To the delight of retail workers everywhere, the holiday season is almost in full swing. Lavish Christmas trees, reindeer roof ornaments, overpriced socks, the whole shebang. And let’s not forget the music. The aforementioned retail workers would probably swear on their life that there are like, five tracks out there, tops, endlessly looping away. The reality, of course, is very different.
Let it snow, let it snow, make it rain.
Some estimates claim there are more than 1M Christmas songs out there. Reigning over such “classics” as Death Row Records’ “Christmas on Death Row” or Sir Christopher Lee’s “A Heavy Metal Christmas” is Bing Crosby. Not only is Crosby’s “White Christmas” reportedly included in over 2000 different albums on Spotify (OK, wow?), it also holds the Guinness World Record as the best-selling single of all time. Not “Christmas single”. Single-single. Yes, one of the world’s biggest holidays is also an opportunity to earn big bucks, as the 10 top-earning Christmas songs are said to bring in between $125,000 and $1.3M each year in royalties alone. Many artists are therefore eager to dip their cookies into Santa’s milk glass, but so far, only a select few have managed a smash hit that prolongs the holiday magic for years to come.
In our analysis, we focused on two of those heavy-hitters. Yep, you guessed it: Wham’s “Last Christmas” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”.
Jingle bells, Mariah sells.
Empires may rise and fall, stars fade away and the oceans vanish, yet this iconic song duo will persist on our seasonal playlists until the end of time itself. Just this October, the “All I Want for Christmas Is You” digital single was certified 6x Multi-Platinum, meaning that it has already sold at least 12M copies in the US. Add to that the millions of ringtone downloads, zillions of YouTube views, a reported $500k in song revenue each year, and, well, it becomes clear that Mariah practically owns Christmas and can indeed dictate the holiday season if she so pleases. And here’s a fun fact about “Last Christmas”: it remains the highest selling UK single not to top the chart. You read that right: one of the most famous songs on the planet never officially landed UK #1, so put that in your motivational fact book and enjoy it.
OK, now that we've covered the fun stuff, let’s see what the data has to say about the second part of our premise: when does the seasonal clash of these titans officially begin?
Looking at the data, a pattern is obvious. So intriguing, in fact, you might just want to knit it into an office-contest-award-winning ugly Xmas sweater. Both in 2017 and 2018, both songs obviously peaked on Christmas Day, with Mariah played around 8M times, beating Wham! by a good million. Their combined views just broke the 1B mark this season, which gives you another good(-ish) excuse to pop the bottle of bubbly early on Christmas morning.
Both songs apparently tend to be included in festive playlists a good month before Christmas, and remain in our collective ear canal until mid-January. Data shows that in 2017, both songs broke 1M daily views on 20 November. In 2018, “Last Christmas” broke the 1M barrier sooner, on 18 November, and “All I Want for Christmas Is You” even sooner, on 10 November. If we apply this trend to 2019 and count in the fact that Ms Carey also very publicly drops her Deluxe Anniversary Edition and Tour in November, we can declare that the
2019 Christmas song season officially opened on 1 November.
Sorry, “Plate Tectonics Day”, you sound like an absolute riot, but this year you’ll have to step even deeper into the shadow of All Saint’s Day as a new observance takes over. Don’t look at us, Mariah said so.
While you’re reading this, the Christmas spirit is probably already up and in full swing, so dust off your favorite playlist, get it crackin’, and answer to no one. Cheers to a peaceful season and a happy Festivus to all of us!