Hong Kong Beat Presents Billionaire Oldies… On Spotify?

Only two music artists have so far crested the 3 billion+* streams milestone on Spotify, Ed Sheeran and The Weeknd each with one song from 2017 and 2019 respectively – hardly surprising given that these are both artists of the streaming generation – and when you look at the top 100 that have streamed more than 1 billion (out of currently some 300 tracks or so all together), the oldest is from – wait, what? 1975?

At 24th position with over 2 billion streams sits Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, with just one other pre-millennium track in the top 100 at 85 with 1.5 billion streams – Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’. In fact if you look at the full billionaire’s club and apply an admittedly arbitrary ‘pre-millennial filter’ (ie over 30 years old) and rule out obvious festive hits (so, no Wham or Mariah Carey), 20 absolute classics from 1975 up to 1991 sit proudly, with four from Queen (1 shared with David Bowie) and three from AC/DC. In fact Queen songs have been streamed over 17 billion times, more than any other artist from this era.

Obviously, certain songs appearing in social media posts, such the viral TikTok hit of Nathan Apadoca skateboarding to work while drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice and singing along to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ – a great song but a bit of a surprise in a collection of 1 billion+ streamed songs – has had a big impact, as has use of songs in TV shows, ads, movies, and as sports anthems, but what can’t be denied is just how big and timeless these 18 songs are across generations. It’s easy to imagine a preteen rocking out to the stream of ‘Back in Black’, and their father saying something like “look, here’s the original vinyl your granddad gave me, and his concert t-shirt. The sick stains haven’t washed out entirely…”

Truly, the playlist reads like a New Year’s Eve or Hong Kong Rugby 7s South Stand party. Every tune is a belter by itself but, as a collection, almost speaks for a generation, or two. There are some huge artists not represented for sure, such as Prince, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles, and that’s probably because they either withheld permissions, took an aggressive takedown stance, were simply late in making their catalogue available, or just didn’t see the value of streaming as a vehicle – like Mick Fleetwood who is said to have started to come around since seeing the viral impact of just one TikTok video – so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more timeless artists joining the billionaires oldies club before long.

And I hope they do. Not for the sake of the artists themselves – although the thought that there’s probably quite a few people under the age of maybe 40 and definitely under 30 that have never heard of Jimi Hendrix or believe that Adele/Ariana Grande (pick your poison) is the greatest female singer ever, is coldly sobering – but for the sake of the younger generations being able to discover and enjoy great, timeless popular music.

So, with thanks to music producer, guitar coach and YouTube vlogger, Rick Beato – check out his channel on YouTube if you’re at all into music either as a fan or a musician – for collating this list and being inspiration for the blogcast, here are Spotify’s Billionaire Oldies.

*For clarity, we’re talking the ‘short scale’ billion as in 1,000 million or 109.

As the 1 Billion Streaming Club is dynamic, this playlist is accurate as of January 2023.

RIP Ranking Roger

Sad to hear today of the death of Ranking Roger, singer with the two-tone band The Beat (aka The English Beat in the USA, and The British Beat in Australia).
The blending of youth culture in music and race, through British two-tone and ska of the 70s and early 80s, seemed to be a beacon for racial integration in an increasingly divided UK at the time.
As a party DJ, it’s always a thrill when you get to play tunes and genres that, these days, are far from mainstream, and so it was when a small group of American lawyers and bankers in their 50s (one very senior in the firm), having their annual staff dinner in a smallish Hong Kong bar, asked if I could play some two-tone.
The bar wasn’t big enough for dancing, but tables and chairs were rapidly pushed aside for them to indulge in a bit of skanking and pogoing in their immaculate tailor-made suits.
To me, seeing that group of well-educated Caucasians embracing a British inter-racial youth culture that, itself, emanated from the poorest parts of Jamaica, was something of a legacy of a movement that almost was.

Roger has to be regarded as one of the pioneers of that movement, and I have to thank him for helping bring the joy of Jamaican music to white rude boys everywhere.

RIP Ranking Roger.

Watch him ranking on YouTube here