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Billboard/Cash Box/Record World LP chart differencies

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  • Billboard/Cash Box/Record World LP chart differencies

    For most of the last year I've been engaged with the Cash Box album charts of the late 1970s and 1980s. To obtain information on particular albums it was necessary to extract the charts from the magazine's issues posted on American (now - World) Radio History site one by one - for quicker reference - and then go through them all, creating chart runs along the way. It was a laborous but interesting, sometimes even exciting task. I'm mainly interested in various "New Music"/New Wave albums released during the mentioned timeframe, as I'm doing chartographies of the various artists of the genre, and the Cash Box info is necessary to get the whole picture.

    What I found strange is the discrepancies of the chart peaks with other US LP charts. There was no real rhyme or reason to them, with some artists benefitting more on Billboard while others were doing better on Cash Box (both in chart runs and the peak positions). But what really puzzled me is the vast difference of the actual peaks. To illustrate, here are examples:

    M "New York-London-Paris-Munich": BB #79, CB #109
    Men Without Hats "Pop Goes The World": BB #73, CB #130
    Level 42 "Staring at the Sun": BB #128, CB #77
    Midge Ure "Answers to Nothing": BB #88, СB #119
    Yello "One Second": BB #92, CB #138
    Sex Pistols "Never Mind the Bollocks": BB #106, CB #73
    OMD "Dazzle Ships": BB #162, CB #110
    Katrina & The Waves "Waves": BB #49, CB #125
    Kim Wilde "Teases & Dares": BB #117, CB #84
    Frankie Goes to Hollywood "Liverpool" BB #88, CB #162 (!!!) - got to be a record?

    You see? "What's that?!", I remember frequently asking myself. I'd understand if the difference was in the region of 10-15 positions. But when it's around 30-50-70 - what does it mean? I know Billboard had an upper hand as a record industry publication - but Cash Box nevertheless played an important role and cannot be shunned (until introduction of SoundScan in 1991, at least). Therefore we have simply incomparable positions that seldom happened in overseas markets with competing trade charts (UK, Netherlands, Italy etc).

    Moreover, there were instances when albums charted on only one chart - Billboard or Cash Box. I found most instances of that on Billboard - where albums appeared on lowest reaches of Top 200 for a month or so. Mostly that was true to Cash Box, too. But there were really strange occurencies like Midge Ure's "The Gift" LP that charted for 8 weeks and peaked at #163 - while doing nothing whatsoever on Billboard 200. I mean, it's not like it was, say, #195 with a couple of weeks on the list - it was whole two months with a respectable peak. I know Billboard abolished its "Bubbling Under" sections for both singles and albums in 1985, so maybe if that continued the said album would've reached something like #201. But still, an oddity of considerable proportions - that shows more complicated picture from that based on Billboard only.

    Conversely, Nik Kershaw's "The Riddle" (1984) charted only on Billboard and got to #113, spending 10 weeks on the chart. Likewise, Kim Wilde's "Close" got to #114, Living in a Box's self-titled debut - to #89 (during a three-month stay), Naked Eyes's "Fuel for the Fire" - to #83 (10 weeks), all without ever denting the CB list.

    I did the same with the available Record World charts - and there are yet more albums that charted during 1981 exclusively on its list, never even "Bubbling Under" in Billboard (some very satisfying entries, I have to say, like Spandau Ballet's debut LP or OMD's namesake US-only compilation). And of course more vast differences:

    Grace Jones "Portfolio": BB #109, RW #173
    Kraftwerk "Trans-Europe Express": BB #119, RW #160
    Talking Heads "77": BB #97, RW #166
    Jean-Michel Jarre "Equinoxe": BB #126, RW #73
    Madness "One Step Beyond": BB #128, RW #153
    Teardrop Explodes "Kilimanjaro": BB #156, RW #111
    Visage "Visage: BB #178, RW #124
    Ultravox "Rage in Eden": BB #144, RW #113
    OMD "Architecture & Morality": BB #144, RW #104

    But the craziest example is this: Tangerine Dream's soundtrack to the movie "Thief". On BB it peaked at #115, on RW got to #89 and on CB struggled to #155! What should I make of it?!

    Another thing I noted is the swift drops off the lists in cases of Cash Box and Record World - when an album could disappear from like #107 or #111 altogether or drop off from its peak position after a steady climb over several weeks.

    And, of course, there were discrepancies between Cash Box and Record World - but that's only expected in light of all above.

    So what I'd like to know, I think - if there's anybody who can comment more or less definitely or at least make a suggestion - what is the reason for all this? You'd expect a charting album to appear on all list, but that's not the case at all. Does it indicate differences in chart compilation (what were they, if so?) or maybe polling different regions of the country? Perhaps there are articles that can explain the US chart situation that somebody can point me in the direction of? Either way, will be very grateful for thoughts, suggestions and most of all - explanations.

  • #2
    You are yourself pointing to some logical reasons for the discrepancies. I haven’t done any serious evaluation regarding the US LP charts, but I’ve tried over the decades to look at changing trends in the pop music market. What puzzled me most were big changes in the music tastes over time, and the most marked ones were the changes from country to black and vice versa. If the chart bases for the different charts used different methods or magnitudes to reflect the changing buying trends this was bound to alter the various charts in different ways. This picture will be clearer if you analyse which records hit on only one or two of the main charts. This will for example clarify better which chart has exceptionally high percentage of country albums and which has the same regarding R ‘n’ B.
    If you have the stamina to do this kind of research, please post your results in this thread.


    • #3
      I don't know, did Billboard / Cash Box / Record World have different formulas for their charts? I thought they were all based on sales, and not airplay. Did any of them perhaps include a small portion of airplay, especially during the "album radio" phase of playing album cuts on FM stations, 70s, 80s, etc. ?

      Of course they all sampled different record shops, in same and different cities. Was one chart more balanced in that respect, seeking out all territories equally, or did they just concentrate on the biggest cities?

      But all 3 charts were important, representing a third each or so of the sampled pie. This is why I no longer rely only on Billboard for my chart research / analysis. I've bought all the Whitburn Record Research books for Cash Box and Record World, the recent one for Radio & Records, and they're soon going to publish a book based on the (airplay) Gavin Report charts 1958-2002. I wish Whitburn would publish album chart books for CB and RW as well...


      • #4
        What stores were polled - type, size, location - would be a huge factor in any discrepancies. All three magazines probably had the biggest stores, but after those, the medium, small and independents would not be reporting to all the magazines.

        That point is crucial for this point. What kind of numbers are we talking about. Take your first listed album M. BB79 CB109, So if one looked at just BB, what was the difference in sales between 79-109. Sure, that varies weekly, but during that time period, I'd guess we sre talking a few thousand copies at most. More likely just hundreds,

        Meaning a medium chain being polled by one magazine only could definitely explain such differences.

        It is also very crucial to remember this wasn't calculus or rocket science. While they all used their own formulas based on sales, the Hunan Factor always played a role along with the numbers in placing the songs or albums. Consistency and flow sometimes was more important than just slapping together a chart based on numbers.

        it is actually quite a challenge to rank forty or 100 or 200 songs or albums based on sales but providing a chart that sees songs and albums rise and then fall - rather than bounce all over the place - as was the standard practice for chart performance at the time.

        thst is what I liked the most about charts. It was about trends and patterns. It wasn't about some exact science but what someone felt based on some actual data they had.