Since the beginning of the music industry more than 135 years ago, the key metric for success has been sales. How many copies did a song sell? It didn’t matter if we were talking about sheet music or CDs, physical sales were the way the industry kept score. For decades, the all-time sales leader was Bing Crosby’s 1942 recording of “White Christmas” with sales somewhere north of 50 million copies followed by Elton John’s post-Diana 1997 version of “Candle in the Wind” (33 million) and Bing’s “Silent Night” from 1935 (30 million).
(Side note: This song is tied for third place on the all-time top-selling singles list. Surprised? I sure was.)
Now, though, success means different things because there are so many more ways to determine the popularity of a given song. Radio play, YouTube views and streaming stats are all increasingly important. What if we were set conventional metrics on its ear by ranking the best-selling songs of all time by streaming numbers? The Guardian did just that.
1. (14 on all-time singles chart) Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas Is You (113,898,731 streams)
2. (7) Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You (67,756,710)
3. (13) Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On (50,443,976)
4. (16) Scorpions – Wind of Change (42,975,143)
5. (12) Bryan Adams – (Everything I Do) I Do It for You (39,287,271)
6. (1) Bing Crosby – White Christmas (35,548,184)
7. (11) John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – You’re the One That I Want (26,673,010)
8. (2) Elton John – Candle in the Wind 1997 (18,838,214)
9. (4) Mungo Jerry – In the Summertime (14,378,863)
10. (20) The Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand (10,455,054)
Read more about this re-ranking here.