Michael Jackson’s Posthumous Career: 10 Numbers That Tell The Tale
Here are 10 key numbers that highlight Jackson's still-considerable commercial appeal on the music and cultural landscape in the 10 years since his death.
Since Michael Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, the King of Pop’s fans have rallied around the late icon’s songs, albums and multiple film and concert endeavors that have showcased his legendary catalog. Though his personal legacy remains the subject of extensive controversy and debate — including the recent HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which features two men’s accusations of sexual molestation against the singer — Jackson’s posthumous commercial appeal alone rivals the output of most contemporary recording artists.
Here are 10 key numbers that highlight Jackson’s still-considerable impact on the music and cultural landscape in the 10 years since his death:
16.1 million: The number of albums Jackson has sold in the U.S. since his death, according to Nielsen Music. His best-seller in the span is the 2003 greatest hits set, Number Ones, which has sold 3.6 million copies in the past 10 years. 1982’s Thriller ranks second in that span with 2.5 million.
31.4 million: The King of Pop’s career song downloads since June 2009. “Thriller” leads the pack as Jackson’s most purchased tune in that window, with 3 million downloads, followed by “Billie Jean” (2.6 million), “Man in the Mirror” (2.3 million) and “Beat It” (2.2 million).
5.9 billion: The amount of U.S. on-demand streams for Jackson’s song catalog in the 10 years since his death. Halloween favorite “Thriller” has returned to Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart for each of the past six years following the holiday, except for 2017. Last year, “Thriller” logged 15.3 million U.S. clicks in the week ending Nov. 1, making it the country’s 30th-most streamed track of any genre that week.
$360 million: The final tour gross for Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, according to Billboard Boxscore. The trek, which combined the troupe’s signature acrobatics with reworkings of Jackson’s songs, spanned 501 shows from 2011 – 2014 and played to nearly 3.4 million attendees. On the Billboard Boxscore year-end charts, the concert ranked No. 4 in 2012 and No. 2 the following year.
11: Posthumously released albums that Jackson has landed on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The tally includes three top five efforts: the soundtrack to the 2009 theatrical film This Is It, which debuted at No. 1 in November 2009, Michael (No. 3, 2011) and Xscape (No. 2, 2014). The lattermost set was boosted by the single “Love Never Felt So Good,” a 1983 demo reworked into a duet with Justin Timberlake that reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
$261.2 million: The worldwide gross of the theatrical concert/documentary film This Is It. The movie, released four months after Jackson’s death, chronicled the tour rehearsals for his planned 50-date London residency of the same name. Its accompanying soundtrack debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 that November.
33: Jackson’s Thriller is currently certified 33-times platinum by the Recording Association Industry of America (RIAA), the highest certification for any album by a solo act. Only the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits 1971 -1975, at 38-times platinum, exceeds Thriller. The two recordings have jockeyed for the top honor several times, with the Eagles returning to pole position last August.
5.7 million: The number of times that Jackson songs have been played on monitored U.S. radio stations by Nielsen Music since his death. The superstar, unsurprisingly, counts adult contemporary and R&B audiences among his most friendly stations, but he crisscrosses multiple genres with registered plays on gospel, classic rock, and even smooth jazz stations.
30: Jackson’s career top 10 total on the Hot 100, helped by two posthumous hits: a 2014 duet with Justin Timberlake, “Love Never Felt So Good,” from the King of Pop’s Michael album and a featured spot on Drake’s “Don’t Matter to Me,” with previously unreleased vocals from a 1983 recording session. Both songs reached No. 9 on the Hot 100, Jackson’s best showings on the chart since 1995.
242: Weeks that Jackson has appeared on Billboard’s Social 50 chart, which began in 2010 and measures the most popular artists on prominent social media platforms through follower gains, fan interaction and other engagement. The icon has spent 34 weeks in the chart’s top 10 and reached a No. 3 high in December 2011. His most recent top 10 visit occurred in March, in the wake of discussion surrounding HBO’s Leaving Neverland film, which documents two men who accused Jackson of sexual abuse and the allegations’ effects on their families.