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Raspberries charts: Billboard, Cash Box & Record World


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...and on that note, check out this story:

NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET

Kevin Hughes' job was compiling a country music magazine's record charts and deciding which albums got a "bullet." One night in 1989, as he left a recording studio along Nashville's storied Music Row, he was gunned down.

This week, 13 years later, a former Nashville record promoter was charged with the slaying in an arrest some industry insiders say casts a spotlight on crooked practices in the country music business back then.

Richard F. D'Antonio, 56, was arrested Wednesday in Las Vegas and charged in the slaying of Hughes, a 23-year-old researcher for now-defunct Cash Box magazine who was shot by a gunman in a ski mask.

Police said the shooting was related to the two men's work in the music industry. They would not elaborate.

But Jim Sharp, editor at Cash Box until 1986 and a longtime fixture in the city's music industry, said he and many others who worked on Music Row were interviewed by police over years. And he said police examined several leads, including the possibility that Hughes was killed because he refused to manipulate the record charts.

As hard as it is to believe, the record business is far cleaner now than it was twenty years ago. Until the advent of SoundScan, the charts were completely open to manipulation. When the Billboard charts started using SoundScan data in 1991 it sent ripples through the music industry. For the first time the charts were driven by fairly legitimate retail sales instead of heavily manipulated radio and retail charts. A couple of years later Billboard introduced audited airplay numbers using software that actually "listened" to each radio station and logged which songs were being played .

Once the retail sales figures and the individual radio playlists became accurate reflections of reality the status of the hyped lists and the magazines that hyped them dropped like a stone. It no longer mattered to executives what the manipulated sources said. If a single was "number one with a bullet" but it wasn't selling at retail, and it wasn't actually being played on the radio (no matter what the rigged lists said) then it wasn't really doing well, was it?

There's a reason that Cash Box and other magazines like it are now defunct—their market function was replaced. Had Soundscan come out two years earlier there might not have been a motive for the murder.

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Bernie

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WOW! I missed that story, but it says volumes about a) how much weight Top-40 charts carry, B) the pressure they put on artists, record-label staff, and chart editors/compilers, and c) the lengths people will go to alter them.

Like a friend of mine always says, "It's a naughty world..."

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This was the verdict in that case:

The Hollywood Reporter

Sep. 26, 2003

Man gets life in Cash Box murder case

NASHVILLE -- A Las Vegas pit boss was convicted of murder Thursday for gunning down a music chart researcher outside a recording studio in 1989 on Nashville's Music Row. Richard D'Antonio, 56, was sentenced to life in prison in the death of Kevin Hughes, who had worked with D'Antonio at Cash Box, a music industry trade magazine. Prosecutors said Hughes, 23, was killed because of fears he was about to expose a scheme at the magazine in which artists could bribe their way onto the record charts. D'Antonio also was found guilty of assault with intent to commit second-degree murder for wounding country singer Sammy Sadler outside the studio. He will be sentenced on that charge later. D'Antonio was an associate of the late Chuck Dixon, a record promoter and former Cash Box magazine employee. Dixon allegedly controlled access to the independent-artist country music singles chart at the magazine. Dixon reportedly was angry at Hughes for trying to expose that promoters and little-known artists had to pay Dixon to get onto the chart. Witnesses said D'Antonio was sometimes the bag man for the scheme, collecting bribes ranging from $1,500 to $2,000 per single.

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Bernie

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And let's not leave Billboard out of the "fun" we're having:

01/30/05

Pay for play? Billboard changes ratings system in response to "spin programs"

By John Gerome

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Billboard, the influential music industry trade magazine, is changing the way it ranks songs on its country singles chart after concerns that the old system allowed promoters to manipulate the rankings.

"It's a change we've been contemplating for years, and it follows at least a year of very close scrutiny of the charts," said Wade Jessen, director of Billboard's country charts.

Until this month, a song's position on the weekly Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart was determined by the number of spins, or plays, it received on 122 radio stations monitored by Billboard. The size of the station's listening audience or the time of day didn't matter — a 3 a.m. broadcast in Jackson, Tenn., counted the same as a 5 p.m. broadcast in Chicago.

But beginning with Billboard's Jan. 15 issue, songs on the country chart will be ranked by audience impressions, or the number of people who actually hear it.

Not only will the value of the spin vary by market, it will vary by time of day depending on how many people are listening as measured by data from Arbitron, a media and marketing research firm.

"It switches from a most-played chart to a most-heard chart," Jessen said.

Billboard already uses the method to compile some of its other radio charts, including Hot 100 Airplay and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop. The magazine's competitor, Radio & Records, uses a similar system on its country singles chart but not its other charts.

Before the change, record labels and promoters were able to buy relatively cheap, late-night air time on small market radio stations to boost a song's total plays and move it up the chart — momentum signified by a "bullet" that often translated to more airplay and record sales.

The sponsored spins, commonly called "spot buys" and "spin programs," are similar to TV infomercials and permitted under Federal Communications Commission rules, provided they are clearly identified as paid advertisements.

Critics say that while legal, the practice is questionable.

"We don't believe chart performance, especially in terms of the No. 1 record, should be fought and won on all-night shows in the smallest markets in the country," Jessen said.

Ed Salamon, executive director of the trade group Country Radio Broadcasters, said readers look to the charts to determine which songs are most popular with listeners — not which ones have the most manipulation behind them.

"Rather than concentrate on genuine airplay, some record companies have created these campaigns to exploit the methodology of the major charts," Salamon said.

A recent example was MCA Nashville's promotion of Reba McEntire's single, "Somebody." The label purchased spot buys for the song with the syndicated radio show "After Midnite," which is heard on nearly 300 radio stations; Citadel Broadcasting Corp., which owns more than 200 stations in 24 states; and Entercom, which owns stations in 21 markets, including Boston, Seattle and New Orleans.

The song reached No. 1 on the country singles chart the week of Aug. 7 with an unusually large gain of 1,150 spins from the previous week, Jessen said.

Scott Borchetta, promotion chief for MCA, Mercury and Dreamworks, did not return phone messages from the AP. But he defended the strategy in the trade publication Music Row, saying "Somebody" did receive help but reached No. 1 on its own merits.

"A lot of labels are whining that we paid upwards of $100,000. Couldn't be further from the truth. Did we do several programs? Yes, but only for a fraction of that cost," Borchetta said.

The practice isnâ't unique to country music or to a particular label. Last year, rocker Avril Lavigne's label, RCA, purchased overnight air time on Nashville top 40 station WQZQ to promote her single "Don't Tell Me."

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What's it all mean? IMHO, "All By Myself" was heard so often and is such a monster song that it if WASN'T #1, no song was! I guess Eric's right—the execs at Arista in L.A. just disn't grease enough palms :-)

Bernie

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I can tell you why, Don. When I was signed to Arista it became very clear that Arista, located in New York, as well as well as Jimmy and Don Ienner, had much more "control" of the east coast publications, Cash Box and Record World. Billboard is a west coast publication and the Arista promotiuon staff in LA was not as formidable as their east coast counterparts. That's why "December 1963" kept "All By Myself" out of the number one slot at Billboard. ec

A...HA! Between your first hand info, and the seedy stories about the 'bullet', now it all becomes clear. What an industry.
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And let's not leave Billboard out of the "fun" we're having…

01/30/05

Pay for play? Billboard changes ratings system in response to ’spin programs'

Citadel Broadcasting Corp., which owns more than 200 stations in 24 states;

Bernie

(sorry for mutliple postings, folks...last one i promise)

I sell radio ads for a living on Syracuse's Classic Hits - formerly 'Oldies' - station...a privately held entity, fighting the fight against 'groups'...what I tend to call StockHolder Radio'. One of the benefits of MY station is hearing songs like GATWay and IOWBWYou when no one else in town plays them!

I USED to work at a group with a modern rock format in the mid 90's to 2001. Man...the games that were being played when the record reps came to town. They used to meet behind closed (and LOCKED!) doors for the all-important 'spin' meetings. Or...expensive dinners at the best steakhouse in town.

Two years ago, the Program Director of Citadel/Syracuse (not my former group) was nailed BIG time by the NYS Attorney General for accepting vacations, electronics and VIP concert passes from record companies.

And last year, the PD for Clear Channel's Hot Hits/R&B/Urban (it all sounds the same to me anyway) station was mentioned BY NAME in an FCC memo for 'plugola' violations via SONY Records. It made ALL the trades. CC responded that "IF" they found any wrong-doings internally, 'appropriate measures would be taken'.

Oooooh. I'm shaking in my boots.

I guess it depends on what their definition of the word "IS" is.

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Another recent story involved New York's Attorney General Elliott Spitzer and his investigation of payola among the big record labels. After months of digging and unearthing inter-office memos detailing how much was paid to get J-Lo and various other high profile recording artists onto radio playlists, Mr Spitzer fined Sony a measly 12 million bucks! That's not even pocket change to a company the size of Sony! He caught 'em with their hand in the cookie jar and all they got was a little tap on the wrist. They did, of course, promise not to do it again. I really liked Elliott Spitzer right up until then. That fine was designed to make people THINK he was really cracking down on payola, but what it really did is probably get him a hefty campaign contribution from Sony and the other major labels when he runs for Governor. Just pathetic. ec

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There's a lot of that and it disillusions me at times. But I believe most wealth in this country is basically earned honestly and through hard work. I believe this even though I work in an industry (commercial finance) where probably 80% of the losses are the result of fraud committed by dishonest or desperate business owners.

Kids (and I!)can still take comfort in the fact that some of the greatest persons of history conducted themselves with the highest levels of integrity: Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Francis of Assisi, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman...and some more modern celeb/notables: Andrea Yaeger, Andre Agassi, Tim Duncan, John McCain, Joe Lieberman..... and a couple who are giving a bunch back: Bill Gates and Bono.

IMHO, good guys don't necessarily finish last.....not by a long shot.

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I was running a large music store in New Jersey from 1976 till 1983 and we were one of the stores on Billboard's "report list." Every week I would get a call from at least one record company promotional person requesting "help" on this record or that. Sometimes they even came to the store with free goodies. I'll never forget when the Arista Rep brought me a cassette of "It Hurts Too Much" over a month before it came out. I was blown away and so was he, but he had a very good reason why there was no way it would ever be a hit. Some internal crap going on at the record company, somebody got fired and this would not be a "product" the new regime wanted to "get behind." Some nonsense like that. Welcome to the record business. Forget that it was some of E's most brilliant work in years, he wound up being at the mercy of some political BS involving the suits at Arista.

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This payola crap goes on in just about every industry in one form or another. I have vendors waving golf outings and sports tickets in front of me all of the time...and I'm just a small fish here at my company. How about politics...that's where the real stuff goes on. Regarding J-Lo and some of those other current pop acts...I cannot think of any reason, other than payola, that would explain why they are on the radio. I'm not just an old guy who starts every sentence with "back in my day...", but there's plenty of music out there that's better than what's in the top 40.

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Don,

I'm pretty sure I rememeber hearing that "Let's Pretend" was one of the few records that ever dropped out of the Top 40 only to return. It might even have done it twice. As you know, once they go down, they usually stay down. I recall Kasey Kasem going on about it on American Top 40 when I was a kid. Any way to check this?

MAC

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MAC,

Casey Kasem used Billboard's weekly charts and I don't have every one of those weeks to check out, so it's entirely possible. I can tell you that "Let's Pretend" charted in Billboard for 16 weeks (second only to "Go All The Way"'s 18 weeks on the chart among Raspberries' hits).

I do have access to all of Cash Box's weekly charts and "Let's Pretend" (on that chart for 17 weeks) peaked at #18 for a second week June 30, 1973, then fell to #34 the week of July 7, and then dropped totally off the Cash Box chart ( http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/randypny/cashbox/1973.html ).

Don smile

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  • 9 years later...

Almost 10 years later... bump! 

This was a great thread started by the late Don Krider, a huge fan of Eric's, longtime music writer, and frequent contributor to EC.com. Start on p. 1 to get some interesting background on Eric's and the 'berries' chart successes.

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  • 4 months later...

As I read this thread, I found it interesting what Brian Mac mentions about what Casey Kasem said about Let's Pretend's movement on the chart. So, I decided to research this and.....yes indeed....very unusual. It did started to decline after peaking at #35 and dropped from the Top 40. Then it rebounded and got to #35 again. Then suddenly, two weeks later it was completely gone from the Top 100. Unusual indeed.

 

Let's Pretend

Date Position
   
March 24, 1973 86
March 31, 1973 76
April 7, 1973 66
April 14, 1973 57
April 21, 1973 51
April 28, 1973 47
May 5, 1973 42
May 12, 1973 40
May 19, 1973 39
May 26, 1973 38
June 2, 1973 35
June 9, 1973 40
June 16, 1973 41
June 23, 1973 36
June 30, 1973 35
July 7, 1973 57
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Heard about payola so many years ago.  What a shame. Come to think of it I ran a few searches and found a few DJ names that were infamous for that. One of them was a broadcaster in our city.  Had wondered how he disappeared.

What a "Cartoon World".  Guess I owe you something, EC.

BTW, I never bother keeping track of the charts. I must add I agree 100%  with Early.  Sometimes, we either have to walk away shaking our heads, or refuse to buy into their trash.

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Thanks for resurrecting this old thread! Back from when this Message Board was hopping! Eric was a regular post and good old Don Krider (RIP) knew his stuff.

Re-reading some of the insidious doings in the music biz back in the day made me think HBO's Vinyl wasn't so much a drama as a documentary!

Bernie

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Agreed, Bernie, ditto ec. I just tell my kids the only decent way to make it in any kind of work OR business is to be upfront, hard-working and honest, but even in this day and age,

if I do not see it happening yet, I wonder if THEY ever will. They may be wondering if I'm Lying! Nope.

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  • 5 years later...

A little extra to follow up on the late Don Krider’s research...

Billboard Number One Singles Which Did Not Hit Cash Box Number One 1970 – 1979

Total: 18

 

 

1976

Eric Carmen – All By Myself (1 week) BB#2

Gary Wright – Dream Weaver (1 week) BB#2

Captain & Tennille – Lonely Night (Angel Face) (1 week) BB#3

Maxine Nightingale – Right Back Where We Started From (1 week) BB#2

Silver Convention – Get Up And Boogie (1 week) BB#2

Wings – Let ‘Em In (1 week) BB#3

Boz Scaggs – Lowdown (1 week) BB#3

Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald (1 week) BB#2

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