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Features December 7, 2021

How streaming adds to the lucrative appeal of Christmas songs

Senior Journalist, B2B
How streaming adds to the lucrative appeal of Christmas songs
Mariah's Diamond is her best friend

“So this is Christmas…”

Figures from Spotify in 2016 showed that countries in the northern hemisphere stream more of the 1,500 Christmas songs on its playlists – including during the festive season – than those living in the southern hemisphere.

On Christmas Day, for instance, streams in Sweden made up 25% of total music streaming that year, while Britain accounted for 17% and Germany 13%.

Australia proved an exception at fourth with 10%, with the list reverting to the north with the US at 9%, Spain with 8% and France with 6%.

Brazil was more south-of-the-equator, with 2%.

An explanation is offered by a study by The Economist which showed an extra hour of UK winter darkness increased listening by 1.5%.

“A decrease of 10 degrees Celsius in average daily temperature results in a 0.1% rise in song-streaming, and snowfall ups the streaming time by a full 2%,” it said.

In 2021, streaming services have noticed that, for obvious reasons, people began celebrating the festive season much earlier.

So much so that Spotify listeners have streamed 6.5 billion minutes of Christmas music so far.

Many began tuning into its Christmas Hits playlist by September, with a 25% rise in holiday listening in October compared to previous years.

Michael Bublé’s Christmas album is still the most-listened-to holiday album on the platform with more than 1.8 billion streams.

The top selling song remains Mariah Carey’s 1994 ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’.

The song, which took her 15 minutes to co-write with Walter Afanasieff, reached 10.8 million Spotify streams on December 24, 2018, and 12 million a year later.

In Australia, the track reached #2 and its parent album went 6x Platinum.

The single has shifted 14 million units worldwide.

Last week the Christmas classic was certified Diamond in the US with sales of 10 million, becoming the first holiday track to do so.

It’s also Carey’s first single to reach that distinction, although some of her albums have.

“The continued love for my song never ceases to amaze me and fill my heart with a multitude of emotions,” Carey said at the presentation. It blows my mind that ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ has endured different eras of the music industry.”

Both the best sellers are starting to make their repeat presence felt in Australia this year.

Bublé’s 10-year-old Christmas this week hit #8 on the ARIA Albums Chart.

It has spent a total of 82 weeks in the Australian Top 50, including a combined 15 weeks at #1 across 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.

The 10th anniversary of Christmas comes as a 2CD special edition, as well as a deluxe box set.

This week at #18 is ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, heading back to the top spot it landed on in Australia in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

It is said to generate US$10 million a year globally for Carey.

Elton John and Ed Sheeran have ‘Merry Christmas’ to raise funds for respective charities, and Paul Kelly has his Christmas Train album.

Playlists on Apple Music and Amazon Music have Xmas odes by Taylor Swift, Wolf Alice, Ari Lennox, Sofi Tukker, Griff and Dermot Kennedy.

Also getting seasonal interest are homegrowns from Paul Kelly (1996’s ‘How To Make Gravy’ which has charted twice and hit 5 million downloads five years ago) and Tim Minchin (‘White Wine In The Sun’ which opens “I really like Christmas”).

There’s also Stella Donnelly (‘Season’s Greetings’ about an argumentative Xmas Day lunch), Christine Anu (‘Island Christmas’ slanting on Aussie Christmas with “The colours of an island Christmas are as colourful as me and you”) and Courtney Barnett (‘Boxing Day Blues’).

The biggest selling Christmas long-player of all time is Elvis Presley’s Elvis’ Christmas Album which found 20 million homes around the world.

The best selling single is ‘White Christmas’ with 100 million copies, half by the 1941 version by Bing Crosby and the rest by numerous covers.

Ironically, lines like “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/ Just like the ones I used to know/ Where the treetops glisten and children listen/ To hear sleigh bells in the snow” were not about the nostalgia and friendship it has come to represent.

It was written by the great Jewish composer Irving Berlin who didn’t even celebrate the holidays.

His three-week-old son had died on Christmas Day 1928, and each year he and his wife would go on that day to visit his grave.

That’s where the sombre sentiments came from. The Oscar-winning song was actually written for a musical movie called Holiday Inn.

It was aired on a radio show hosted by Cosby. His version had extra resonance for America: a few weeks earlier, Pearl Harbour was bombed and the US was dragged into World War II.


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