Hey, What Does It Take (Again)?

A little under a year ago and following a request from a friend I posted a detailed breakdown of just how many copies it took to reach the top of the singles chart in 2012. With a full 12 months having elapsed and an whole new year of data to work with it seemed only appropriate to update that now, and hopefully answer for the benefit of anyone searching for the next 12 months the answer to the eternal question:

How many copies do you have to sell to reach Number One?

Last year to avoid an excessive skew, I disregarded the final two weeks of 2012 in these calculations as the X Factor single followed by the Christmas Number One race meant that the Number One single in those weeks registered sales far in excess of the norm. This time around this isn’t necessary as in reaching the top of the charts at Christmas the Sam Bailey single actually sold close to the average amount of any single this year, so all 52 weeks of 2013, from the chart dated 5th January 2013 (with James Arthur’s Impossible at the top) to the one dated 28th December 2013 (when Sam Bailey’s Skyscraper was at Number One) are included in these calculations.

Sales of Number One singles in 2013 ranged from a low point of 46,279 (achieved rather surprisingly by Lily Allen with Somewhere Only We Know on the chart of December 14th) to a high of 266,524 as sold by Wake Me Up by Avicii on July 27th. The mean value for all 52 weeks was just shy of 109,113 copies whilst the median figure (the exact mid point of all the totals laid in order) was 104,501.5. It is therefore statistically sound to conclude that to reach Number One in an average week in 2013 a record would need to sell between 100,000 and 110,000 copies.

As in last year’s commentary, it must be noted that this is the total number of copies actually sold by Number One hits, not technically how much they needed to sell, a figure which will always be precisely one more copy than the Number 2 single that week.

The highest selling Number 2 single of 2013 was, perhaps surprisingly, Scream And Shout by will.i.am and Britney Spears in the very first chart of the year, selling 115,896 copies behind the James Arthur single. It was in fact one of five different occasions during the year when a record selling well into six figures only reached Number 2 and indeed one of two records which sold more than the average Number One single during the year but still failed to top the charts in that particular week.

At the other end of the scale, the lowest selling Number 2 single of the year (and thus the easiest target) was Counting Stars by OneRepublic which sold a mere 39,696 copies on September 21st, some distance behind the 103,000 sold by Katy Perry at the top of the charts that week. So it never really stood a chance.

In conclusion then, in a world when none of the Number One records actually existed, to guarantee to top the singles chart in any given week in 2013 your record would have had to sell 115,897 copies – actually far more than the average – although it could well have done so with just 39,697 copies (and it is worth noting that the notorious campaign to propel Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead to Number One back in April resulted in a sale of 52,605 copies in a week when the Number One single sold just 6,000 copies more). In the real world where your hypothetical single was competing with the market as it actually existed, you would need to command a sale of 266,525 to guarantee a Number One, 104,502 to stand a 50/50 chance over the course of the year and a mere 46,280 during the weakest week of the year.

Hope that is clear. See you in 2015.

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  1. Pingback: Hey! What Does It Take? (2015) – James Masterton

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