Ask Billboard

Keith Caulfield answers readers' questions about Shania Twain, Stevie Nicks, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.



I have a question about the album of the year. They say it's 50 Cent who sold 6 million this year, but I see Shania Twain's CD is at Diamond status. I know her CD went on sale at the end of 2002, but surely she couldn't have sold all 10 million in a month. So, how much did she sell in 2003? Should her album be the album of the year sales-wise rather than 50 Cent's?



Next to "American Idol" queries, Shania Twain questions were the most popular here at "Ask Billboard" in 2003. Without fail, every week, I would find a handful of people asking: "Why hasn't Twain's 'Up!' CD been certified platinum yet?"

Most assume that Billboard has something to do with the gold and platinum certification process, but it does not, as those are issued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Billboard's charts include small symbols to indicate what award certified titles have received.

As the trade group that represents the major labels, the RIAA issues gold, platinum and diamond certifications, based on shipments to U.S. retailers. The organization's accounting of releases is not automatic, but comes at the request of record labels, artists or their representatives. (More information about the certification process is available at the RIAA's Web site.)

A gold award represents 500,000 units, while platinum honors are doled out for 1 million units and diamond awards for 10 million units. For multi-disc sets with a minimum running time of 100 minutes, each disc in the set counts as one unit towards certification.

That means a two-disc set like Twain's "Up!" counts as two units in the RIAA's eyes -- despite the fact that the set is sold as one package for about the same price as a single-disc package. The U.S. release of the set boasts two discs, each with the same track list -- one with country mixes and the other with pop mixes of the same songs.

Because of the double-album consideration, "Up!" was conferred diamond status on Dec. 16 by the RIAA.

Interestingly, in April 2003, in an interview done with CMT at the music network's Flameworthy Awards, Twain commented about the fact that "Up!" could be certified as a double-album, even though it was essentially a single-disc album, but with an extra disc of alternate versions.

Here is an excerpt of Twain's comments from the TARGET="new">CMT Web site:

CMT: Although you could receive two credits for selling a copy of "Up!," which is a double-album, I heard you are choosing to be only credited for one. Is there truth to that?

Twain: Yes, there is truth to that because I just don't think it's justified. It's a technical thing. I technically can claim two, but it's not ... true . I mean, it's technically true, but it wouldn't be true. That would be some kind of trickery or something. I'm not interested in that. I don't want to be accused of doing anything like that. I wouldn't even want that. ... No gimmicks.

Even the packaging of this album is not a gimmick, the color thing. This is a whole homegrown idea. If anything, the label was saying to me, "How are we going to market this?" Because it was such a crazy idea, having all these different styles of music. I just wanted to give more. I wanted to give more choice. I wanted to portray all the different sides of me. I'm not trying to be anything I'm not. It's all very true to what I am. I enjoyed experimenting, but I'm not interested in the gimmick of the whole number game.

Lastly, 50 Cent's "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'" sold 6.5 million units in 2003, making it the top-selling album of 2003, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which measures units sold over the counter in the U.S. and its that data that makes up Billboard's album charts. "Up!" has sold 4.65 million overall since its release, 1.74 million of those in 2003. Therefore, "Get Rich" is still, clearly, 2003's biggest selling album.


Hi Keith,

I always read your column and now have a question myself. Could you give a rundown of the sales of Stevie Nicks' albums? I am a big fan, but have never seen any figures from her music output? How do her sales compare to those of Fleetwood Mac?

Thank you, Keith, and "I Can't Wait" to see your column response.

Chris Holt

Hi Chris,

Here is the rundown on Stevie Nicks' Nielsen SoundScan era (1991-present) albums and their respective sales:

"Timespace - The Best Of Stevie Nicks" (1991), 1.4 million
"Street Angel" (1994, 226,000)
"Enchanted" (1998), 162,000
"Trouble In Shangri-La" (2001), 640,000

As for Fleetwood Mac's Nielsen SoundScan-era albums, here they are:

"25 Years - The Chain" (1992), 79,000
"Time" (1995), 50,000
"The Dance" (1998), 4.3 million
"The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac" (2002), 796,000
"Say You Will" (2003), 793,000


Hi Keith,

I want to know about two albums that aren't very old. How many copies has Mick Jagger's solo album "Goddess in the Doorway" sold? And how many of the Rolling Stones' "Forty Licks?" If you can, please tell me how many weeks both spent on The Billboard 200.

Thanks for your time,

Federico Petito

Hi Federico,

Mick Jagger's "Goddess in the Doorway" has sold 317,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Forty Licks" has shifted 2.2 million; both were released by Virgin.

"Goddess" peaked at No. 39 on The Billboard 200 and spent eight weeks on the chart. "Forty Licks" peaked at No. 2, and has spent 48 weeks on the list. On the latest chart (dated Jan. 3), it is No. 160.