Happy 70th birthday to the UK's Official Singles Chart!

New research shows that the British public has purchased 4.55 billion singles, and generated 811 billion streams of songs during the chart’s lifetime


Official Charts Company

It was on Friday November 14, 1952 that the very first UK singles chart was published in the New Musical Express, the results of a rudimentary survey of 20 record shops by the music paper’s advertising manager Percy Dickins.

In the decades since that first UK singles chart was published, the Official Singles Chart has become an institution – chronicling the musical tastes and cultural moments in Britain every week. It is now a vast and sophisticated weekly operation polling thousands of physical retailers, digital download stores and streaming platforms daily, with the Official Chart as we know it today continuing to be broadcast on BBC Radio 1.

New data released today by the Official Charts Company reveals:

• A total of 4.55 billion singles, 683 billion audio streams and 128 billion video streams (811 billion total streams) have been consumed in the UK.

• 1,404 singles have reached the Official Number 1 spot, from Al Martino’s Here In My Heart, to reigning chart topper Taylor Swift’s Anti Hero which was crowned at the end of October.

• 179 singles have reached 1 million sales, the biggest of them all being Sir Elton John’s Something About The Way You Look Tonight / Candle In The Wind 1997 on 4.94 million sales. The latest single to be crowned a million seller is Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, her first to top 1m sales in the UK.

• 132 singles have been streamed more than 200 million times, the most streamed single of all time being Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved, with 562 million streams to its name (480m audio streams and 81 million video streams).

The sales and streaming survey shows how music consumption has shifted over the years, with sales growing through the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, taking off again via the digital music explosion in the early part of the new century (the first legitimate download stores kicking off in 2004), reaching an extraordinary peak of 1.26bn sales in the Tens, the biggest decade in history for singles sales – reaching twice the level of any previous decade. Since then, streaming has exploded and has reached record levels in the Twenties.

The explosion of streams means that the constant flow of million sellers has now all but halted. At the time of the Official Singles Chart’s 60th anniversary in 2012, some 123 singles had reached the million landmark – Taylor Swift’s achievement in passing 1m sales with Shake It Off this year (her career first UK million-seller) brings the all-time total to 179.

This total is unlikely to grow much further, with streams now dominating (audio / video streams account for 98.6% of the singles market in 2022).

See all the Official Million-Selling Singles in the UK below.

Official Charts Company chief executive Martin Talbot says:

“This new survey hammers home just how much music listening and buying the Official Singles Chart has seen across the past eight decades – and just how much music the British public has enjoyed in that time.

“The Official Singles Chart was born just a few months after Queen Elizabeth took the throne, on the day of then Prince Charles’ (now King Charles III) fourth birthday. Since that time, from the era pre-rock & roll right up to the present day, there is barely a facet of life that hasn’t changed – and the Official Singles Chart has been there to chronicle it all.”

Click below for a full history of the Official Charts, decade-by-decade.

To date only Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi, plus Shape Of You and Perfect by Ed Sheeran, have topped 500m lifetime streams, with only seven tracks topping 400m lifetime streams. The track with most audio streams to its name is Shape Of You (502 million), the most streamed video is Baby Shark by Pinkfong (220 million).

In 2022, the average Number 1 single collects 6.82m streams in a week. To reach the Top 10 requires 2.83m streams, to reach the Top 40 1.31m streams. The number of Number 1s per year reached their peak in the year 2000 when 42 different songs topped the chart, and in the 2020s are in line with the yearly averages achieved in the Seventies, between 16 and 17 per annum.

The Official Chart In Numbers
Calling all pop nerds! As the UK's Official Singles Chart celebrates its 70th birthday, we delve into some fascinating numbers that tell its story. Learn how many streams it takes to score a Number 1 single in 2022, who holds the record for the fastest-selling debut single of all time, what’s the best-selling song never to reach Number 1, who owns the most-streamed song of all time, and lots more.

Watch animation: https://youtu.be/kpu0Iuqx8is

November 14, 2022 5:00am ET by Official Charts Company  

, ,

  Shortlink to this content: https://bit.ly/3AAuKjt


Latest Press Releases

We may earn a commission from products purchased via links featured on our pages