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Carpenters: Adult Contemporary Chart vs Billboard Hot 100

David A

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
My usual caveat - if this has been discussed elsewhere, apologies, I didn't find anything in my admittedly brief search.

When looking over the Carpenters hit songs, there were 15 A/C #1 hits. All but 5 of those were also in the top 10 overall on the Billboard Hot 100 (see chart below). If you look further into the A/C charts the Carpenters had a lot more songs that made the top 20 on the A/C but charted very low on the BB 100 (outside the top 40 - example: Sweet, Sweet Smile rose to #7 on the A/C chart in 1978, but peaked at #44 on BB hot 100).

According to Wikipedia, the Carpenters are:

* 2nd only to Elton John in terms of number 1 songs on the A/C chart (Elton had 16, one more than Carpenters).
* Number 8 out of the top 10 all-time A/C chart artists

Question: Does anyone here know / can quantify the difference in sales between having a #1 overall song on the BB 100, and a #1 on the Adult/Contemporary chart? In looking into this it appears that (at least back in the 1970's) the A/C chart was a sub-set of the overall chart. But I couldn't find quantifiers in terms of sales numbers, in percentage or otherwise. In terms of a songs "success" as a hit (and big money maker), it seems having a big (even #1) hit on the A/C chart is demonstrably less important, so I assume that must mean there is a substantial difference in sales figures.

More from Wikipedia:

The 1970s
The Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts became more similar again toward the end of the 1960s and into the early and mid-1970s, when the texture of much of the music played on Top 40 radio once more began to soften. Contemporary artists who recorded adult-appeal music, such as The Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Anne Murray, John Denver, and Helen Reddy began to be played more often on Top 40 radio. Much of the music recorded by singer-songwriters such as James Taylor, Carole King, and Janis Ian got as much, if not more, airplay on this format than on Top 40 stations. A few of the acts that came of age as pop artists targeting younger audiences in the 1960s and early 1970s started moving toward easy listening as they matured (Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka and The Osmonds being prime examples). Easy Listening radio also began including songs by artists who had begun in other genres, such as rock and roll, R&B, or even country (it was during this time frame that a number of songs charted on the country and easy listening charts, often not on the Hot 100).

The longest stay at No. 1 on the Easy Listening chart in the 1970s was "Time Passages" by Al Stewart, which remained atop the chart for ten weeks. More common, however, was a high turnover rate at the summit of the Easy Listening survey during this decade. Over a three-year period from 1973 through 1975, there were 100 No. 1 songs on this chart, and most remained atop the chart for a single week. Among songs which topped both the Easy Listening (renamed Adult Contemporary in 1979) and pop charts in the 1970s were "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and "Please Mr. Postman" by The Carpenters, "Song Sung Blue" by Neil Diamond, "Annie's Song" by John Denver, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" by Stevie Wonder, "I Honestly Love You" and "Have You Never Been Mellow" by Olivia Newton-John, "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille, and "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone.[1]


SONGA/C ChartBillboard 100
We've Only Just BegunPeaked at #1 on 10.9.1970
2​
Touch Me When We're DancingPeaked at #1 on 8.21.1981
16​
(They Long To Be) Close To YouPeaked at #1 on 7.10.1970
1​
I Won't Last A Day Without YouPeaked at #1 on 5.31.1974
11​
Please Mr. PostmanPeaked at #1 on 1.17.1975
1​
SuperstarPeaked at #1 on 10.8.1971
2​
Hurting Each OtherPeaked at #1 on 2.4.1972
2​
Yesterday Once MorePeaked at #1 on 7.6.1973
2​
Rainy Days And MondaysPeaked at #1 on 5.28.1971
2​
SingPeaked at #1 on 3.30.1973
3​
Only YesterdayPeaked at #1 on 5.2.1975
4​
There's A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World)Peaked at #1 on 4.2.1976
12​
I Need To Be In LovePeaked at #1 on 7.9.1976
25​
SolitairePeaked at #1 on 9.5.1975
17​
For All We KnowPeaked at #1 on 2.26.1971
3​
 

Jeff uk

Active Member
My usual caveat - if this has been discussed elsewhere, apologies, I didn't find anything in my admittedly brief search.

When looking over the Carpenters hit songs, there were 15 A/C #1 hits. All but 5 of those were also in the top 10 overall on the Billboard Hot 100 (see chart below). If you look further into the A/C charts the Carpenters had a lot more songs that made the top 20 on the A/C but charted very low on the BB 100 (outside the top 40 - example: Sweet, Sweet Smile rose to #7 on the A/C chart in 1978, but peaked at #44 on BB hot 100).

According to Wikipedia, the Carpenters are:

* 2nd only to Elton John in terms of number 1 songs on the A/C chart (Elton had 16, one more than Carpenters).
* Number 8 out of the top 10 all-time A/C chart artists

Question: Does anyone here know / can quantify the difference in sales between having a #1 overall song on the BB 100, and a #1 on the Adult/Contemporary chart? In looking into this it appears that (at least back in the 1970's) the A/C chart was a sub-set of the overall chart. But I couldn't find quantifiers in terms of sales numbers, in percentage or otherwise. In terms of a songs "success" as a hit (and big money maker), it seems having a big (even #1) hit on the A/C chart is demonstrably less important, so I assume that must mean there is a substantial difference in sales figures.

More from Wikipedia:

The 1970s
The Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts became more similar again toward the end of the 1960s and into the early and mid-1970s, when the texture of much of the music played on Top 40 radio once more began to soften. Contemporary artists who recorded adult-appeal music, such as The Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Anne Murray, John Denver, and Helen Reddy began to be played more often on Top 40 radio. Much of the music recorded by singer-songwriters such as James Taylor, Carole King, and Janis Ian got as much, if not more, airplay on this format than on Top 40 stations. A few of the acts that came of age as pop artists targeting younger audiences in the 1960s and early 1970s started moving toward easy listening as they matured (Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka and The Osmonds being prime examples). Easy Listening radio also began including songs by artists who had begun in other genres, such as rock and roll, R&B, or even country (it was during this time frame that a number of songs charted on the country and easy listening charts, often not on the Hot 100).

The longest stay at No. 1 on the Easy Listening chart in the 1970s was "Time Passages" by Al Stewart, which remained atop the chart for ten weeks. More common, however, was a high turnover rate at the summit of the Easy Listening survey during this decade. Over a three-year period from 1973 through 1975, there were 100 No. 1 songs on this chart, and most remained atop the chart for a single week. Among songs which topped both the Easy Listening (renamed Adult Contemporary in 1979) and pop charts in the 1970s were "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and "Please Mr. Postman" by The Carpenters, "Song Sung Blue" by Neil Diamond, "Annie's Song" by John Denver, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" by Stevie Wonder, "I Honestly Love You" and "Have You Never Been Mellow" by Olivia Newton-John, "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille, and "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone.[1]


SONGA/C ChartBillboard 100
We've Only Just BegunPeaked at #1 on 10.9.1970
2​
Touch Me When We're DancingPeaked at #1 on 8.21.1981
16​
(They Long To Be) Close To YouPeaked at #1 on 7.10.1970
1​
I Won't Last A Day Without YouPeaked at #1 on 5.31.1974
11​
Please Mr. PostmanPeaked at #1 on 1.17.1975
1​
SuperstarPeaked at #1 on 10.8.1971
2​
Hurting Each OtherPeaked at #1 on 2.4.1972
2​
Yesterday Once MorePeaked at #1 on 7.6.1973
2​
Rainy Days And MondaysPeaked at #1 on 5.28.1971
2​
SingPeaked at #1 on 3.30.1973
3​
Only YesterdayPeaked at #1 on 5.2.1975
4​
There's A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World)Peaked at #1 on 4.2.1976
12​
I Need To Be In LovePeaked at #1 on 7.9.1976
25​
SolitairePeaked at #1 on 9.5.1975
17​
For All We KnowPeaked at #1 on 2.26.1971
3​
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
As far as I'm aware, the Adult Contemporary chart was always a subset of the main Billboard single chart, i.e. it used the same sales information that was used to compile the Hot 100 (unlike the R&B chart, which used different sales data). So a song that went Top 5 on the AC chart but only Top 40 on the Hot 100 wasn't being boosted on the AC chart by selling extra copies than were already being reflected in its Hot 100 position - they were using the same sales data to compile both charts.

Presumably it may have used different airplay reports from predominantly AC stations, although I'm sure I've read on here before that at times it was simply compiled by following the order of the Hot 100 positions of songs after all those that weren't considered AC songs were removed (which was a subjective exercise and led to some odd songs appearing on the AC chart despite not obviously falling in that genre).

So, although the Carpenters had a good track record on the AC chart pretty much throughout their career, this chart wasn't a separate entity. As such, it gives rather a false impression of their chart fortunes, particularly post-1975, where the Hot 100 positions give a much more accurate idea of how their singles were faring in the marketplace.
 

Michael Hagerty

Well-Known Member
Contributor
The Billboard Adult Contemporary or Easy Listening chart (depending on the year) was pretty close to meaningless. Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" made #6 on the Easy Listening chart back in 1965, and was on that chart for seven weeks. At the time, Billboard (in print, on the chart) said the songs on the chart were:

"Not too far out in either direction, the following singles, selected from the current Hot 100, are the most popular middle of the road records. Rank here is based on relative standing in the Hot 100."

Trouble was, I can't recall or even picture an MOR station in 1965 playing "Subterranean Homesick Blues", which was #39 on the Hot 100 the week it peaked at #6 on the Easy Listening (then called Pop-Standard) chart. But songs they did play weren't on that chart and were higher up the Hot 100...like the Seekers' "I'll Never Find Another You" at #4, Petula Clark's "I Know A Place" at #7, The Righteous Brothers' "Just Once In My Life" at #9 and Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" at #17. So even Billboard's stated methodology didn't really stand up.

By the 1970s and the Carpenters singles we're discussing, the Easy Listening chart's stated methodology had changed:

"These are the best-selling middle-of-the-road singles compiled from national retail sales and radio station airplay and listed in rank order."

But if a single can crack the top 10 on that chart without making it to the Hot 100, you're giving airplay way too much weight. Which is why, during my decade (the 70s) of programming Adult Contemporary stations, the Billboard Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart was never really a factor.

The Hot 100 had its issues, too...a lot of which might surprise you. I wrote about it in a thread about seven years ago:

Goofus re-evaluated »
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Yeah, I was at Adult Contemporary stations all throughout the 70s and 80s and whenever I looked at Billboard's A/C chart, it was always full of stuff we weren't playing, either too hard or too soft. PD's and MD's of the day made the decisions about the records they were playing and every station and market was different. Soul records wore heavily in Philly, whereas country-tinged songs would be all over the stations in the mid- and southern parts of the nation. But Billboard was a national magazine and had to take that into account.
 

Michael Hagerty

Well-Known Member
Contributor
So @Michael Hagerty, do you think the Billboard charts accurately ranked the Carpenters singles and albums overall? Tell us more about the Carps specifically.

Mark-T:

Probably best to quote what I wrote in that link:


...was the Hot 100 in any way reflecting the true popularity of records?

Well, any record that made the Top 10 by climbing over a period of several weeks probably was legit. Those chart jumps and bullets ("Stars", as Billboard called them) were indicative of more orders for a record being made this week than the week before. Sometimes that could be accomplished simply by more stores placing first-time orders...but the longer the timespan, the more likely it was that the stores were replacing stock that they had sold to paying customers.

Even records that debuted big fast (a new Beatles, for example) were probably legit if they stayed high on the charts for a certain period of time. But a rapid fall-off from a high chart number suggests that big peak was record stores anticipating demand that wasn't really there.

Which is why you've seen me say that anything peaking under #15 really isn't a hit....and a lot of things that peaked between #11 and #15 weren't, either (Royal Scots Dragoon Guards "Amazing Grace", anyone?). Because of what the Hot 100 measured (store owner optimism), a record that cracks #20 is a record the store owners believed could go Top 10. Those that didn't under-performed expectations. They weren't "gotta haves".

There's one exception to that rule: There are some records that were strong performers in certain markets, but it just didn't translate nationally. Tower of Power's "You're Still A Young Man" was a huge record in Los Angeles and San Francisco....Top 5, in fact. But it peaked at #29 in Billboard. Not enough stores stocking or selling it elsewhere (TOP was a California band).

(end quoted material)


The other thing to remember is that chart positions are not cumulative. You don't build up to #1 on the chart the way a movie builds up (or did, pre-COVID) to 100 million dollars at the box office.

Chart positions are a snapshot in time. The way to look at a record that peaked at #20 in Billboard is that, on its best week, there were 19 records that were more popular. So it was even less popular on the weeks before and after that peak.
 

David A

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Based on the answers so far (and thank you!), it seems that whether a song made it to a high position on the A/C chart is, essentially, irrelevant in terms of determining the success of the single. It's merely an expression of it's popularity in a limited format.

By way of analogy, a book might sell 5000 copies. The book may have sold more and been more popular in certain types of bookstores, but the book still sold 5000 copies total.
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Mark-T:

Probably best to quote what I wrote in that link:


...was the Hot 100 in any way reflecting the true popularity of records?

Well, any record that made the Top 10 by climbing over a period of several weeks probably was legit. Those chart jumps and bullets ("Stars", as Billboard called them) were indicative of more orders for a record being made this week than the week before. Sometimes that could be accomplished simply by more stores placing first-time orders...but the longer the timespan, the more likely it was that the stores were replacing stock that they had sold to paying customers.

Even records that debuted big fast (a new Beatles, for example) were probably legit if they stayed high on the charts for a certain period of time. But a rapid fall-off from a high chart number suggests that big peak was record stores anticipating demand that wasn't really there.

Which is why you've seen me say that anything peaking under #15 really isn't a hit....and a lot of things that peaked between #11 and #15 weren't, either (Royal Scots Dragoon Guards "Amazing Grace", anyone?). Because of what the Hot 100 measured (store owner optimism), a record that cracks #20 is a record the store owners believed could go Top 10. Those that didn't under-performed expectations. They weren't "gotta haves".

There's one exception to that rule: There are some records that were strong performers in certain markets, but it just didn't translate nationally. Tower of Power's "You're Still A Young Man" was a huge record in Los Angeles and San Francisco....Top 5, in fact. But it peaked at #29 in Billboard. Not enough stores stocking or selling it elsewhere (TOP was a California band).

(end quoted material)


The other thing to remember is that chart positions are not cumulative. You don't build up to #1 on the chart the way a movie builds up (or did, pre-COVID) to 100 million dollars at the box office.

Chart positions are a snapshot in time. The way to look at a record that peaked at #20 in Billboard is that, on its best week, there were 19 records that were more popular. So it was even less popular on the weeks before and after that peak.
Thank you for this explanation! It seems to make the enduring success of any act even more amazing.
 

Michael Hagerty

Well-Known Member
Contributor
Based on the answers so far (and thank you!), it seems that whether a song made it to a high position on the A/C chart is, essentially, irrelevant in terms of determining the success of the single. It's merely an expression of it's popularity in a limited format.

By way of analogy, a book might sell 5000 copies. The book may have sold more and been more popular in certain types of bookstores, but the book still sold 5000 copies total.
David:

Exactly! I've been trying to explain for decades and you've done it beautifully.
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
Something to think about when looking at charts is, they were not always based on "exact" sales data the way they are today. In those days they were compiled from a variety of sources, such as telephone polls to stores, sales reports from distributors, and statistics compiled by radio stations. Different charts relied on different data in different measures. Thus, it was easy for an artist, album or single that was well-liked to climb the charts in maybe a little different trajectory than it may have been for an artist who was less so.

This was illustrated when Billboard went to SoundScan for their reporting in the early '90s. When that change took place, it shifted the reporting from all the previous fuzzy sources to "actual" data that was collected from all the computer systems that were in the industry by then.

When that change happened, the charts magically rearranged themselves overnight, and some artists who'd been thought to be on the way out were suddenly huge again, whijle other artists who were perceived to be top-ten material found themselves much lower in the standings. It was a pretty gut-wrenching time for the artists whose records dropped precipitously overnight.

I always thought the AC chart was more based on airplay from easy-listening/AC stations than on sales, but I have no idea what methodology they used for that particular chart.
 

Michael Hagerty

Well-Known Member
Contributor
I always thought the AC chart was more based on airplay from easy-listening/AC stations than on sales, but I have no idea what methodology they used for that particular chart.

Mike, Billboard's AC chart methodology was a moving target over the years. Which means that a "top ten record" meant different things during that time, as well.
 
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