Drake vs. Mariah Carey: How A Christmas Song Won the Streaming Battle - Rolling Stone
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Mariah Carey Song From 1994 Breaks Music Streaming Record

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” was streamed nearly 11 million times on December 24th, 2018

Santa Claus and Mariah CareySanta Claus and Mariah Carey

Aside from Mariah Carey, few modern artists have been able to release a classic Christmas song.

James Devaney/WireImage

Drake, Ariana Grande and their modern pop ilk may seem to reign supreme on music-streaming services. But a Mariah Carey song from 1994 — you know the one — just broke the all-time single-day streaming record on Spotify.

“All I Want For Christmas Is You,” the sprightly holiday song that reportedly took just 15 minutes to write, hit 10,819,009 streams on Spotify on December 24th, 2018, according to the streaming service’s official global charts. The song’s Christmas Eve figure beats out the 10.4 million streams of XXXTentacion’s single “Sad!” on June 19th, 2018, which was the day after the rapper was shot and killed, as well as any single-day individual track records from Drake’s blockbuster LP Scorpion released earlier this summer. So now, two decades and a half after its release, “Christmas” boasts the biggest single-day audience in Spotify’s history.

The record is a pristine example of the long-tail effects of streaming, under which older songs have just as much a shot as freshly-dropped tracks at spiking in popularity — and of course revenue— at any given time. For other points of proof, just see the unexpected longevity of Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” which spikes on streaming services just when you would expect it each year, or the evergreen appeal of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The fact that Carey’s 1994 track garnered 11 million streams in 2018 is also a sign of music-streaming’s still-soaring adoption, as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music and other services continue to add millions of new users each year, albeit at a slightly more modest pace nowadays.

Money-wise, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” didn’t exactly earn Carey or the label a fortune on the day it broke the record. At around $0.006 a stream, 11 million streams translates to only $66,000 (and that’s before it’s split amongst the various rights-holders of the song, which include co-writers, producers, label executives and publishers). But considering that the single earned that amount on Christmas Eve alone, not counting the trickle of streams coming in on any other day in the holiday season— and also noting that the track reentered the iTunes download chart in November— the net profits of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” this year are very much outsized.

In the CD era, a fan listening to their favorite old songs on repeat would net those artists exactly $0; while that number isn’t a massive sum with streaming, the fractions of pennies do add up.  As of 2017, Carey’s Christmas single was reported to have earned around $60 million in royalties. As long as streaming is around to reward continuously replayed music, that number will only keep climbing.


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