Digital Sales Outpace Physical for First Time

By | November 17, 2003 at 12:00 AM

For the first time since the chart’s rollout in July, the No. 1-selling song on Hot Digital Tracks bests the weekly total of the No. 1 title on Hot 100 Singles.

With the rollout of Napster 2.0, sales data of digital tracks takes another step north, resulting in OutKast’s “Hey Ya! (Radio Mix)” selling 8,500 downloads compared with 7,500 physical singles scanned of MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine.”

This occurrence, if not the speed with which it was accomplished, was predicted in most music quarters once the business model of digital distribution was in place.

While it appears that the new kid in town is beating up the physical single, a closer look reveals that this is not exactly a fair fight. If stores were provided with the same weapons (i.e., titles) that the digital distributors are able to offer, the number of units on Hot 100 Singles most likely would exceed those found on Hot Digital Tracks.

Of the top 10 songs on Hot Digital Tracks, seven are not available in any form at retail. Of the three that are at retail, OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” can be found on the less viable DVD single and 12-inch vinyl formats, Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is the Love?” is out only as a 12-inch vinyl and Coldplay’s “Clocks” is cut out after being released as a limited-run CD single.

In turn, of the top 10 songs on Hot 100 Singles, only Jagged Edge’s “Walked Outta Heaven,” OutKast’s “The Way You Move” and Clay Aiken’s “This Is the Night” have enough transactions to register among the top 300 digital tracks.


With the biggest increase on Hot Country Singles & Tracks, Kenny Chesney’s “There Goes My Life” leaps 15-9 and is the third title so far this year to crack the top 10 in five weeks or less. That is a slight improvement compared with 2002, when only two titles made such a quick ascent on the chart.

At 13 weeks on the list, Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar” spends a second week at No. 1, giving DreamWorks Records the edge for total No. 1 singles in the current chart year (four). The label previously tied with MCA Nashville and Arista Nashville, with three No. 1s each. Keith and Gary Allan are the only country artists to achieve two No. 1 singles this year.


Linkin Park’s “Numb” moves to No. 1 on the Modern Rock chart, giving Warner Bros. Records its fifth chart-topper of 2003. The label matches the record for most No. 1s on the chart in a calendar year, which it set in 1989.

Linkin Park becomes the first act to post three No. 1 songs in a year on the Modern Rock chart, as “Numb” follows “Somewhere I Belong” and “Faint” to the top. All three tracks are from the band’s album “Meteora.”

Only one other act in the history of the chart has had three consecutive No. 1s from the same album. In 1991 and 1992, U2 hit the top with “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways” and “One” from “Achtung Baby.”


After having the longest run at the top of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart this year with “Walked Outta Heaven” (11 weeks), Jagged Edge hands the crown to Avant’s “Read Your Mind.” The track is the second consecutive No. 1 on the chart for Avant, who spent two weeks at the top with his debut single, “Separated,” in May 2000.

On Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, “Mind” holds at No. 10, while “Heaven” moves into the top five (6-5), making it the act’s fifth that has reached that portion of the chart and the first there since “Where the Party At” in the summer of 2001.

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