Let’s Re-Rank the Best-Selling Singles by Streaming Stats

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.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Let’s Re-Rank the Best-Selling Singles by Streaming Stats

  • April 1, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Scorpions sure stick out for me on that list… And I imagine a good chunk of change (the kind that buy great big houses) are made off those top streaming figures. (They sure start to peter off by the end of the top twenty, though…)

    Great article. Thanks for sharing! (And 3rd top-selling single was indeed a complete surprise ???)


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