the Nov. 6 issue of Billboard. The first No. 1 ringtone was "My Boo" by Usher and Alicia Keys, matching the No. 1 song on The Billboard Hot 100. There were some disparities, as well, notably the No. 13 ranking of Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby."
Here is an excerpt from a story that ran in the Nov. 6 issue on the launch of the ringtones chart:
Similar to Billboard's charts for record and CD sales as well as Billboard Radio Monitor's coverage of radio airplay, the new chart will reflect the "Top 20" polyphonic ringtone sales for each week, including song title, artist, previous week's position and number of weeks on the chart.
The data is aggregated from each of the major ringtone distributors and wireless carriers, which represent more than 90% market share. The Hot Ringtones chart is a reflection of the most comprehensive market sample of ringtones worldwide and the single most comprehensive starting sample of any chart produced by Billboard to date.
The data for the Billboard Hot Ringtones chart is compiled from the primary providers of the U.S. market, including 9Squared, AG Interactive, Dwango Wireless, Faith West, Infospace Mobile, Kanematsu, Zingy and Ztango Inc. (a WiderThan company) and is endorsed by both CTIA -- The Wireless Association and the Mobile Entertainment Forum.