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Country Charts on the 'Net

The Dixie Chicks hit the big time!
Skip the story and go straight to the charts

When I Can Love You Better was released to radio on October 27 1997 (in advance of the Wide Open Spaces album release), the first thing I did was program three buttons on my car radio to the three Dallas/Fort Worth country radio stations: KPLX 99.5 (now dead and reborn as 99.5 The Wolf), 96.3 KSCS, and 105.3 Young Country (KYNG).

I was not disappointed -- all three started playing it that Tuesday, and pretty soon, I could hear the song even without changing radio stations every minute! It was really a thrill to walk into a Subway sandwich shop and hear the Dixie Chicks on the radio -- knowing that everyone else in the room was listening to the group that we'd been telling everyone about for so long!

Soon, I discovered that other stations around the country had picked up the song. I was even able to hear it requested on KVOO Tulsa via RealAudio! And it wasn't long before I discovered that several national organizations and local radio stations provided their top 10/20/40 lists online. I followed the Dixie Chicks up the chart as I Can Love You Better climbed up to its peak -- #6 on the Billboard Country Singles chart.

And each week, I sent the latest stats to the Chicks' email address. Before the single really hit big, I used to get quite a bit of mail from Country's sweetest ladies... here's a note I got when I asked whether they'd rather I not keep sending the stats:

From: Dixiechks@aol.com
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 23:48:28 -0500 (EST)
To: robertb@dixie-chicks.com
Subject: Re:  Added to another playlist!

Robert,  No, you would not be bugging us to keep sending information on
playlists.  We dig that stuff.  Keep us as up to date as you can...it's hard
to get a grasp of what's going on when your in the middle of it all.

Yeh, send us your review as well, we'd love to know what you thought.

-Emily Chick
As exciting as it was to keep up with the charts, I was forced to stop compiling updates due to work constraints... more accurately, by my desire to keep my job! As you'll see from the following lists, there are a lot of charts to keep up with. But I did hang in long enough to see There's Your Trouble enter one of the radio station charts on its way to #1... and we drove up to Oklahoma City to see the Chicks in concert and get their signatures on a printout of the Billboard chart showing I Can Love You Better at its peak of #6.

Nationals, Publications, and notable Online Charts

  • Billboard Charts: Hot Country Singles and Tracks
    The granddaddy of 'em all. This is the list used by the American Country Countdown Top 40 show (see below). Unfortunately, Billboard's public-access online charts aren't as large as the ones that radio stations and music insiders pay for -- this is a top 20 list. But it's always the first place to look, because it's a full week ahead of the chart used by ACC -- and two weeks ahead of the chart posted on ACC's site.

  • Billboard Top Country Albums
    An even better indication of the Dixie Chicks' impact on Nashville is the performance of the album on this chart. Wide Open Spaces debuted at #17 on the strength of the pre-released single I Can Love You Better, and has never looked back. It was at #5 by August '98 after quietly going Gold with unit sales over 500,000, went Platinum in August, #2 and Double Platinum in October. It still consistently earns Billboard's "bullet" for upward motion and "Greatest Gainer" honors for sales gains.

  • The Billboard 200
    Why settle just for cornering the Country market? By the end of October 1998, Wide Open Spaces cracked the Top 10 on the overall Billboard 200, setting any number of records for a debut album or an album by a female group. Also worth noting on the Billboard site: official RIAA Gold and Platinum Certifications.

  • Wall of Sound: Top 250 (new URL)
    This site lists the top 250 albums of all genres, and the top spots are always topped by teenybopper pop rock and rap. So the Chicks' very respectable showing (top 40 by August 1998) in this list is all the more significant! (Update: make that their mind-blowing showing in the top 10 by October!) The list is based on actual purchases, and comes directly from barcode scans in your local record stores. Now includes Top 20 album charts by city (including Austin and Nashville), and Top 10 album charts by record label (guess who is Sony's only country artist on this list as of 9/98?).

  • R&R The Week In Music - Country
    Radio & Records is the Bible of the radio world, even more so than Billboard. In addition to their own Top 30 chart, they host several of the radio station charts listed later. Their print edition features the playlists of several major market stations, and this chart is based on those playlists. It tends to be more volatile, especially when a song nears the end of its radio life (shortly after it peaks).

  • Crook and Chase Top 40
    These popular TNN hosts also have a countdown show, but theirs is based on the Radio & Records numbers. This simple site is handy to have around since it's a full 40, instead of the 30 listed at the R&R site above.

  • GAVIN.COM (Country Chart) (new URL)
    Another major player is Gavin, whose Top 20 chart contains valuable information about number of plays from 200 radio stations around the country. It details total number of spins and the +/- trend from the previous week, as well as number of "adds" and total number of stations playing the song. You may be surprised at how quickly stations drop a song that's hit its peak... but that's "Young Country" for you!

  • American Country Countdown
    This site didn't post the top 40 when I was tracing it, but they do now! Also see a (bootleg?) copy of the top 40 at Canadian radio station CKXM.

  • The Dance Card Magazine--Dance Chart
    If you think radio is fickle, try the Country Dance Clubs! But this is where hits can be made or broken, and the catchy line-dance song I Can Love You Better made its first national chart debut on this very list, and stayed on the list longer than singles by many other big-name stars.

    This site recently added a feature on the Chicks in their New Faces section. As usual, though, they make no mention of Robin or Laura...

  • The Roughstock Country Countdown
    This fan-voted list is probably the best-formatted country single list on the 'net. They outdo Billboard by using plain English when describing singles that make notable jumps up and down the list, and a song's trend up or down is clearly visible. While many fan lists suffer from underexposure, this site has enough visitors to effectively gauge the popularity of the hot country songs. Their weekly email chart update is also very well done, and the rest of the Roughstock site is worth a look too -- it's got everything from guitar chords to the devastating Stacy's Music Row Report with the lowdown on all the dirt in Nashville!

  • Welcome to the Internet Top 40 Countdown
    Don't be frustrated that the ACC Top 40 isn't (yet) available online... this outfit count's 'em down in RealAudio. The site, though, is a bit of a mess with too many flashy graphics and (uh oh!) frames! But the DJ isn't too bad at all, and besides, you can always skip over the ads. Try that while listening to your local station, eh?

  • Chart (southeastcountry.com)
    This site (which is in the process of becoming country-radio.net) used to list songs exclusively by Heavy, Medium, or Light rotation. This was supposed to mirror the way that Program Directors decide what songs to play. Apparently, though, the PD's weren't able to figure it out (if you've read about what the PD really does at KRUD Radio, this will be no surprise), so they've gone back to a more standard Top 35 list. Several, in fact... the above link takes you to a list of charts, including a National chart in addition to the Southeast regional chart.

  • COUNTRY : Top 50
    This Canadian album sales chart wasn't available when I was tracking the first single, but is nicely done and provides a useful non-US viewpoint. I didn't know that Shania Twain was from Canada!

  • Various Online Retailers
    All of the major online CD shops (such as CDnow) maintain top album sales lists. Unfortunately, the URLs to these lists appear to contain shopping cart or other identifying information, and don't make very good links.

Radio Stations

Radio Stations with problems...

Video Charts

  • CMT Domestic Playlist
    CMT... MTV's country cousin. Whatever you may think of deciding what your ears will hear based on what your eyes see, nobody can deny the effect of a good music video (except for people who make their living in radio). And the Chicks look good on video! You can do a CMT search for any artist, or just use my pre-set Dixie Chicks Search. And you'll want to request the Dixie Chicks on the CMT Request Line. I did... and I don't even have cable!

  • Great American Country Top 15 Videos
    This site is much easier to navigate than the frame-impaired CMT site, and contains quite a bit of well-organized information. This is the host of the Crook and Chase Top 40 page. This site also has yet another copy of that "The Dixie Chicks are the Real Deal" press release that gets quoted on almost every Dixie Chicks fan site... but this is the best layout I've seen for it. I have to admit, though, I'm getting a bit tired of reading it over and over. If you want to see it again, be my guest.

More Online Charts (will review later, links not verified)

All links verified 08/21 and 08/24/1998

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Last update: 01/11/1999 by Robert Brooks (Billboard URLs updated 5/25/99)
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