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Digital Song Sales Chart Shows Lowest No. 1 Total in 10 Years

As streaming surges, digital sales slide, with the latest week's top-selling song showing the lowest sum since 2006.

The Chainsmokers‘ “Closer,” featuring Halsey, crowns Billboard‘s Digital Song Sales chart (dated Nov. 12), but, with 84,000 downloads sold in the week ending Oct. 27, according to Nielsen Music, the total is the lowest for a No. 1 song on the tally in 10 years.

Granted, “Closer” is in its 12th week atop Digital Song Sales (and 11th week atop the Billboard Hot 100), sold as many as 208,000 slightly more than a month ago (as reflected on the Sept. 24-dated chart) and has sold 1.7 million to date, but its latest frame is significant in the overall context of declining digital song sales.


The last song to sell fewer downloads in a week than “Closer”? Hinder‘s “Lips of an Angel,” which led the chart dated Oct. 28, 2006, with 75,000. Meanwhile, until the current week, no No. 1-selling song had moved fewer than 90,000 since Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” topped the Dec. 30, 2006-dated chart with 88,000.

The latest Digital Song Sales chart marks the fourth of 2016 to sport a No. 1 song with fewer than 100,000 in weekly sales. (It’s the second a row, as “Closer” led the Nov. 5 list with 97,000.) In 2015, just one chart was topped by a song selling fewer than 100,000; on the Sept 12 tally, R. City‘s “Locked Away,” featuring Adam Levine, ruled with 92,000. Until that week, such a frame had not been logged since Jan. 27, 2007, when “Irreplaceable” dominated with 98,000.

The Digital Song Sales chart’s data began counting toward the Billboard Hot 100 on Feb. 12, 2005, when Green Day‘s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” led with 31,000. No songs would reach 100,000 sold in a week until the top 11 on the Jan. 14, 2006, chart all broke the barrier (thanks to heightened holiday shopping), paced by D4L’s “Laffy Taffy,” with 175,000. By February 2006, however, songs would begin regularly leading the list with six-digit figures.


The new 10-year low for a Digital Song Sales No. 1 reflects the downward trend of the paid download, as digital song sales have fallen by 25 percent in 2016, according to Nielsen. That follows a 13 percent decline in 2015 (even as Adele‘s “Hello” scored a record debut week of 1.1 million in November 2015, becoming the first song to pass 1 million downloads sold in a week).

The apparent fade of digital song sales is, not surprisingly, inverse to the rise of streaming, as U.S. audio and video streaming showed a 93 percent surge from 2014 to 2015 (per Nielsen’s year-end 2015 recap). Of those tallies, audio streaming was up by 83 percent year-over-year, while video streams soared by 102 percent.