Deep Dive

Did 'Last Christmas,' the Movie, Boost Plays of 'Last Christmas,' the Single? It Depends

Last Christmas
Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke in Last Christmas.  Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Video streams of the Wham! single are up 132% since the film's release, but audio streams are down

Last Christmas, the Paul Feig-directed holiday movie that is named after the George Michael-written 1984 Wham! hit, has grossed $85.7 million at the box office worldwide since its Nov. 8 release. In light of the picture's $25 million budget, that's a solid success, but has that success also lifted sales and streaming of the title song? It depends on the metrics used.

For the four-week period from Nov. 8 — when the movie and its soundtrack, which includes the Wham! song plus a number of the late Miichael's solo tunes, were both released — to Dec. 5, the songs plus stream-equivalent songs (SES) total for “Last Christmas" was up a modest 10.6% over the same period in 2018. For those not conversant in Nielsen Music terminology, songs plus SES refers to the sum of digital downloads sold plus Nielsen's standards for the streaming equivalents of one download: 125 paid on-demand streams count as one stream equivalent, while 375 ad-supported audio streams or 375 on-demand video streams also count as one.

Driving that increase was a whopping 132% spike in on-demand video streams of "Last Christmas" — nearly 13.1 million streams compared with 5.7 million for the same period in 2018. (It's worth noting that there is no promotional video using scenes from the movie set to the Wham! song.) That's more than double the 41% increase in video streams for the U.S. music industry overall from Nov. 8 to Dec. 5.

On-demand audio streams and digital downloads of "Last Christmas" tell a much different story: They were down year-to-year for those four weeks, 1.2% and 17.4%, respectively, although the decreases were substantially less than corresponding industry averages (see chart).

Meanwhile, "Last Christmas" is climbing the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the fourth consecutive holiday season. Although the song was released in 1984, it did not rank on the Hot 100 until January 2017, just after Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016 at the age of 53. Last season, the song peaked at No. 25, its highest chart position yet, and as of the chart dated Dec. 21, it was close to at least tying that number, having risen to No. 26.







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