Tag Archives: Billboard

Why Dolly Parton Matters More Than Most You Can Name

Back in the 1960s there was a war going on. A physical war. One with guns and bullets. With American kids being shipped literally to the other side of the world and plopped into jungles where the terrain was in itself rotten, to say nothing of the fact that there were other kids shooting at them. Some of those kids had volunteered to service. Others were selected by lottery, sort of like Theseus and the Minotaur—or The Hunger Games.

And in the 1960s and early ‘70s there were protests in the streets of America by other kids who wanted the war in Vietnam to be ended. They didn’t want their friends to be killed. They didn’t want themselves to be killed. Of course politicians—Johnson and Nixon—did what politicians tend to do, which is to worry more about themselves than others. They rolled out a rationalization that were Vietnam to fall, then it would be the first of a series of dominoes. The North Vietnamese were “communists.” That would mean there would be a whole bunch of commies created as a consequence.

On April 30, 1975, there was the fall of Saigon. The Americans left. The North won.

And now everything from clothes to hair extensions, from computers to shoes, are being produced in Vietnam and shipped to places around the world. Including the U.S.

Now the government is against production in China. Vietnam has become a more acceptable source.

Funny how times change. Countries and people.

During the 1960s and early ‘70s music was changing, as well. A simple way to think about this is that there was AM radio on the one hand and the nascent-but-growing FM band on the other.

AM radio played 45-rpm records. They were capable of handling approximately 3 minutes of music, so that’s why there were so many short songs. FM radio played cuts from LPs, which at 33.3 rpm, were capable of handling approximately 20 minutes per side. So the AM stations played the “hits” while the FM stations—at least those that were considered to be “underground”—would play entire sides of albums at a time. Very subversive, that.

Musicians that had their music played on FM, musicians who were chronicled in the pages of publications like Rolling Stone when it was literally a tabloid on newsprint with gritty coverage, were often openly anti-war. Which was a tricky situation for them to be in back then, because on the one hand they were trying to gain traction in what was still an AM-hits-driven market and on the other, as righteous as that position may seem, at the time there was a majority of Americans who didn’t have that point of view. Yet “The Man” wasn’t going to keep them down, so there were festivals and concerts where the peace sign (as in the pointer and middle fingers forming a V, which Winston Churchill had used about 25 years before to signify “victory”) and the circular graphic version (which was actually created in 1958 by a designer Gerald Holtom, who came up with it as a nuclear disarmament symbol: one interpretation is that it is based on the semaphore communication system that uses flags; the sign for “N” has two flags down at a 45-degree angle and the “D” is one flag straight up and the other straight down) proliferated everywhere.

Jimi Hendrix didn’t play “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock just because he thought it would be a clever cover.

All of this is to get to something that is highly laudable that happened this past week, when Billboard published a cover story on Dolly Parton, the 74-year old country singer, songwriter, actress, and apparently all-around good person.

Perhaps the most widely reported quote from the interview is “Of course Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No. Everybody matters.”

She also said, “All these good Christian people that are supposed to be such good Christian people, the last thing we’re supposed to do is to judge one another. God is the judge, not us. I just try to be myself. I try to let everybody else be themselves.”

And with those two quotes she has arguably said more than I’ve heard from any number of musicians, and those who are speaking out seem to be more interested in doing it in some metaphoric ways than Parton’s clear, unambiguous statements.

She had named a dinner attraction named “The Dixie Stampede.” She dropped the “Dixie”—in 2018.

“There’s such a thing as innocent ignorance, and so many of us are guilty of that,” Parton told Billboard. “When they said ‘Dixie’ was an offensive word, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to offend anybody. This is a business. We’ll just call it The Stampede.'”

Woke well before others.

Continue reading Why Dolly Parton Matters More Than Most You Can Name

2019 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Streams

Don’t believe the hype. You might hear that “album consumption” grew 15% but that’s an arbitrary measurement made up by the industry and tweaked every other year to make business look healthy. The indisputable fact is that people are purchasing fewer albums than ever, and on top of that, nobody’s even measuring how many albums people are actually listening to.

Yes, they track streams. And streams are up. They track revenue, and that’s up too…at least for labels. (Ask an artist how revenues from their recordings are doing.)

But albums? Come on. Does anybody really believe that listening to the single ten times (or 1,250 times? or even 3,750 times?) is an equivalent experience to listening to the album? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe albums are just a marketing container to wrap around an artist’s current promotional cycle. Maybe it’s all about the singles and the licensing and the merch and the tour. Maybe I’m totally full of shit. But what’s even more full of shit is the idea that you can calculate “album consumption” with some convoluted formula. Who cares? Just look at the sales and streams.

Total U.S. Album sales (physical + digital in millions)

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2019: 112.75 million
2018: 141 million
2017: 169.15 million
2016: 205.5 million
2015: 241.39 million
2014: 257.02 million
2013: 289.41 million
2012: 315.96 million
2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 million
1997: 651.8 million
1996: 616.6 million
1995: 616.4 million (I’ve heard the figure is 616,957,000)
1994: 614.7 million (I’ve heard the figure is 615,266,000)
1993: ~573 million (1994 was 7.4% increase over 1993)

Continue reading 2019 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Streams

2018 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Streams

I’d been holding off on releasing this post until Billboard published Ed Christman’s year-end wrap-up online, but it looks like it’s going to be print-only. So go out and buy the magazine if you want Ed’s perspective on these numbers.

For 2018 Billboard changed the way it calculates streaming equivalent albums. From 2014 through 2017 they counted 1,500 streams as equal to one “album consumption unit.” The idea was that the average payout per stream was $0.005 so 1,500 of those added up to $7.50, i.e., the wholesale price of an album.

This year they’re complicating things by separating paid from ad-supported streaming, with paid subscription audio streams equating 1,250 streams to 1 album unit and ad-supported equating 3,750 streams to 1 album. So it makes it difficult to compare 2018 to the years before…

This also makes you wonder about how much revenue streaming is truly generating. Does anybody really believe that YouTube pays out $7.50 for 3,750 streams of a song? I don’t.

So I’m no longer reporting total music “consumption.” It’s a bullshit metric that doesn’t really mean anything. The industry can manipulate the numbers to tell whatever story they want to tell. Sales and streams, that’s all we really know.

Another complicating factor is that 2018 was a 53-week year, so when Billboard shows volume comparisons to the previous year they use a corresponding 53-week period. This makes me a little nervous about some of the old data we’ve reported, since we sometimes have used the prior year’s numbers. We continue to update this as new information becomes available throughout the year as we try to fill in any holes or correct any mistakes, so if you see any inaccuracies or anything weird please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Total U.S. Album sales (physical + digital in millions)

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2018: 141 million
2017: 169.15 million
2016: 205.5 million
2015: 241.39 million
2014: 257.02 million
2013: 289.41 million
2012: 315.96 million
2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 million
1997: 651.8 million
1996: 616.6 million
1995: 616.4 million (I’ve heard the figure is 616,957,000)
1994: 614.7 million (I’ve heard the figure is 615,266,000)
1993: ~573 million (1994 was 7.4% increase over 1993)

Continue reading 2018 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Streams

Number One Records: Sicko Mode

Video: Travis Scott – “Sicko Mode” (ft. Drake)

Travis Scott - SICKO MODE ft. Drake

From Astroworld, out now on Epic.

Oops, this is kind of old news since this song has already been replaced at No. 1 by Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” but we missed it last week.

Travis Scott scored his first number one record with “Sicko Mode” which had 37.2 million U.S. streams and 24,000 downloads sold in the week ending Nov. 29, and 65.1 million in all-format airplay audience in the week ending Dec. 2.

A remix by Skrillex might have pushed it over the top, but who knows? Billboard lumps all versions together in its chart formulations.

It’s a weird song. 5+ minutes long with a bunch of unrelated sections. And of course it features Drake. Because no commercially aspirational rapper can hope to achieve mainstream success without the help of the Canadian Champagne Papi. (Unless you’re Cardi B. Which you’re not.)

So weird it only stayed in the top spot of the pop chart for one week before that coveted position was reclaimed by Frankie Grande‘s little sister.

Travis Scott: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading Number One Records: Sicko Mode

Number One Records: Thank U, Next

Lyric Video: Ariana Grande – “Thank U, Next”

Ariana Grande - thank u, next (lyric video)

Directed by Chris Shelley. Single out now on Republic/UMG.

Ariana Grande’s breakup jam debuted at #1 on the Hot 100 with 55.5 million U.S. streams and 81,000 downloads sold in the week ending Nov. 8 and 11.3 million in all-format radio audience in the week ending Nov. 11.

In the Hot 100’s sixty-year history, only 31 other songs have debuted at #1. It had never happened at all until 1995 when Billboard changed its calculation.

Not sure if anybody’s noticed but Ariana Grande has a really grating, terrible, nasal voice. It’s painful to listen to. But at least she’s not unwilling to kiss and tell and to name names, which makes the song far more entertaining than it would be had she opted to be coy.

Thought I’d end up with Sean but he wasn’t a match
Wrote some songs about Ricky, now I listen and laugh
Even almost got married and for Pete, I’m so thankful
Wish I could say, “Thank you” to Malcolm ’cause he was an angel

If you don’t follow TMZ you might not catch that she’s explicitly referring to rapper Big Sean, backup dancer Ricky Alvarez, SNL goofball Pete Davidson, and dead rapper Mac Miller. Tabloid gossip drama reaches #1! What a time to be alive.

Continue reading Number One Records: Thank U, Next

Number One Records: Girls Like You

Video: Maroon 5 – “Girls Like You” ft. Cardi B

Maroon 5 - Girls Like You ft. Cardi B

Single out now on Interscope.

This is another terrible Maroon 5 song distinguished by a couple of halfway-fun verses by Cardi B. But hey, at least it’s not Drake.

I can’t remember exactly why I’ve always hated Maroon 5. I’m guessing it all comes down to Adam Levine seeming like an enormous douche. He looks like an orthopedic surgeon and sounds like a less soulful Jamiroquai.

But “Girls Like You” has been at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for two weeks in a row now with 24,000 downloads sold and 22.9 million U.S. streams in the week ending Sept. 27, and 128 million in radio audience in the week ending Sept. 30. This is Maroon 5’s fourth Hot 100 No. 1.

The video tries to fool us into thinking Cardi could be bothered to be in the same room with this tool, but that’s just special effects. It does appear, however, that they managed to coax a number of other charming women to show up, including Ellen Degeneres and Wonder Woman.

Billboard points out that this “ends the record run of 34 consecutive weeks that rap songs had ruled the Hot 100.” “Girls Like You” may very well be being marketed to the pop genre but it features a (lame) mid-song rap by Levine, and of course the new section by Cardi B. Notice that the song required a remix adding Cardi to achieve hitdom; the original Cardi-less version found on last year’s Red Pill Blues went nowhere.

But who cares about genres? Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways it’s still crappy Maroon 5 to me.

Continue reading Number One Records: Girls Like You

Number One Records: In My Feelings

Video: Drake – “In My Feelings”

Drake - In My Feelings

Directed by Karena Evans. From Scorpion, out now on Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records.

Drake’s “In My Feelings” has been #1 since the week ending July 12, and I’ve been trying to ignore it this whole time. But this week marks eight weeks in the top spot of the Hot 100, so I guess it’s time to accept it.

Starting to wonder if maybe my dislike of Drake is irrational… I have never liked singy hip hop. I came up with hardcore. I’ve always believed, as Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly so eloquently stated in 1992, that “R&B-rap is bullcrap.” I didn’t even like “Regulate” back in the day. This seems completely arbitrary and ridiculous at this point. Nevertheless, implicit biases are hard to shake.

Is “In My Feelings” a good song? I don’t know. It’s a good meme. And it’s better than Post Malone, right? But it’s been the number one song in America all summer, so I suppose it’s earned closer scrutiny. I’ve listened to it a bunch of times in a row now, and it’s catchy for sure. I dig the video. Is that what New Orleans is like now? I haven’t been there since before Katrina.

But yeah, Drake. This is pop music in 2018. He’s led the Hot 100 for a 27 weeks this year in total, so this is what we’ve got. Love it or lump it.

Continue reading Number One Records: In My Feelings

Number One Records: I Like It

Video: Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin – “I Like It”

Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin - I Like It [Official Music Video]

Directed by Eif Rivera. From Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, out now on Atlantic.

“I Like It” is the first fun number one since Camila Cabello’s “Havana” back in January. (I guess “Nice For What” was upbeat, but Drake is so whiny that I can’t consider him fun.)

Cardi just makes you happy.

They call me Cardi Bardi, banging body
Spicy mami, hot tamale
Hotter than a Somali, fur coat, Ferrari
Hop out the stu’, jump in the coupe
Big Dipper on top of the roof

That’s fun!

Plus she samples “I Like It Like That” by Bronx boogaloo pianist Pete Rodriguez, so it’s got that funky 1967 Latin hook. I don’t know anything about Bad Bunny and J Balvin but all my favorite pop hits since we’ve been doing this series have had some Latino flavor, so I welcome and encourage our neighbors to the south to take over our pop charts entirely.

“I Like It” sold 44,000 downloads and had 37.5 million U.S. streams in the week ending June 28, and 80 million in radio audience in the week ending July 1.

Cardi B: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading Number One Records: I Like It

Number One Records: Sad!

Audio: XXXTentacion – “Sad!”

XXXTENTACION - SAD!

From ?, out now on Bad Vibes Forever.

Like probably a lot of middle-aged white people, the first I ever heard of XXXTentacion was when Spotify banned him from its corporate playlists along with R. Kelly. I read “The Real Story of South Florida Rapper XXXTentacion” before I heard any of his music. And after reading that, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to listen to it. XXXTentacion was a violent and abusive guy.

Then on June 18 he was shot dead in an apparent robbery. He was 20 years old.

And now he has reached the top spot on the Hot 100 singles chart. And he’s got four more songs in the Top 40.

Christopher Weingarten in Rolling Stone explains how unique XXX’s story is in the history of popular music. This kid came from nowhere, with no label support, and made a huge impact. Weingarten compares him to Darby Crash of the Germs and says it’s as if “tiny indie Slash Records somehow got ‘Lexicon Devil’ to the Top 40.” For those of us who grew up in the MTV era, it’s unimaginable.

“Sad!” is still the only XXXTentacion song I’ve listened to. And it’s weird. Is this hip hop? He’s singing. It’s melodic. And depressing. And manipulative (“You decide, if you’re ever gonna, let me know / Suicide, if you ever try to let go”). It doesn’t surprise me at all that teenagers love it. And boy, do they. “Sad!” had 48.9 million U.S. streams and 26,000 downloads sold in the week ending June 21, with only 2.9 million in airplay audience in the week ending June 24.

XXXTentacion: web, soundcloud, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading Number One Records: Sad!

Number One Records: Psycho

Video: Post Malone – “Psycho” ft. Ty Dolla $ign

Post Malone - Psycho ft. Ty Dolla $ign

Directed by James DeFina. From Beerbongs & Bentleys, out now on Republic/UMG.

What kind of dorkus malorkus gets a tattoo of a neck beard? Why, that would be Post Malone, the guy with the number one song in America right now. I don’t get it.

Last year, when we started this series to cover the songs that reach the top of the Billboard singles chart, I expected to be turned on to some weird new pop songs that I’m rarely otherwise exposed to. But instead it’s mostly been a bunch of Ed Sheeran and lame, mumbly hip hop. There have been exceptions, of course, like Kendrick, Cardi, and Camila, but overall it’s been super disappointing.

I dunno, friends. It’s starting to seem like maybe we can’t trust the American public to have very good taste…

Nevertheless, “Pycho” sold 37,000 downloads and had 30.3 million U.S. streams in the week ending June 7 and 98.2 million in radio audience in the week ending June 10. That might not seem like a lot but it’s enough to get to #1 on the Hot 100.

Post Malone: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading Number One Records: Psycho