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Ask Billboard: How “TiK ToK” Winds Up At No. 2

Billboard chart-watchers weigh in on this week's Hot 100, where Ke$ha clocks in at No. 2, one notcher higher than Lady Gaga.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at

Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

First, I want to thank Billboard for the copy of Joel Whitburn’s new “Top Pop Singles” book that I won in your drawing last month. I’ve really enjoyed reading it!

My question pertains to Lady Gaga. I noticed that her “Bad Romance” slips to the No. 3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 this week behind the now-No. 2 song “TiK ToK” by Ke$ha. But, Lady Gaga’s song is higher than Ke$ha’s on both the Digital Songs and Hot 100 Airplay/Radio Songs charts. Even on the Hot Master Ringtones chart, Lady Gaga bests Ke$ha this week.

So, how is it possible that Lady Gaga drops below a song that it leads in airplay and sales?

P.S. Can you tell me how many copies Lady Gaga’s “The Fame” and “The Fame Monster” have sold so far? Thanks!


Christian Redondo
Atlanta, Georgia

Hi Christian,

Glad the book made for a great early holiday present!

On the Hot 100, it is, indeed, a rare occasion when a song leads another in airplay and sales, yet trails on the Hot 100. The Hot 100 is mainly an airplay and sales hybrid chart. However, online song and video streaming from AOL and Yahoo! contributes, as well, and when airplay and sales totals are close, streaming can be a tie-breaker.

(Ringtone sales are not factored into the Hot 100’s tabulation.)

Again, Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK” ranks at No. 2 on the Hot 100 this week, and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” places at No. 3.

On Radio Songs, “Bad Romance” is No. 6 – as the Greatest Gainer – with 76 million audience impressions, according to Nielsen BDS. “TiK ToK” is No. 7 with 74.4 million in audience.

On Digital Songs, “Bad Romance” is No. 1 with 183,000 downloads sold last week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. “TiK ToK” is No. 2 with sales of 182,000.

With such similar sums, streaming makes the difference this week. “TiK ToK” was streamed three times as much as “Bad Romance” in the Hot 100’s tracking week, and that disparity gives Ke$ha the overall edge in Hot 100 points.

The No. 1 song on the Hot 100, by the way, remains “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys for a fifth week. The track is No. 1 on Radio Songs (125 million audience impressions) and No. 3 on Digital Songs (137,000 downloads). It also leads “TiK ToK” and “Bad Romance” in streaming plays.

To answer your second question, Gaga’s “The Fame” has sold 1,997,000 copies to date, according to SoundScan. “The Fame Monster” has sold 312,000.


Dear Gary,

I’ve been an avid Billboard reader since 1997. I wanted to comment about how the Hot 100 is currently constituted and compare it to its methodology in the late ’90s.

I was very pleased when the Hot 100 began including songs that were not available as singles at the end of 1998, as many hit songs were not being released as singles. However, a song had to reach the top 75 of the Hot 100 Airplay/Radio Songs chart to be eligible for the Hot 100.

Now, in this digital age, I think Billboard should implement this rule again and allow songs that rank highly on Digital Songs to be eligible for the Hot 100 only if they rank above a certain audience level in radio airplay.

This would decrease the number of digital-heavy titles that the “Glee” cast and other artists, such as Justin Bieber, have posted on the Hot 100 and give songs that are popular at radio higher Hot 100 rankings.

I understand that Billboard wants to provide the most accurate data, but I feel that the number of songs (25) that “Glee” has yielded on the Hot 100 this year is unreflective of its overall impact on the music industry. I also understand that some of the Beatles‘ 31 hits in 1964 were probably not big radio songs but appeared on the Hot 100 due to sales (and I would’ve more than likely written the Hot 100 chart manager at the time with a similar statement).

Right now, it just seems easy for artists to garner multiple hits on the Hot 100 when their songs are receiving zero-to-limited airplay. For me, that hurts the integrity of our most esteemed airplay/sales combination chart.

Thank you for reading this,

Brandon Meyers
Okemos, Michigan

Hi Brandon,

Thanks for your well-thought-out e-mail.

I know that other chart fans have made similar points, and that watching the Hot 100 was more ‘fun’ in the past when songs would debut in the charts lower ranks and steadily climb, peak, and descend, almost always without any zig-zagging. We could follow a song’s chart path more easily, and closely predict where it might rank week-to-week.

Of course, we need to remember that the chart was based on ranked reports submitted from radio stations and retailers until 1991. Had we had monitored audience numbers and point-of-sale figures before then, who knows how the chart might’ve looked, and how many more common high debuts and positional fluctuations we might’ve seen.

More to your specific point, as for songs needing to meet a certain airplay requirement in the late ’90s, Billboard Director of Charts Silvio Pietroluongo notes that, “when we employed the ‘top 75’ rule, it was hoped that labels would release more singles to retail, which was a real concern at the time, as airplay was clearly overtaking the Hot 100’s radio-to-retail points ratio.

“What you’re asking for, Brandon, is the opposite, making radio more integral than sales. We did not disallow a top 10 or top 50-selling single from charting way back when, and I don’t think we should now.”

I have to agree with that explanation. True, not every song on the Hot 100 is both a radio and retail smash. But, that’s what the chart is about: songs being ranked by the highest overall sums.

I think it would be a disservice for the Hot 100 not to recognize the achievements of the “Glee” cast, which has sold 3.6 million digital songs to date.

Can you argue that the Beatles 31 hits in 1964 were more landmark than the 25 “Glee” songs in 2009? Of course. The Beatles transformed pop music in a way that no other band has before or since, and with original compositions.

But, that’s for us to discuss. The Hot 100’s purpose is simply to reflect the biggest songs available at a given time. And, in 2009, that clearly includes those by everyone’s favorite new high school musical students.


Hello Gary,

I am a huge Christina Aguilera fan! Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to see her listed as Billboard’s No. 20 Artist of the Decade, considering her long intervals between album releases.

I would like to know a breakdown of her album and singles sales since her debut in the late ’90s.

Thank You,

Raymond Acosta
Fort Stewart, Georgia

Hi Raymond,

How fitting: Aguilera celebrates her 29th birthday today (Dec. 18).

Here is a look at her career album totals, according to Nielsen SoundScan:

8,207,000, “Christina Aguilera,” 1999
4,234,000, “Stripped,” 2002
1,691,000, “Back to Basics,” 2006
963,000, “My Kind of Christmas,” 2000
480,000, “Mi Reflejo,” 2000
304,000, “Keeps Getting Better,” 2008
128,000, “Just Be Free,” 2001 (an unauthorized collection of early demo recordings)

Aguilera has sold 16,048,000 albums to date. She has sold 3,351,000 physical singles and 8,603,000 digital tracks.

The singer is readying her next album, which she enthusiastically describes as “just crazy magic.”

Aguilera is also set to appear in the Screen Gems musical film “Burlesque,” due next year. She’ll play an “ambitious small-town girl with a big voice who finds love, family and success in a Los Angeles neo-burlesque club.”

Says Screen Gems executive Clint Culpepper, “I couldn’t be more excited. This was a project written with her in mind.”