“Clouds,” by late singer/songwriter Zach Sobiech, appears headed for a potentially high debut on next week's Billboard Hot 100, possibly in the top 20, fueled largely by strong sales and likely increasing streaming activity following his passing.
As previously reported, Sobiech succumbed to a rare and terminal form of cancer on Monday (May 20) at age 18. Prior to his passing, the video for “Clouds” went viral and helped turn the young artist into somewhat of a global role model for others battling serious illness. Earlier this month, several stars recorded a tribute clip set to “Clouds,” featuring, among others, Ashley Tisdale, Colbie Caillat, Anna Farris, Jason Mraz, Sara Bareilles, Jenna Fischer, Rachel Bilson and Phillip Phillips.
Because of the nature of the single (released on the non-profit Rock the Cause label and distributed by the Orchard) and how coverage of and continuing reaction to his death could impact its reception, forecasting digital sales for “Clouds” this week is difficult. That said, based on early sales data from industry sources, Billboard projects that the single may sell more than 200,000 copies this week (ending Sunday, May 26). Sources suggest it moved more than 30,000 downloads on Monday (20) alone, the day that Sobiech passed away.
Projecting streaming activity is also complicated in this case, although the song's video is clearly a major element in its profile. As of this posting, YouTube views for “Clouds” stand at 4.7 million worldwide. (Note that the Hot 100's weekly formula factors in only U.S. streams over that week's tracking period.)
Airplay is not yet a factor in the song's chart fortunes, as it's so far received only minimal radio spins; just six of the Hot 100's approximately 1,200 reporting stations played it in the past week. (Again, it's not being promoted by a major label.) Notably, with Rock the Cause based in St. Paul, Minn., Adult Top 40 panelists KSTP (12) and KTWN (7), both in Minneapolis, lead in plays for the gentle folk track in that span.
Combining the figures above, “Clouds,” currently at No. 1 in the iTunes Store, is likely headed for a top 20 debut on next week's Hot 100.
Highlights of next week's Hot 100, including Sobiech's debut, will post on Billboardbiz next Wednesday (29).
Additional reporting by Lars Brandle and William Gruger